Editor’s Note: To view exclusive video highlights of this Fight for Iowa Coca-Cola moment, purchase a University of Iowa Hawkeye 16 ounce Coca-Cola can for sale throughout Eastern Iowa, download the Hawkeye Sports App, and select the Xtream HawkVision feature throughout the countdown.
By RICK BROWN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz was in his office one Thursday night in 2008, going over last-minute details for the Nov. 22 regular-season finale at Minnesota two days later.
He glanced at a television and saw Georgia Tech playing Miami of Florida. Paul Johnson, in his first season at the Yellow Jackets’ coach, had brought a potent triple-option offense with him from Navy.
“They shredded Miami (41-23),” Ferentz said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t imagine playing these guys in a normal week. You never want to play them any time. I remember joking about it with (defensive coordinator) Norm Parker and the defensive guys.”
A season later, the Hawkeyes won 10 regular-season games and were awarded a bid to the FedEx Orange Bowl. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy for Ferentz. The opponent was Georgia Tech.
“That has been a standing joke around here and it has been since the 1980s, about certain teams you don’t want to play in a bowl game,” Ferentz said. “Now here we were, playing them in a bowl game.”
Practices had resumed for the bowl game, but the game plan for Georgia Tech was still a work in progress when Ferentz walked by Parker’s office one day.
“Norm looked up and held up this manila folder that he had been toting around for quite some time,” Ferentz said.
Inside that folder was a game plan Parker had devised at one of his previous coaching stops that had worked well against another option team.
“He gave me one of those ‘here it is right here’ looks,” Ferentz recalled. “He had been wracking his brain from the places he had been in the past. You could tell he found what he needed. It evolved from there.”
Parker’s discovery was the genesis of a brilliant effort by Iowa’s defense in a 24-14 win Jan. 5, 2010.
Iowa’s most important postseason victory since the 1959 Rose Bowl was not a simple task. The ninth-ranked Yellow Jackets, 11-2 and the Atlantic Coast Conference champions, were averaging 307.2 rushing yards per game.
Time was on the Hawkeyes’ side. Instead of having days to prepare, Parker had weeks to install his game plan. It also gave the staff plenty of time to teach the scout team how to run the triple option.
“That’s the trick, trying to get a scout team to be able to execute an offense that is so foreign to what we do,” Ferentz said. “If you had to try and do that in three days, good luck. But we had time to prepare them to at least give our guys a decent look. It really helped.”
This would be Iowa’s second trip to Miami and the Orange Bowl under Ferentz. The other appearance had been Jan. 2, 2003, against Southern California. The Hawkeyes didn’t live up to their own expectations in a 38-17 loss.
“I was reading something about the bowl records of Big Ten teams,” Ferentz said. “There aren’t many positive records because you’re usually losing to someone who is really good. So losing to USC is no disgrace, but it was the way we played that night. It was hardly representative of the team we had. If you play the way you’ve played all season and you lose, so be it. That’s part of football. But we had to have a smarter approach.”
The trip went off with hardly a hitch.
“We were staying at the Fontainebleau, right?” Ferentz said. “A bunch of people from the Midwest at the Fontainebleau. You’ve got the ocean out there.”
The hotel also hosted a New Year’s Eve concert by Lady Gaga.
“That was loud as could be,” Ferentz said. “It was tough to sleep that night, but we weren’t playing until Jan. 5, so at least we were able to overcome that.”
Georgia Tech wasn’t able to overcome Iowa’s defense. The Yellow Jackets had outscored opponents in the first quarter, 106-69. They had one first down the first half.
Iowa took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter on a pair of Ricky Stanzi touchdown passes of 3 yards to Marvin McNutt and 21 yards to Colin Sandeman. It was 14-7 after Georgia Tech’s Jerrard Tarrant picked off a Stanzi pass and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown in the final minutes of that opening quarter.
“(Stanzi) had a penchant for overcoming that,” Ferentz said.
Georgia Tech’s only offensive touchdown of the game was a 1-yard run by Anthony Allen with 12:30 remaining in the game to whittle the Hawkeye lead to 17-14.
“The sad part is we had that defended, too,” Ferentz said. “We gave up the play, but it was defended. We just didn’t execute it. That and the pick six, otherwise that could have been a shutout. Not to bring up negatives, but we could have done better.”
Brandon Wegner’s 32-yard touchdown run with 1:56 remaining clinched the Iowa victory.
Defensive end Adrian Clayborn was named the game’s Most Outstanding Player.
Linebacker Pat Angerer said Clayborn stole all his tackles by beating him to the spot.
“He ended up screwing it up for everybody,” Ferentz said. “That’s OK.”
The game plan inside Parker’s manila folder was the winning formula. Georgia Tech finished the game with nine first downs and 143 yards rushing on 41 carries.
“I’ve got a picture back in my files of Norm after the game,” Ferentz said. “That look on his face says it all. He was happy.”
|Win No. 10||2003 Michigan|
|Win No. 9||2015 Nebraska|
|Win No. 8||2004 Outback Bowl vs. Florida|
|Win No. 7||2015 Pittsburgh|
|Win No. 6||2009 Michigan State|
|Win No. 5||2017 Ohio State|
|Win No. 4||2004 Wisconsin|
|Win No. 3||2002 Minnesota|
|Win No. 2||2005 Capital One Bowl vs. LSU|