By Sam Kienzle
I freely admit that I picked the previously 5-2 Iowa Hawkeyes (5-3 overall, 2-2 in conference) as big winners over Minnesota. Who wouldn’t? The Gophers came in with dreadful numbers and ugly losses.
I saw this as Iowa’s last cake walk, before the schedule really got tough. And by all sensible thought, it should have been a warm stroll down Main Street for the Hawkeyes, but only in retrospect. Clearly, Iowa overlooked the 1-6 Gophers (now 2-6) from the beginning, and now they are left to deal with a shocked and incensed fan base and a lot of uncertainty. Because I am so gravely repulsed by Saturday’s “game,” I have decided to put together a little word and phrase collection representing my thoughts and emotions from Iowa’s loss:
How? Can’t be. Minnesota is 1-6! Tied 7-7 at half. A little nervous. Coker is shredding, but where are the points? Game feels like Indiana ’10. Red zone incompetence. Pull Meyer. I’m sickened. How about some down-field passes?! Why is it so tough to play here? I guess TCF Bank Stadium shouldn’t be confused with the sterility and placidity of HHH Metrodome. A real home field advantage? Hot bosh! Seems true.
Ok, Hawks driving. Vandenberg, watch your blindside! Smashed to the ground…ball’s loose…ugly hit…some fat Gopher has it. Held them to a field goal, hope still remains. This game is awfully tight. Need a brown paper bag. Coker continues to play like he wants it, what a guy, a tough guy. Ah, touchdown! 21-10 lead. A little relaxed: Thanks touchdown and brown paper bag. Bah! Onside kick! No! Forget Minnesota’s record…Just win, baby. Touchdown, Gophers. 21-16. What in the name of Hubert Humphrey’s ghost is going on? Hawk defense is too small and weak, and they are playing small. Cortisol increasing, irritability increasing, happiness plummeting, becoming distraught. Minnesota driving, I can see the fate of this game. Marqueis Gray…running for the pylon, touchdown, 22-21. Swearing. Followed by more swearing. Hawks’ last gasp drive. 4th-and-16? What are you doing, Vandenberg? Running?! No! He didn’t get the first down. Not the best time to try to emulate John Elway. Deep breaths. Blinking hard. Marcus Coker and his awesome numbers, all for nothing. Short grunts of fury. End Scene.
Despite this nightmare of a loss, the Hawkeyes are still alive in the Legends division of the Big Ten. I know, it is entirely foolish to think of Iowa being a member of the “race” to win the Legends division, but they are viable. Michigan has a division loss to Michigan State. Michigan State has a division loss to Nebraska. Nebraska has a non-divisional loss to Wisconsin and no divisional losses, which puts them in the best position at this point. Who thought Nebraska would compete for anything after they were demolished, 48-17 at Wisconsin? Today, they are in control. Iowa has one divisional loss and one non-divisional loss. If they were to win out (hmm…yeah…about that), they could win the Legends division.
Forget “winning out,” though. How are the Hawkeyes even going to win another game? Their best win? A 4-4 Pitt team that required a furious 3-touchdown comeback. Iowa has played one quality team, Penn State, and got beat by 10. Now they play ranked teams three out of the next four games, with two on the road. Unless the Hawks fundamentally improve, they may not even become bowl eligible! Their defense is weak and ineffective, and the offense is inconsistent. To beat Michigan on November 5th, the team will need the pink locker room effect, some Kinnick magic, at least three turnovers by Denard Robinson, and all the fans’ fury from last week’s game raining down on the Wolverines.
Because we are all Iowans united against Minnesota
After Saturday’s wreckage, I needed something positive to rekindle my pride in being an Iowan. And because I am an advocate of the whole state of Iowa, I flipped on the Iowa State-Texas Tech game and rooted hard for the Cyclones. Don’t get me wrong, when Iowa plays Iowa State, I’m foaming at the mouth for a win. Other than that one game, though, I genuinely hope Iowa State does well. Saturday they were big underdogs against (then #19) Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas. The Cyclones had lost four straight games after a 3-0 start, all losses being blowouts. They were starting freshman Jared Barnett, on the road, for the first time. No matter.
Iowa State 41, Texas Tech 7. Ahhh…what?
Iowa State rushed for a decade-high 368 yards, piling up 512 yards in all. They forced three TTU turnovers and somehow, someway stifled a Texas Tech offense that had gone on the road to Norman, Oklahoma and beaten the 3rd-ranked Oklahoma Sooners the week before, 41-38.
The Cyclones ripped off huge runs. They held the ball for 40 minutes of game time. Defensive backs Ter’Ran Benton and Jeremy Reeves snatched interceptions, which, according to the Paul Rhoads Show (according to coach Rhoads, himself), are the first interceptions the Iowa State secondary have collected this year. They were ready. Texas Tech was not–they were still wearing their baby bibs from the Sooner Upset Celebratory Banquet. Hey, Red Raiders, you got a little something on your face.
Iowa State must take advantage of lowly Kansas this Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium if they want to even humor the idea of a bowl game. With a win, the Cyclones would be 5-4. Their last three games after Kansas are playing host to #3 Oklahoma State, then going on the road to #6 Oklahoma and #14 Kansas State. The Kansas game is a must-win (kind of like how Iowa fans saw Minnesota as a must-win), because their last three opponents are the cream of the Big Twelve. Iowa State would need a miraculous upset just to be bowl-eligible.