"A little bad taste is like a nice dash of paprika."
I didn't watch.
In retrospect, that seems almost sacrilegious to admit- but in my defense, I don't have cable or live streaming at the moment. I also get a little superstitious sometimes. I get paranoid that as soon as I start watching or listening things go awry and it all goes pear-shaped, so I didn't watch. I figured that I followed the game versus Maryland last week on Twitter and Iowa stomped 'em, so my superstitious game brain figured a good result from doing that last week more or less demanded the same this week. Happily, it turns out that superstitious game brain was correct and Iowa won.
This was the first top-five match-up in Kinnick Stadium since #1 Iowa versus #2 Michigan all the way back in 1985. That would make it titanic enough, but it was also the first Big Ten top-five match-up not involving either Michigan or Ohio State since 1962. In every way, this was Iowa's biggest game in decades and it more than lived up to the billing.
I had a roommate in college that would watch the '85 Iowa-Michigan game on VHS and I never knew why. I mean, you already knew how the game ends:
Iowa's game against Penn State didn't end in the final seconds in such a dramatic way, but it ended (more or less) with this go-ahead touchdown:
I saw this described as the most important touchdown in Iowa football of the past forty years and it may well be correct. Iowa's current #2 ranking is the highest of the Kirk Ferentz era. It's hard to complain about being 6-0 and the usual sports media grumbling about Iowa is already consuming social media, but we're 6-0 and undefeated and #2 in the nation. Our defense and special teams are on point. They can take us anywhere and our offense does enough. Here's the thing though: I hope there's a Tostito chip the size of the freakin' moon on Brian Ferentz's shoulder now.* I hope the offense feels it too, because man, there is an opportunity staring them right in the face. If and with six games left to go, it's a big 'if', the offense can approach anywhere close to the level of the defense then I really do believe that there is absolutely no ceiling on how far this team could go.
That's not a paragraph I ever expected to type, believe me.
All of this is even more astonishing when you consider the events of 2020 and the controversy that engulfed the Iowa Football program. Some people out there will probably always think that Ferentz (and Barta) should have lost their jobs over it. The more I think about what happened though, whatever happened with that team behind closed doors is probably going to be the real legacy of Kirk Ferentz. Rare are the moments in college athletics where the players can truly be said to have all the leverage and power, but in Iowa's case, I think the Fall of 2020 was one of those moments. You can dismiss the changes made to the program as "damage control" or "public relations" but whatever happened, whatever conversations took place, the players brought in and that was reflected in the results on the field.
If he would have lost the locker room, that would have been it- maybe not last year, due to financial pressures, but it would have been the end.
The hardest thing in the world has to be re-examining assumptions and re-engineering a key portion of your life. I think college football is littered with examples of Coaches who fail to see the culture around them shifting or Coaches who just think that the way they've always done it is the right way and refuse to change, regardless. The mantra of "win, graduate and do it right" built one hell of a house in Iowa. You might be forgiven if you ignored the leaky faucet or the weird sounds coming from the pipes- it might be easy to overlook or ignore, blinded by the house you've built. But when those leaky faucets turn into leaky pipes and then threaten to be a blown water heater, it ceases to be about the house you built and more about how you repair it. Ferentz appears to have done a credible job in repairing things. That's a bigger legacy than any results on the field.
But Iowa is 6-0, ranked #2, and gets Purdue this Saturday. Not much to complain about and plenty to cheer about.
Hawks by a million.**
*This is his shot. OC Iowa to a Big Ten title, a Rose Bowl win, and a CFP appearance or even a Natty and it might be enough to merit consideration for moving up a slot if Papa Ferentz retires. But he's gotta put on one hell of a show and get results on the field to git er done, imo.
**BTW, this is the shot that will define this game for a generation, I think. Gonna see this one a ton in future years in one form or another.
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