Wake up those 2015 echoes?
Confession time: I thought the Hawkeyes would be fortunate to split the opening two games against Indiana and Iowa State. The Hoosiers boasted playmakers galore and a stout defense (yes, IU and stout defense can be in the same sentence). Meanwhile, the Cyclones were preseason darlings, returning just about everyone significant from their Fiesta Bowl-winning team. And with Iowa State and their fans frothing at the mouth, I figured the Clones would ride the crowd’s momentum (and derogatory Iowa chants) for a tight victory.
Mattstradaus, I am not.
In two peak Ferentzian masterpieces, the Hawkeyes suffocated the Hoosiers and Clones, choking the life out of two potent offenses. By the end of both games, Michael Penix and Brock Purdy—two all-conference quarterbacks—were crying uncle. Between Iowa’s ball-hawking secondary, punishing linebackers, and physical defensive line, you think IU and Iowa State would argue with the Hawkeyes’ Bullies of the Big Ten moniker? Yeah, me neither.
With these two games in our Hawkeye back pocket, Iowa is eyeing a 4-0 start (paraphrasing noted philosopher Rasheed Wallace, Kent State and Colorado State are cut-the-check games). While Maryland could be a tricky contest, Iowa could, maybe even should, be undefeated before James Franklin and his Nittany Lions invade Kinnick (long overdue to extinguish that Trace McSorley juju haunting Kinnick). As Rece and Herbie alluded to during the fourth quarter, you can see the contours of that magical 2015 Hawkeye team—dominating defense, standout special teams, and (squinting really hard) a serviceable offense.
Taking a slight step back from this year’s impressive start, these past couple seasons represent another KF peak in his storied Hawkeye career. During his two plus decades in Iowa City, KF’s high water marks include 2002-2004, late 2008-2010, and 2015. I would add the last two plus years to that top-line resume. Over the past two plus years, we are 13-5 in the BIG, have burnished the trophy case (this Corso clip summarizes our ISU rivalry and, for that matter, Minnesota and Nebraska rivalry dominance), and finished in the mid-teens in the national rankings. And while the racial disparity allegations have not been forgotten (nor should they), Iowa’s performance, at least on the field, has further solidified KF’s resume as greatest Hawkeye headman. It’s great to be a Hawkeye, even more so during these halcyon years.
And with Iowa’s opening salvo this year, this may be KF’s best team of his fourth (!) peak. Channeling my inner Randy Peterson, this Cyclone team is loaded; The Athletic named four Clones to its preseason All-American squad (tied with perennial doormat Ohio State). And even with Iowa’s offense in full-scale game manager mode, the Hawkeyes shut down the Natty Lite taps, unplugged "Sweet Caroline," and sent Cy home grumbling about Iowa’s left hand winning streak. This was a damn impressive performance, one that (I think) will serve as a springboard for a special season. How special? If Petras and Iowa’s offense can graduate from shaky to serviceable (the second quarter in Ames was promising), that magical 2015 season will be closer than we think.