20 for 20: The Best Plays of the Kirk Ferentz Era, Part Four

By Mike Jones on May 11, 2018 at 1:11 pm
Tate FTW




Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

We close this edition of 20 for 20 with the top 5 plays of the Kirk Ferentz era. The first 15 plays were not ranked in any particular order but the top five are. These, of course, were arbitrarily selected by myself and I encourage conversation as to how horrible or awesome (preferably awesome) the final rankings are. As to why I ranked them in this order, I’ll spell that out with the plays themselves. So, without further delay, here are the top 5 plays of the Kirk Ferentz era.

5. 2010 Insight Bowl: Hyde's Pick Six Wins the Insight

The 2010 season was to, put it mildly, one giant heartbreak. Nick Foles and the Arizona Wildcats ambushed the Hawkeyes in Tuscon (as did Arizona’s awful fans), Montee Ball and Wisconsin ripped our hearts out at Kinnick, I personally witnessed Dan Persa sell his soul to the devil at Ryan Field to win the game in the final moments for Northwestern, Terrelle Pryor and Boom Herron were too much to deal with and Minnesota, well, Kirk Ferentz got outcoached by an interim with nothing to lose in Minneapolis.

So it didn’t seem entirely fair when Iowa had to play a 10-2 Missouri squad that was ranked 12th in the nation. A Missouri team that had Blaine Gabbert, T.J. Moe, Aldon Smith and Michael Egnew on the roster and shared a division title with Nebraska. To add, there was the arrest/suspensions of Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Adam Robinson, Iowa’s starting (and most talented) wide-receiver and running back. Despite it all, Missouri was only a three-point favorite and Norm Parker still had some tricks up his sleeve.

Out of nowhere, true freshman Marcus Coker sparked the Hawkeyes offense and allowed Iowa to match anything the Tigers threw at them. Norm Parker’s defense was ferocious, keeping Gabbert in check and holding Missouri to 10 points at halftime. But in the third quarter, Iowa started to crack and Missouri rattled off 14 points to take a 24-20 lead into the final quarter.

With around 10 minutes left in the game, Iowa got the ball at their own 41 and picked up a first down before Rick Stanzi threw an ill-timed interception. Gabbert and Moe then went to work, taking the ball from their own 31 to Iowa’s 29. With around 5:30 left in the game, there was serious concern that if Missouri was able to score, it would be enough, as the Hawkeyes hadn’t put together a respectable drive since the start of the second half.

On 1st and 10 on Iowa’s 29, Blaine Gabbert took the snap and:

I was at the Front Row in Des Moines (technically it was in Windsor Heights) watching the game and pandemonium ensued. There was hugging, kissing and drinking as Iowa took a 27-24 lead over the Tigers. Missouri got the ball back with a fair amount of time to take the lead or tie but their drive failed on 4th and 6 at Iowa’s 43. The Hawkeyes got the ball back, picked up some first downs thanks to Coker and a nifty pass to Allen Reisner (HEROBALL) and ran out the clock. Iowa wins.

2010 was a disappointment. But when Micah Hyde ran that ball back and Iowa took the lead in the Insight Bowl, we forgot all about the failures of the regular season. It was pure bliss.

4. 2015 Pittsburgh: Koehn's Walk-Off Super Kick

As crazy as 2009 was, 2015 didn’t seem to have the same drama during the regular season. Sure, there was a bit of a scare against Minnesota but other than that, the season wasn’t particularly nerve-wracking. If there was a defining moment of 2015 season, I’d look back to September 19th.

The backstory leading into the Pittsburgh game was that Brett Greenwood was named an honorary captain. Greenwood had collapsed from a heart arrhythmia back in 2011, spent time in a coma and lost his sight, speech, and ability to walk. He needed years of intense physical therapy (and a help from Pat Angerer) to get back on his feet and basically learn how to walk and talk once again. So you had Greenwood, a night game, and the black and gold stripe environment. It was special when he came out.

As you’d expect against a Pat Narduzzi team, the game was violent and a physical test for Iowa but they answered the call, taking a 17-7 lead at half. The second half went Pitt’s way, as they outscored the Hawkeyes 17-7, tying the game 24-24 with less than a minute remaining. Despite the fact that they had not trailed all game, Iowa faced the possibility of going to overtime and losing. With 52 seconds on the clock, Iowa got the ball and Beathard moved the ball to the Pitt 39-yard line. There, Kirk Ferentz did something he almost never does: he went for the kill.

Marshall Koehn was perfect on the year so far but he’d never attempted a field goal this long. In fact, I can’t remember if an Iowa kicker had ever attempted a 55+ yard field goal. It was quite the gamble for Ferentz because if Koehn was short, Pittsburgh’s super-talented wide-receiver Tyler Boyd was back to return to the kick. There was a chance Koehn could come up short and Boyd could return it for a touchdown.

There were a lot of things that could have happened. But instead, this happened:

Boyd could only stand and watch in disbelief as the kick sailed through the uprights. It would’ve been good from 60+ yards. Iowa won 27-24.

The night game. The stripe out. Greenwood being in the building. It was a special night, a special kick and it set the stage for what would be a special season.  

3. 2008 Penn State: Murray Resets the Program

2008 was such an up and down season. After starting 3-0, the Hawkeyes suffered three heartbreaking losses and fell to 3-3. Shonn Greene was electric but somehow, the Hawkeyes still lost to bad Illinois team and had the #3 team in the country coming to Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes sat at 5-4 and one could make the argument that they should’ve been undefeated. After all, their losses were by a combined 12 points. 

That being said, even if Iowa was supposed to be better than their record indicated, they certainly weren’t better than Penn State. The Nittany Lions were 9-0 and ranked 3rd in the nation. They’d beaten a good Oregon State team, a decent Wisconsin team and #10 Ohio State. They had Daryll Clark, Evan Royster, AQ Shipley, Anthony Scirrotto and do everything wide-receiver Derrick Williams. They were a ridiculous offensive and defensive powerhouse. Iowa…was not.

On the very first Penn State drive of the game, we should’ve known that Iowa was there to play Big Ten football, as Adrian Clayborn sacked Clark and forced a fumble, pushing the Nittany Lions back to their own one-yard line. This forced a bad Penn State punt and Iowa scored thanks to excellent field position. The teams exchanged blows until the fourth quarter when the Nittany Lions held a 23-21 lead and started marching down the field into Iowa territory. This was until Daryll Clark threw an interception right to Tyler Sash and the Hawkeyes got the ball back with 3:46 on the clock.

The drive started out poorly for the Hawkeyes thanks to a sack and an incomplete pass. On 3rd and 15, the Hawkeyes were bailed out by an Anthony Scirrotto pass interference call (IT WAS PI, PENN STATE FANS), which kept the drive alive and allowed Iowa to drive to the Penn State 15-yard line. There, Shonn Greene centered the ball on a few running plays and Iowa set up for a game-winning field goal.

Now, you might remember that Iowa was actually splitting kicking duties between Trent Mossbrucker and Daniel Murray. This was because Murray missed field goals against Iowa State and Pittsburgh and his reliability was…questionable. But it was Murray who got the call and:

Iowa fans rushed the field prematurely as there was one second remaining on the clock, forcing the Hawkeyes to kick the ball off. It was irrelevant though, as they’d somehow recover the kickoff anyway.

This wasn’t just a win over the #3 program in the nation. This was Iowa figuring out how to win a close game, something that had bothered them all season. This was pushing the reset button on Kirk Ferentz’s program, which had been plagued by off the field issues and questionable on-field play. Iowa didn’t lose the remainder of the season, walloped South Carolina in the Outback Bowl and they’d carry that momentum into 2009. Speaking of…

2. 2009 Michigan State: 7 Got 6

We’ve already talked about the craziness that was the 2009 season with Tyler Sash’s pinball pick six but let’s rehash because WOW 2009 WAS AWESOME. So, to start, Iowa needed two blocked field goals to beat an FCS team (UNI). They needed blocked punt to upset Penn State in State College. They escaped Arkansas State 24-21. They needed a Brett Greenwood interception to seal the deal over Michigan. And then came Michigan State.

The Spartans were having a disappointing season, suffering an embarrassing loss to Central Michigan, followed up by two relatively close losses to Notre Dame and Wisconsin. They’d bounce back with a win over #22 Michigan as part of a three-game winning streak before taking on the #6 Hawkeyes at home.  Even at 4-3, the Spartans still had Kirk Cousins, Edwin Baker, Blair White, Greg Jones and Chris L. Rucker (this will be important later). 

You remember how the game ended but do you remember why Iowa needed a touchdown? It was because with only 2:50 remaining in the game, Cousins and Blair White started playing backyard football and scored a touchdown with only two completions, giving the Spartans a 13-9 lead. With a 1:32 remaining on the clock, Stanzi, McNutt, and DJK needed to get to work immediately. And they did. They moved the ball all the way to the Michigan State 7-yard line and had a 1st down with nine seconds on the clock. And then:

First Down: Stanzi to Moeaki, incomplete (broken up by Chris L. Rucker).

Second Down: Stanzi to Stross, incomplete.

Third Down: Stanzi to Stross, incomplete.

Fourth down, two seconds on the clock. This was it. Roll the tape:

Stanzi takes the snap, throws a quick slant to #7 Marvin McNutt who was covered well by none other than Chris L. Rucker and McNutt manages to hang onto the ball. Iowa wins. Of all the drama in the 2009 season, this was probably the most dramatic moment, as Iowa was quite literally down to their last play and had no other option but to score a touchdown. They scored a touchdown. #7 got 6 points.

1. 2005 Capital One Bowl: Tate to Holloway

No surprises here, right? The conclusion of the 2005 Capital One Bowl is one of the greatest finishes to game in college football history. For Iowa fans, it is our Vince Young running into the end zone to win the 2006 Rose Bowl. It was miraculous, fantastic ,and probably a little bit of luck. But before we get to the play, let's talk about how the game was set up.

2004 was a fun year for Iowa. Yeah, they got demolished by Arizona State down in Tempe. Yeah, they followed it up with a disappointing loss to Michigan, a game that actually determined who played in the Rose Bowl. But there was a demolition of Ohio State, 6-4 against Penn State, close wins over Purdue and Minnesota and the destruction of Wisconsin to close out the season. Even with the birth of AIRBHG, Drew Tate was electric, putting the Iowa offense on his back and willing them to win. Iowa’s absurd defense, made up of guys like Roth, Babineaux, Hodge, Greenway, Considine and Jovon Johnson didn’t hurt either.

As good as Iowa was, LSU was also something special. This was Nick Saban’s LSU. His coordinators were Jimbo Fisher and Will Muschamp. He had Marcus Spears, Corey Webster, Alley Broussard, Joseph Addai, Dwayne Bowe, LaRon Landry and JaMarcus Russell on the roster. How they actually lost games is beyond me.

The 2005 Capital One Bowl went how you’d expect between evenly matched teams. Iowa and LSU traded points, with the Hawkeyes taking a 17-12 lead into the fourth quarter. Following a 4-yard touchdown run by Marques Simmons, it seemed like Iowa might walk away with a comfortable victory. And then came JaMarcus Russell, who replaced Marcus Randall late in the game. Thanks to some amazing play, the Tigers rattled off 14-0 unanswered points, giving LSU a 25-24 lead with only :46 remaining on the clock. 

Starting at their own 29-yard line, Tate quickly connected with Hinkel for a first down. He hit Holloway for another 9 yards but a false start penalty made it 2nd and 6 on Iowa’s own 44. Due to some confusion with the penalty, the clock was running and despite having a timeout, Drew Tate ran with it and then…

Listen, you can practice that play a billion times or replay it any way you want but it 99.9% of the time it isn’t going to have the same result. Tate’s throw was perfect. Holloway looked it in. And by some miracle, perhaps assisted by a block from Ed Hinkel, he shed the final LSU defender and made it into the end zone. Iowa wins 30-25. I don't believe what I just saw.

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