Monday, September 11, 2006

"A goal-line stand for the ages" 

In my post A September to Remember? I chronicled some of the recent troubles the Hawkeye football team has had getting through the early part of its schedule, particularly its games on the road. I identified last Saturday's road trip to Syracuse as a potential trouble spot on the schedule. As it turned out, it was far more than that.

Syracuse finished 1-10 last season, and lost last week to Wake Forest. On paper, the matchup didn't look like much of a contest. Shortly before Saturday's game, however, Iowa announced that quarterback Drew Tate would not be playing due to an abdominal strain, elevating senior back-up Jason Manson to starter.

Two seasons ago, after the graduation of QB Nathan Chandler, Manson lost the QB sweepstakes to Tate in preseason, and has been relegated to the bench ever since. This year he has been practicing as a receiver so that he could get some playing time, and he even caught a couple of passes in the season opening victory against Montana. Suddenly pressed into his first career start on the road at short notice, Manson was put in a very difficult position.

Living in ACC land, I did not get to watch the game on the regional ABC feed, which is probably just as well. By all accounts, it was a mistake ridden game and painful to watch for fans of either team. Manson threw four interceptions, and the Hawkeyes struggled to a 7-7 halftime score. The Iowa offense struggled all day, unable to find a rhythm and move the ball consistently on the ground or through the air. The Hawkeyes kicked a 2nd half fieldgoal to lead 10-7, but Syracuse was able to tie the score as time expired, sending the game to overtime.

After trading field goals in the first overtime series, Iowa scored a touchdown in the second to take a 20-13 lead. To stay in the game, Syracuse had to score a touchdown. In a remarkable series, the Iowa defense held Syracuse on the goal line for seven consecutive plays (which included a pass interference call that reset the downs) to escape with the victory. College Football News called it a goal line stand for the ages, and it is hard to dispute that, at least for Hawkeye fans.

The Hawkeye message boards are inflamed with disappointment over the performance. How soon these fans forget the history of Iowa Football, recent or ancient. Syracuse may or may not prove to be a better team this year than last year, but there are no guarantees in the world of college football. That Iowa could win on the strength of its defense bodes well, in my mind, for the games to come.

Next up for the Hawks in the perilous month of September is the annual grudge match against Iowa State, who has won 6 of 8 in the bitter rivalry. The game will be at Kinnick, and is likely to be tough as always. Drew Tate's status remains indefinite, but perhaps the defense, after its tremendous Carrier Dome performance, will bring the intensity and toughness necessary to compete even if the Iowa offense continues to struggle. It seems probable, also, that the close call in Syracuse will keep the Hawkeyes focused on the game at hand, and not looking ahead to the big Ohio State game on September 30.

CFN's Pete Fiutak dubs Iowa's goal line stand college football's best moment of the week.
There have been more significant goal line stands in college football history (Alabama fans are certain to remember at least one), but there might not have been a more impressive on than Iowa's stopping of Syracuse seven times inside the two. SEVEN TIMES. Poor SU needed a big break to start to turn its program around, and now it'll have its rallying cry in the weight room for the next 12 months.


By Blogger TigerHawk, at Mon Sep 11, 11:52:00 AM:

Great post, especially for somebody who did not see the game. I did see it, and it was an amazing stand. I was on the edge of my seat on every play, especially after that pass interference call which I was sure would doom the Hawkeyes to another OT. Yes, the game was disappointing for people who thought Iowa would merrily roll along. I was happy for the victory, though, and look forward to the Iowa State eagerly. If Iowa wins on Saturday, it will set up the (first) Big Ten title game the following week.  

By Blogger Charlottesvillain, at Mon Sep 11, 11:57:00 AM:

Actually, you are overlooking a road trip to Illinois on the 23rd. Hope the Hawkeyes don't do the same.  

By Anonymous Agricola, at Mon Sep 11, 01:06:00 PM:

You might want to investigate a subscription (if available) to ESPN's Gameplan. It costs $100 or so from your cable provider, and it will give access to all of the ABC and ESPN games, as well as a few others. As the husband of an Iowa Hawkeye, it is a non-discretionary expense item every fall. It was a great stand.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Mon Sep 11, 02:04:00 PM:

Agricola, I am a subscriber, and thereby manage to see most Iowa football games. The 'Villain, who is a much more dedicated fan than I am, is slow adapter of new consumer entertainment technology. Which of course means he reads more than most people. But still.  

By Blogger Charlottesvillain, at Mon Sep 11, 02:48:00 PM:

TH, you speak sooth, but I'm also the captive of a terrible Adelphia cable system that does not support Gameplan. Tis why I'm always glad when Iowa makes ESPN instead of ABC regional.  

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