Monday, October 26, 2009

The Turnover: Michigan State

What really happened in Hawkeye land this weekend?  hint:  spillin that MCNUTT.

Still in disbelief. 


There is something undeniably special going on with this Hawkeye team right now.  And I love every aspect of it.  Let's just make a list of all the things that have gone on this season so far.  In no particular order:

  1. Shonn Greene bolts to the NFL.  Running back in waiting Jewel Hampton tears his ACL in camp.  Paki O'Meara fumbles twice in the season opener against UNI.  Say hola to two freshmen:  Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher.

  2. Dace Richardson.  His career was thought to be over.  Doctors had to cut his freaking knee and move it over to relieve stress.  Up until this games injury, Dace had been playing well enough to garner a mid-season 1st Team All-American Award.  More on Dace later.

  3. Iowa needed two consecutive blocked field goals to ward of UNI in the home opener.  TWO!!!!

  4. Bryan Bulaga is out for the next three games with a thyroid condition.  False rumors were his career was in jeopardy.  His replacement, Riley Reiff, plays well enough in his absence to earn a starting spot.

  5. The Hawkeyes put its only beatdown of the year on a mildly respectable Iowa State in Ames.  Even great Iowa teams go there to lose.  See 2002.

  6. Marvin McNutt has an open house party against Arkansas State.  He provides many hors d'oeuvres and his guests have a great time.

  7. Iowa blocks a Penn State punt in a punt-safe formation and goes on to win in Happy Valley.

  8. Stanzi throws a pick-six on the first offensive play of the Michigan game.  The Hawkeyes recover and oft-injured Tony Moeaki puts on a two TD clinic against Michigan.

  9. Iowa rallies from down 10 at Camp Randall.  John Clay, who had smashed the ball down the throat of the Hawks for the first half could have been a Hawkeye. Poor decision.

  10. Dick Stanzi leads Iowa on a game-winning drive at East Lansing with 1:38 left on the clock.  With :02 seconds left, he hits converted QB Marvin McNutt, for the victory.

  11. Only one team, in the history of the world, including of course stories from the Old Testament, has won at Happy Valley, at Camp Randall, and at East Lansing.  That, of course, was the 1997 Michigan team that shared the national championship.  Of course, there are three home games left and that one game at the Horseshoe.

  12. Adrian Clayborn morphed into some kind of John Randle/Bruce Smith/Reggie White/JackLinksBeefJerkeySasquatch clone this season.  He's unreal.  I pray he stays.

A bit of personal irony here.  I watched Saturday Night's Michigan State game in the exact same spot I watched Tate to Holloway Capitol One Bowl game.  Same town.  Same house.  Same recliner.  Same television.  Same snack food.  Best part is:  none of those "same's" are mine.  It's also exactly 220.92 miles from my apartment.  It's been a weird year.  It promises to be a weirder one.  Indiana on Halloween.

This sucks so hard.  By NCAA rules, is Dace eligible to use my leg for the remainder of the season?

Media Darlings

The Big 10 gets a terrible reputation from the ignorant national media.  They say Florida, Alabama, and Texas are the only real contenders for the national title.  They say that Iowa isn't good enough because they needed two blocked field goals to beat UNI.  Wait, but Alabama needed two blocked field goals from the Gigantic Fat to beat Tennessee. 

They'll say that Iowa is slow, not innovative, and that the Big 10 is down, etc.  These national pundits will look at 15-13 and pronounce it an ugly win.  They'll say Iowa isn't flashy enough to be ranked this high.  And I might even consider what they were saying if they weren't complete idiots.  ESPN employs Lou Holtz.  Enough said there.  Even Shaun King, who has been giving Iowa props lately, said that he "loves what Kirk Ferentz is doing down there in Des Moines." 

The matter of the fact is that this game is what Big 10 football, and football in general, is all about.  It's about a battle of wills.  It's about who can impose their physicality until the other team breaks. It's about toughness.  I would love to see a team from the warmth of the SEC or Pac-10 play Iowa in the middle of November where the wind chill is -14 degrees.  Let's see how "speed" those teams have then.

This game was the epitome of Big 10 football.  Hard hits every play that could be heard on the TV.  Great line play.  Goal line stands.  Michigan State is the first team that has not wilted, but matched, when met with the Hawkeyes' physicality.  It wasn't the prettiest, but it was nowhere near boring.  Dare I say...slobberknocker?

The victory didn't come without a price though.  Colin Sandeman was knocked out.  Brett Greenwood had to be carted off the field.  Dace Richardson broke a bone in his leg.  Adam Robinson was on crutches post-game.  Brandon Wegher didn't play much of the first half with a rib injury.  I'm sure plenty of other Hawks woke up very sore Sunday morning.

The worst news is Dace.  As mentioned before, he was easily our most versatile and consistent lineman.  He played right tackle against UNI and both guard spots throughout the year.  Most people, including me, thought his career was over with.  He's been the feel good story of the year thus far.  If there's an individual that embodies what being a Hawkeye is all about, especially this year, it's Dace Richardson.  Never quit, never give up, and play until you run out of time.  Well, time has officially run out on Dace for this season.  Maybe he gets back for the bowl game.  Maybe not.  He sure does deserve it though.

Julian Vandervelde will step in to Dace's right guard spot.  The line from left to right will be:  Bulaga, Reiff, Eubanks, Vandervelde, Calloway.

The running back two deeps will probably go Wegher, O'Meara.  Pak-man is back!  Keenan Davis and the Great One, Marvin McNutt, will get more reps in Sandeman's absence.  The man you saw on your screen failing to make many plays in the absence of Brett Greenwood, was #20 Joe Conklin.  He's a walk-on from Iowa State.  So it is entirely possible he could have been trying to throw the game...only kidding.  Don't underestimate how hard it is to come into your first game cold.  It's incredibly difficult.  But he bit on the hook and ladder (amazing play) and then was the closest guy to Blair White on what was supposed to be the game-winning TD.  I'm sure a week of practice will do him wonders, but you can't instantly replace a 2-year starter.  Hawk fans bag on Greenwood more than any other player on the team, but his absence was noticeable.

The Manzi is a rock star.  Very similar to The Edge.

Quick Slants

  • Iowa is 8-0 for the first time EVER.  EEEEVVVVEEEEERRRR!!!!!!!!!!  Seriously, think about it.  EVER.
  • The offensive line finally played as a unit this game.  Bulaga and Calloway are returning to form.  That's scary to think that two of Iowa's best offensive players haven't been playing that well.  It's no coincidence that A-Rob went over 100 yards this game.
  • If you split the season into 4-game 1/3's, the last four is, on paper, the easiest.  Three games at home to lower tier Big 10 teams, then the game @ Ohio State.  If Iowa has come this far with this brutal schedule, it would be absolutely crushing to lose one of the three at home.
  • Adrian Clayborn was named Big 10 Defensive Player of the Week.  No surprise there.  He had two sacks, three TFL's, and one forced fumble.  Always impressive.
  • Greg Jones was insane and should win Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year.
  • This weekend:  We are all Cowboys.
*Photo credit to Dan Williamson of the Press-Citizen

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