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The Holiest of Big Ten Holidays

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Happy 6-4 to you all.

Cedar Rapids Gazette

What a brave new world for the Big Ten. We’ll likely get a new conference commissioner today, and we have devoted two of the last three weeks to previewing the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Maryland Terrapins.

But this is still the conference of flyover country, running the football, and punting to win.

And today is 6-4, the highest of B1G holidays.

Almost fifteen years ago, on October 23, 2004, the Iowa Hawkeyes marched into Happy Valley and fought the Penn State Nittany Lions to the B1Ggest of scorelines: 6-4.

From Penn Live:

I asked Paterno this question in the post-game session:

”If you were to address the fans directly, paying what they do to watch this product, what would you say to them?”

Paterno, one part indignant to two parts resigned -- no, not that type of resigned -- seemed at first not to grasp the question: “The fans were great. The last couple games they’ve been great.”

When I made it clear I was talking about the offense he was putting on the field as a product people pay good money to see, he had nothing to say to you at all. Only something dismissive: “You write what you want to write.”

Sure. How about this:

Robinson was asked afterward, “Who’s running the offense?” He eventually responded: “A combination of Coach Hall and Jay Paterno.”

As if the 63-year-old Galen Hall needs this -- a tag team. Wasn’t he brought in as an experienced coordinator to run the show?

Before answering the question seriously, though, Robinson smiled and answered it with an existential joke.

Who’s running the offense?

”God.”

In that case, God help them.

Aaron Yorke: When you look at this game and then at the 2005 season in which the Penn State offense flourished with Michael Robinson under center, it’s kind of amazing that the coaching staff didn’t shake things up at the end of the 2004 campaign.

Then again, it’s also not surprising because the Paternos historically haven’t been good judges of quarterback talent. I’m pretty sure Joe passed away without realizing that Matt McGloin was better than Rob Bolden after wasting two seasons switching between them.

Anyway, PSU had one of the best defenses in the country in 2004, and the season would have been much more fun if Robinson had been quarterback. Even if that meant just a mediocre bowl game instead of 4-7 or whatever they finished, at least this Iowa game would have turned out differently.

87townie: First game I took my wife to see. Friends gave us their box seats. It was such a disaster, I’ve never sat in box again...and I haven’t taken her to another game.

It was also homecoming...

Some comments that I can’t top that sum this game up:

  • Yesterday’s Big Ten battle at Beaver Stadium in front of 108,062 fans on homecoming had to be one of the most brutal, sluggish, disgusting offensive performances in the history of college football.
  • It doesn’t get any weirder than 4. And you can’t add anything else to it and make it stranger.
  • This wasn’t football, this was an offensive tickle-fight.
  • The last time a defense this good went this unrewarded was the Alamo.
  • How secure did Kirk Ferentz feel with a 6-2 lead midway in the fourth quarter? So secure that he halved it.
  • This offensive battle was like Ali vs. Frazier. Circa 2025.

Stewmonkey13: What most Iowa fans know, that I’m not sure the sneering college football proletariat realize, is that Ferentz was a Pennsylvania kid, and never got his shot with Holy Joe. He started his college coaching career as a grad assistant at Pitt in the late 70’s. So he’s had a chip on his shoulder towards PSU. And the week of this particular game, Kirk’s dad passed away.

I believe this game was an inflection point during Kirk Ferentz’s tenure. If you remember properly, prior to this game, Iowa had been producing some pretty damn incredible offenses. However, 2004 was the birth of the infamous AIRBHG. Sam Brownlee and his 2.4 yards per carry was the leading rusher for Iowa that year. And while Drew Tate played Atlas for Iowa’s offense that season, Penn State was particularly great at defending the pass, top 10 that year. Combine that with what I think was Iowa’s best defense in the Ferentz era, and the nadir of the Jay Paterno offense, and well this was the natural course.

The offenses weren’t great, but the defenses were absolutely phenomenal.


MNW: But while all this is wonderful, we’re not paying enough attention to the greatest part—that the Iowa offense yielded two safeties, the second coming—INTENTIONALLY—up four points with over 8 minutes to go—and still won.

Thump: can i just say how much i love his little hop out of the back of the end zone like, surely the defenders knew he wasn’t gonna give them the satisfaction of making contact, but he acted like he was just cookin that grenade

And if there was every any actually ammunition against Pam Ward as a college football announcer, it is that she deigned to not recognize greatness in front of her. It was as if Thomas had put his fingers in the Lord’s palms, and touched his sides, and said, “Yeah, Jesus, but did you need to do this?”

It was magisterial. Punting, that day, truly became winning.

87townie: That offense was a disaster. What a waste of talent. Jay always had fucking delusions of grandeur. He was the 3rd or 4th string qb in our high school.

And I’ll get roasted for saying that because Daryll Clark ran the “Spread HD” with success later.

Stew: Here’s the thing, the offenses were up against absolutely incredible defenses. It wasn’t just shitty offenses. That Iowa defense was fucking beastly.

It was a charmed day for Iowa. Robbie Gould, one of the better NFL kickers of the last 10-15 years, missed 2 pretty standard FGs.

But on the Fuck You Safety, just the blatant amount of holding going on:

And Kirk Ferentz’s incredibly emotional post game interview:

This is the game that Ferentz has been trying replicate ever since. It’s the perfect Iowa game, and is why the inimitable Marc Morehouse justly ranked it as the greatest win of the Ferentz era.

Creighton: There is not a single regular season game I remember more fondly than 6-4. I was in high school at the time. The week before I was in Kinnick Stadium to witness the Hawkeyes beating Ohio State into submission. After that nothing was going to keep me from watching the Penn State game, so I called in sick to work and watched the game alone in my basement.

I’ve never seen a game that well coached in my entire life. The defense had future NFL guys like Matt Roth, Chad Greenway, Sean Considine, Abdul Hodge, and Jonathan Babineaux, but the only weapon Kirk had to work with on offense was punter David Bradley...and somehow that’s all he needed.

We make a lot of jokes about Kirk Ferentz and his punters, but they’re all rooted in truth. Kirk has always relied on winning the field position battle to maintain control of a game, and on this day we saw the most extreme possible example of that. The defense held the line, and the punter made sure they had breathing room.

I was in awe at the raw confidence he had when he gave up the second safety- I don’t think a single person watching thought Iowa’s offense was going to put any more points on the board, and Ferentz traded 2 points in a 4-point game for some extra field position in the fourth quarter. He willingly put Penn State in a position to win the game on a field goal because he knew that if he had the chance to punt from midfield instead of his own end zone that Penn State wasn’t going to be able to score again. I remember Lee Corso in one of the old NCAA Football video games liked to compare football to a chess match about 5 times per game, but this game really was a chess match between two hall of fame coaches. It was unconventional, but it was the most beautiful football game I’ve ever seen.


Happy 6-4 to you all, holiest of the holy B1G holidays.