Jesse Temple: Remembering a different time at Iowa
NOV 02, 2013 9:52a ET
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The last time I stepped inside Kinnick Stadium, Iowa's football program was a national laughingstock, ensnared in the longest losing streak in school history.
Many have likely forgotten the lowest point in Hawkeyes football because of the drastic turnaround that has taken shape under head coach Kirk Ferentz. But there was a time -- 13 years ago -- when reaching a bowl game seemed as far out of reach as the heavens.
It's true. I lived it.
Over the course of two seasons, Iowa lost 13 consecutive games -- all eight Big Ten contests to close 1999 and the first five games of 2000, including a 27-21 home loss against Mid-American Conference foe Western Michigan.
So when I decided to attend Iowa's home game against No. 25 Michigan State as a high school sophomore living in Iowa City way back on Oct. 7, 2000, you can imagine where expectations stood. Ferentz, in his second season in charge, was still trying to restore the program to the same glory experienced under former coach Hayden Fry without nearly the same talent.
On that brisk Saturday -- which featured an 11 a.m. kickoff like today's Iowa-Wisconsin game -- the Hawkeyes did more than put on a competitive showing. Iowa receiver Kevin Kasper caught a 43-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jon Beutjer early in the fourth quarter, which decided the game.
Iowa would win 21-16, prompting a field storming unlike many the program had ever seen. I, too, participated in the storming -- a decision I quickly realized was a mistake considering the crush of football fans intent on partying like it was 1999 (Iowa's last victory). All of us wanted to find Kasper and his bleach-blond hair, to pat him on the back and, in our own way, thank him for finally bringing joy to a city and a state after so much misery.
"It reminded me of the time I went to a Pearl Jam concert, getting trampled by the fans," linebacker LeVar Woods would say after the game. "You couldn’t breathe. It was great."
That day represented Ferentz's first Big Ten victory, and he would be brought to near tears during the postgame press conference. He has won 60 more conference games since and is 61-54 all-time in Big Ten games.
This reflection is meant merely to point out the incredible job Ferentz has done during his tenure at Iowa. He has pushed Iowa from 1-10 to 3-9 to 7-5 and a berth in the Alamo Bowl in 2001. The Hawkeyes have reached a bowl game in 10 of the past 12 seasons and can clinch another bowl berth with a victory today against Wisconsin.
Not many coaches can last at one school for as long as Ferentz in this era. He is tied for the fourth-longest tenured head coach in college football with Oklahoma's Bob Stoops. Only Frank Beemer (Virginia Tech, 1987), Larry Blankeney (Troy, 1991) and Mack Brown (Texas, 1998) have been at their respective schools longer.
The Hawkeyes have fallen on occasional hard times over the past decade, but it's hard to imagine Iowa football fans being desperate enough to storm the field anymore. And Ferentz deserves much of the credit for being a stabilizing force.
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