A DAY TO REMEMBER
Hawks pummel Buckeyes with historic performance
IOWA CITY — At one point during Iowa’s out-of-body 55-24 dismantling of third-ranked Ohio State on Saturday, my wife turned to me with an incredulous look and said, ”I’ve never seen them do that before.”
She needed to be more specific.
It happened live and in living color right in front of us, though if you asked me to explain the how or the why, I might just shrug my shoulders. Speechless seems to fit the moment well.
A week after we’d decided to take my son to his first live college football game, we were watching the Hawkeyes crack the Buckeyes with such force and efficiency that my 12-year-old empathetically muttered in the second half, ”I’m starting to kind of feel sorry for Ohio State.”
No need, my boy.
This wasn’t a normal trip to Kinnick Stadium for me. While most journalists were perched in their usual spot high above the field or standing next to players and coaches on the sidelines taking pictures, I was watching a college football game from the stands as a neutral observer for the first time in years.
Instead of taking notes, collecting statistics and regurgitating trends, I was experiencing the upset organically, a stone’s throw away from the Iowa student section. Fitting, given the steady, celebratory atmosphere. It felt more like a rock concert than a Big Ten showdown, and we were basically in the middle of the mosh pit.
I had warned my son beforehand that the Hawks were about to take on a true college football giant. Head coach Kirk Ferentz had beaten the Buckeyes just once. Urban Meyer had lost a grand total of ONE Big Ten road game in six years at Ohio State, and just two conference contests in 46 tries overall. Iowa was a 20-plus point underdog at Kinnick, which I’d never seen before.
Long story short, I made sure he enjoyed the pregame energy, knowing it might be the highlight of the day.
Moments later, Amani Hooker returned J.T. Barrett’s pass for a touchdown on the opening snap. And though the Buckeyes hung around for a while (sounds bizarre to say that), the Hawkeyes proved they were simply the better team in all facets and the rout was on.
Iowa didn’t just catch some breaks and escape with a victory. This was an all-out drubbing; up front, on the edges, offense, defense, special teams, trick plays, coaching — you name it.
Meanwhile, my son was rolling his eyes at the cautionary advice I’d given him along the way — soaked in conservatism, and the perfect chance to call his old man dead wrong.
There were sights and sounds writers never see from the press box. Complete strangers euphorically hugging each other after SEVEN touchdown blows. Fans taking pictures of the scoreboard for posterity purposes. The real-time preparation and release of rushing the field.
And of course, the Kinnick Stadium ”Wave.”
I’ve been fortunate enough to witness a lot of emotional moments as both a fan and journalist through the years, but this transcends games, wins or even championships. Chills, tears, pride, joy — you name it, this is real life and humanity at its very best. Waving to the kids at Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital is a bucket-list sports experience, not for you, but for what you mean to them.
The day — an unprecedented one at Kinnick, for all intents and purposes — was perfectly encapsulated by the tone in Mark Abbott’s voice. When Iowa’s normally-focused public address announcer clicked the microphone on after a fourth-quarter touchdown, his voice cracked in a mix of laughter and disbelief.
”With the score, Iowa 48, Ohio State 17.”
We were all witnessing a historic performance. My wife knew it when she said she’d never seen them do ”that” before, which covered a wide variety of highlight-reel plays. I hadn’t, either.
And the words of wisdom I now have for my son, who will compare every game he sees in person to his first?
Good luck topping that one.
Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. He may be reached afternoons and evenings at 1-800-622-6613, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @MessengerSports