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5 Football Seasons More Disappointing than 2010 for the Iowa Hawkeyes…

Posted on December 10, 2010 by JA Allen

‘Twas the night before Christmas…

An Iowa Hawkeye Holiday Tale...

George Bailey felt bitterly disappointed at the hand life dealt to him through chronically forgetful Uncle Billy and mean-spirited Mr. Potter.

The proprietor of Bailey’s Savings and Loan ruefully regretted his life, wishing he’d never been born. It took a wayward angel to show George that he’d really had a wonderful life.

Once again it is the holiday season. That means that it is time to watch the overly sentimental film It’s A Wonderful Life directed by Frank Capra, starring Jimmy Stewart and Iowa native Donna Reed––as well as view an explosion of “bowl” games.

As some of us weep over the saccharine holiday tale, we recognize that now is the time for being thankful for family and friends.

For Iowa Hawkeye fans, it means being thankful for an Iowa team that gave us some thrilling moments in 2010, even if the whole season was not everything we had had hoped for.

As coach Kirk Ferentz pointed out once Iowa’s preseason ranking came out in August of 2010––It is not where you start but where you end that is important.

Iowa began the season ranked No. 9 in the 2010 AP Football Poll, and they ended the season unranked––except on the disappointment meter.

What happened?

There are any number of reasons that singularly or in concert contributed to the letdown Iowa suffered at the end of the season. No one will ever answer that question to the complete satisfaction of fans who dreamed of ultimate glory.

But take consolation in this. Iowa, 7-5, is going to play in a very prestigious Insight Bowl against a ranked opponent where the Hawkeyes have the ability to make a statement and regain some dignity lost during the 2010 season.

More importantly, remember, there were five seasons with greater disappointment for Iowa fans…

1965: The Year of the Playboy Fiasco

Playboy's 1965 Preseason All American College Football Squad on Offense.

1965 Playboy Preseason All-American Team

Front row: Paul Crane, center (Alabama); Jerry Burns, Coach of the Year (Iowa). Second row: Karl Noonan, end (Iowa); George Rice, tackle (Louisiana State); Stan Hindman, guard (Mississippi); Dick Arrington, guard (Notre Dame); John Niland, tackle (Iowa); Rick Kestner, end (Kentucky). Third row: Nick Eddy, halfback (Notre Dame); Gary Snook, quarterback (Iowa); Floyd Little, halfback (Syracuse). Rear: Jim Grabowski, fullback (Illinois)

In 1965 the Iowa Hawkeye football team was picked by Playboy magazine as the preseason No. 1 college football team in the nation.

The edgy “sporting” magazine further pronounced that Iowa would go 9-1 on the season.

Back in those days, Playboy took an interest in subjects beyond naked ladies seductively posed––things like college football.

In truth, most professional pundits looked upon this promising 1965 Iowa squad favorably.

The Hawkeyes’ Gary Snook, besides being a fairly decent quarterback, was regarded as somewhat of a playboy himself. So was his coach, Jerry Burns.

When Iowa went 1-9 instead––well––that was the ultimate letdown for Iowa fans.

The Iowa team stayed close in most games, winning once on the road at Oregon State 27-7.

To say this season was a disappointment is a massive understatement.

Jerry Burns was told he would not be returning for another year at the end of 1965. At this point in his career, Burns had not yet turned 40, having stepped into being Iowa’s head coach at age 34, following the legendary Iowa coach Forest Evashevski.

Playboy got out of the “college football” arena except for uncovering cheerleaders, forgoing making preseason predictions.

In all, after Evasheski’s coaching days ended, Iowa suffered through 19 long seasons of disappointment.

When you follow a team, rooting for them through losing season after losing season, you become immune to boilerplate expectations and unrealistic goals. In fact, you become perfect fans––which is what Iowa fans became out of necessity…

1989: Celebrating 100 Years of Iowa Football the Hard Way

Iowa's Merton Hanks 1989

Hayden Fry, the savior of Iowa football, served up an unexpected dud after several very successful seasons.

Fry came to Iowa after 19 losing seasons, taking over the helm in 1979. It took Fry a couple of years, but soon the wily Texan had the Hawks humming. By 1981 Iowa was clicking on all cylinders.

In 1989, however, Fry ended with a losing season on the road at Minnesota in the worst loss to the Gophers in 40 years, 43-7.

It was a major shellacking.

This was supposed to be a year of huge rejoicing, as Hawkeye fans hoped to celebrate 100 years of Iowa football by winning the majority of their football games.

In the end, the season did serve to reflect Iowa football, as most remembered it––except, of course, if you thought the Hayden Fry years were the norm.

Iowa ended the season going 5-6, 3-5 in Big Ten play. No winning season—for the first time in many years.

Floyd of Rosedale was left in Minneapolis. Iowa went 0-4 in Kinnick Stadium and committed 38 turnovers––the most of any Fry team.

Remarkably, Iowa only trailed 13-7 early in the fourth quarter against Minnesota.

But then the bottom fell out of the Iowa game and the Iowa season…

1997: From Great Expectations to Meager Results

Iowa's great start ended in disappointment by year end in 1997.

In 1997, nearing the end of the Fry era, wins became increasingly difficult.

Hayden’s great crop of departed assistant coaches now headed football programs of their own.

Nonetheless, the Iowa Hawkeyes were expected to challenge for the Big Ten title as the 1997 season got under way.

Instead they ended up with a 7-4 record, going 4-4 in the Big Ten.

Hmm? Sound familiar?

Iowa started well, winning its first four games against Northern Iowa, Tulsa, Iowa State and Illinois.

Things were looking up for the pleased-as-punch Hawkeyes and their fans.

Then the Hawkeyes suffered two straight losses to Ohio State and Michigan on the road. Iowa secretly hoped to come out with one win against the mighty two.

After wins at home against Indiana and Purdue, Iowa lost twice more on the road, inexplicably to Wisconsin, who had not beaten them in 20 years. Then the Hawkeyes lost in a nail-biter to Northwestern.

These two losses by a total of four points forever doomed the Hawkeyes, shutting them out of a New Year’s Day bowl.

With a win against Minnesota, Iowa was invited to the Sun Bowl playing against Arizona State. The Hawkeyes lost that game 17-7.

A smothering Arizona State defense led by Sun Devil linebacker Pat Tillman had the Iowa offense so frustrated that Iowa All-American tailback Tavian Banks was in tears at the end of the game wondering just where the Iowa offense had gone…

2006: The Year of the Big, Bad Collapse

Iowa lost to Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

The Iowa Hawkeyes began 2006 very strong once again.

At the start of the season Iowa was ranked No. 16 in the AP Poll and No. 17 in the Coaches’ Poll.

They did not disappoint, winning their first four games.

When the Hawkeyes next ran into the No. 1-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, Iowa lost 38-17 in Kinnick Stadium on September 30. Going into the game Iowa was ranked No. 13.

The next week the Hawkeyes defeated Purdue in Kinnick Stadium 47-17 to regain their No. 13 ranking, leaving the field with a 5-1 record in hand.

But then came a colossal collapse. Iowa lost five of its next six regular season games to end their year at 6-6, 2-6 in the Big Ten.

The death blow came as Iowa lost to Texas in the Alamo Bowl, 26-24. The Hawkeyes ended the year 6-7––their first losing season since 2000.

So what happened?

Nothing good from Iowa’s point of view. Late in the season, the Hawkeyes turned the ball over on offense and could not engineer a critical stop on defense.

The Hawkeyes’ special teams were singularly not special at all.

It was once again time to take stock and rebuild…

2007: The Year of MAC Whack

Iowa did not go "bowling" at the end of the 2007 season.

After a disappointing 2006 season, no one had high expectations for Iowa in 2007.

It was a good thing. Because Iowa was not a very pretty team in 2007.

The Hawkeyes did start the year winning their first two games.

First they defeated Northern Illinois to end a four-game losing streak from the end of the 2006 season. Then they upended the Syracuse Orange at home in Iowa City.

Unfortunately, Iowa lost its next four games, starting with Iowa State at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, followed by losses to Wisconsin, Indiana and Penn State.

Iowa finally stopped the bleeding by winning a close one over Illinois at home, only to follow that up with another loss to Purdue 31-6 in West Lafayette.

Iowa now stood 3-5 with only four games left on their regular season schedule.

The goal was to finish well and secure a bowl game for Iowa’s seniors. In order to gain an invitation to a bowl game, however, Iowa had to win out.

Iowa rolled up its collective sleeves and dug in.

They defeated Michigan State in double overtime for their first must-win.

Then Iowa defeated Northwestern 28-17, overcoming a 14-point deficit in the first quarter.

The next opponent was Minnesota on November 10. The Hawkeyes defeated the Gophers 28-17 to win their third in a row plus reclaim Floyd of Rosedale.

All the Iowa team needed to do now was defeat Western Michigan out of the Mid-American Conference at home in Kinnick Stadium.

The Broncos had a losing record coming into the game.

After a win, the Hawkeyes could sit back and wait patiently for a bowl bid. Iowa would have a respectable winning season again.

But Iowa did not win against Western Michigan.

The team with everything to win lost that day, while the team with nothing to lose did everything right to win.

The representative from the Insight Bowl was on hand in the stands ready to select Iowa to play “if they won the game.”

Needless to say, the game and the season were a huge disappointment, and talk of firing Ferentz once again flared in headlines and media outlets.

But that was before the 2008 and 2009 years, when Ferentz once again became Iowa’s hero…

2010: The Year of Renewed Spirit

Iowa has high hopes to end the 2010 season on a high note.

Iowa will have its hands full as it faces Missouri on December 28 in the Insight Bowl to be played in Tempe, Arizona.

Missouri ended its season with three straight victories while Iowa went in the opposite direction, suffering three straight losses.

Earlier on, this might have seemed an equal contest according to most, who now give the edge to Missouri.

Missouri’s spread offense, led by quarterback Blaine Gabbert, has enjoyed tremendous success and will take the field with a 10-2 record, while the Hawkeyes stand at 7-5.

Spread offenses and mobile quarterbacks have been a thorn in the side of the Hawkeye defense all season long.

Something Norm Parker, now back at the helm, will be taking into full consideration.

No doubt about it, Iowa will have to play up to its full potential to win this game against Gary Pinkel’s Tigers. But they can do it, as the Hawkeyes will be hoping to prove again.

After all, it is the season for new beginnings…


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