With under a minute left in the 2001 Alamo Bowl, Iowa placekicker Nate Kaeding made a 47-yard field goal to give the Hawkeyes a 19-16 win over Texas Tech.
The successful field goal not only gave the Hawkeyes a bowl victory, but it also marked a sign of what was yet to come from head coach Kirk Ferentz’s squad.
The 2001 Iowa team posted the best record Ferentz had at Iowa in his first three years with the program, finishing 7-5 overall and 4-4 in the Big Ten. The numbers were just good enough to reserve a spot in a postseason bowl, but more significantly, the wins showed improvement over the previous seasons’ campaigns.
The 2001 Hawkeyes led the Big Ten in scoring (32.6 points) after finishing last in the conference the year before, and they finished second in total defense (325.1 yards per game) after placing 10th in the 2000 season.
More importantly than the statistics, Iowa finished the 2001 season strong, winning three of its last four games, gaining momentum that has carried over to this season.
When Iowa beat Michigan last weekend, it marked the first time the Hawkeyes defeated a top-10 opponent since 1996, when they edged past Penn State, 21-20. The win gave Iowa its sixth-straight victory, and allowed it to keep the half-of-a-game edge over the rest of its Big Ten opponents. At 8-1 overall, 5-0 in the Big Ten, Ferentz’s 2002 squad seems to be headed back to the victorious ways that preceded the fourth-year coach’s tenure.
While Ferentz suffered through a losing record through his first three seasons (1-10 in 1999, 3-9 in 2000, 7-5 in 2001) at Iowa since taking over for legendary coach Hayden Fry, his team is poised to get Iowa back to the ways of the Ironmen, the Road Warriors and Fry’s victorious squads in the 1980s and 1990s.
In 1939 Dr. Eddie Anderson led his Ironmen team to a 6-1-1 mark, and halfback Nile Kinnick was awarded the Heisman trophy. Almost 20 years later in 1956, head coach Forest Evashevski led Iowa to its first Rose Bowl appearance after the team won the Big Ten with a 9-1 record. Iowa would return to the Rose Bowl again in 1958 and then earn a share of the Big Ten title again in 1960 when it finished 8-1.
Then came a drop off in Iowa’s success. After enjoying almost 40 years of winning and residing near the top of the Big Ten standings, the Hawkeyes struggled through two decades. Then Fry came to Iowa, and the program saw a turnaround.
In his third season as head coach, Fry led his 1981 team to a share of the Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl berth. The successful campaign was Iowa’s first winning season in 19 years.
This was just the beginning of Fry’s success at Iowa. The Hawkeyes went on to appear in eight-straight postseason bowl games, including another Rose Bowl in 1985.
In 1989 Iowa failed to make it to a bowl game for the first time since 1981, but the layoff didn’t last long. Coming back stronger than ever, Fry led his 1990 squad to its third Big Ten title and Rose Bowl berth during his tenure. In order to clinch their trip to Pasadena, the 1990 “Road Warriors” knocked off Michigan State, Michigan and Illinois on the road.
This 1990 campaign would be the peak of the Hawkeyes’ success for the next few years.
The 1991 squad qualified for a postseason bowl, playing in the Holiday Bowl after finishing the year at 10-1-1, with its only loss coming to Michigan.
Fry continued to take his team to bowl games in the 1993 and 1995-97 seasons, but it was kept out of the Rose Bowl and the top of the Big Ten standings.
Then it all came to a standstill in 1998.
After going to three straight bowl games, Fry announced his retirement on Nov.25, 1998, ending a 20-year career at Iowa and taking with him a 143-89-6 record.
On that day an era came to an end, and a new one began. Ferentz was chosen to take Iowa back into the winners’ circle and illustrious bowl berths. But that dream of the future would have to wait for at least three years, when the rebuilding process brought with it three seasons of struggle.
But the wait might finally be paying off for Ferentz and the Hawkeyes this season. Poised at the top of the Big Ten standings with a Rose Bowl bid in sight, Iowa is trying to get back to the winning ways that have plagued its past.
There’s a new coach at the reigns and new players on the field, but the Iowa tradition is still a part of these Hawkeyes. Now they will look to add their names into the winning side of the school’s record books, showing that Iowa is back as a force to be reckoned with.