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Iowa football: Former Hawkeyes recall Northwestern nightmares

[ 0 ] October 25, 2012 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. – It’s only appropriate that Iowa plays a Big Ten Conference football game this Halloween season at what has become its personal Haunted House.

Knock Knock . . .

It’s Northwestern.

For some of coach Kirk Ferentz’s teams, it has been Nightmare in Evanston, where the Wildcats’ Ryan Field resembled a Hawkeye House of Horror.

“I’ve heard there’s just something about that place,” said quarterback James Vandenberg, whose 23rd career start in Saturday’s 11 a.m. game will be just his first at Northwestern.

Iowa’s Derrell Johnson-Koulianos stands on the field after Iowa lost to Northwestern 21-17, Saturday, Nov. 13, 2010, at Ryan Field, in Evanston, Ill. (Press-Citizen/ Matthew Holst)

It’s something all right, said cornerback Micah Hyde, who had 12 tackles during a 21-17 loss there in 2010.

“It’s got nothing to do with the stadium,” Hyde said. “It’s not the locker room or the bus ride over there.

“It’s the players. They always have guys who run all over the field. We’ve faced a lot of spread teams, but what they do is different. They’ve got guys all over the field who play multiple positions.”

Kain Colter will be Northwestern’s starting quarterback, but he also has averaged 10.6 yards on each of his 16 pass receptions. Venric Mark, 90 rushing yards shy of 1,000 this season and the top punt returner in the nation, is another of the Wildcats’ versatile players.

Iowa will have to slow them while playing in a stadium where the Hawkeyes have a recent 2-7 record – where an 8-5 Iowa team lost against 7-6 Northwestern in 2010, where the 7-5 Hawkeyes lost against the 5-7 Wildcats in 1997, and where Iowa’s 7-5 team in 2005 couldn’t one-up Northwestern’s 7-5.

“I can’t put a pulse on what happens when we play there,” former Iowa quarterback Matt Sherman said this week. “It’s got a friendly confines feel to it because of the number of Iowa fans that always go to the game. Their team, at least back then, wasn’t real intimidating.”

Who has the edge?: Randy Peterson breaks down Saturday’s game

Former Hawkeye quarterback Kyle McCann can’t figure it out, either.

“I had two very different experiences there,” he said. “In 1999, it came down to the wire and we lost a close game that obviously was painful. In 2001, we were there and played really well and took care of business.

“I don’t remember it being a real hostile environment when I played there. What I remember is that ultimately, it came down to what happened between the lines.”

Not so fast.

“We had a decent season going in 2005 when we played there,” place-kicker Kyle Schlicher said. “I remember before the game, it was like the Twilight Zone watching guys in warmups dropping balls and wondering what’s up.

“This was Northwestern. We were supposed to beat Northwestern.”

Didn’t happen.

“Something else I remember about that place is that the locker room was very cramped,” Schlicher added. “It was probably set up like that purpose, which some places do, but there, I remember the room was so small that (defensive coordinator) Norm Parker was briefing to his guys at halftime right next to where (secondary coach) Phil Parker was talking to his guys.

“I don’t know if any of the players could hear what either coach was saying, because sometimes they were talking loudly.”

Meanwhile, Schlicher got wet.

“I remember water dripping from pipes on top of you while you sat there in the locker room,” he said.

Ironically Schlicher, who lives near Evanston, will attend Saturday’s game. He’ll be in the stands with his family.

“There’s just something about that place – and obviously most of it has to do with the players,” he said, “but I’ll never really miss playing there.”



1995: Northwestern 31, Iowa 20

The Hawkeyes were blanked after leading 20-17 at halftime as fifth-ranked Northwestern beat Iowa for the first time since a 31-15 success in 1973. “When momentum was going our way, we always (messed) it up somehow and they capitalized on it,” Hawkeye quarterback Matt Sherman said after the game.

1997: Northwestern 15, Iowa 14

Iowa place-kickers missed two field goals, and the Hawkeyes were shutout in the second half of a game in which star receiver Tim Dwight caught just two passes. “I’m not going to second-guess Coach (Hayden) Fry,” Dwight said afterwards. “He’s been around for 47 years as a coach. I’ve been alive for 22 years.”

1999: Northwestern 23, Iowa 21

Fourth-and-goal. Two-yard line. Four seconds to play. Touchdown Northwestern. Not only did Iowa’s 21-16 lead slip away against the lowly Wildcats, but so did an opportunity for Kirk Ferentz’s second victory as the Hawkeyes’ coach.

2005: Northwestern 28, Iowa 27

Usually-reliable kicker Kyle Schlicher missed a 41-yard field goal with 5 ½ minutes to play. Northwestern’s winning touchdown started with an on-side kick recovery. Iowa led 24-7 in the third quarter. “You can’t point to one single event or one single play or one single guy,” offensive lineman Brian Ferentz said. “I think everybody has pretty good ownership in this.”

2010: Northwestern 21, Iowa 17

Iowa led 17-7 until the Wildcats won the game with two fourth-quarter touchdowns. The Hawkeyes’ hope of rallying ended when Ricky Stanzi threw a final-possession interception. “We lost because I threw a stupid interception,” Stanzi said. “It cost us the game.” The loss dropped the Hawkeyes from BCS consideration.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Randy Peterson: Randy Peterson covers college football, college basketball and the Iowa Cubs for the Des Moines Register. Randy can be reached at randypeterson@dmreg.com or on Twitter via @RandyPete View author profile.

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