Had No. 10 ranked Iowa stumbled at home against a 2-5 Maryland team, perhaps the Hawkeyes would have finally made national headlines.
Alas, Kirk Ferentz and his football program—true to their identity—remained consistent the year by remaining undefeated. Iowa is now 8-0 on the season (1st in the Big Ten West) and one of the few unbeaten teams left in college football.
Nothing the Hawkeyes do is flashy, so they don’t get the attention or respect that a LSU, Baylor, TCU, Ohio State or Michigan State does—but everything they do is effective.
Had Iowa come out and lost today against Maryland, it would have been a huge upset and would have landed the Hawks in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. But, you probably could have said that it was understandable. After all, this was a team that wasn’t expected to be all that great in 2015—let alone undefeated at this juncture—so from a national perspective it wouldn’t have been surprising to see them fall out of the Top 10 of the rankings and fall away from the traditional “powerhouses” of college football.
From a national perspective, it may have not been surprising to see Iowa fall back to where many seem to think they belong: Someplace not among the elite. Someplace not among the notable.
The fallback excuses were even in place.
Iowa was coming off a bye week (which can sometimes create a natural lull or let down in a team) and had everything to lose at home. Maryland, on the other-hand, came into this contest with absolutely nothing to lose. They had no reason to play stiff, zero reason to stress about the ultimate outcome of the game. Especially with the future of their program (and head coaching position) up in the air, Maryland had nothing to worry about.
Thus, that made Maryland dangerous.
Iowa had every reason to stress about the outcome of this contest, though. While seemingly a “boring” matchup on paper—especially when compared to some of the other games this weekend—this game and its implications were nothing but for the Hawkeyes. Every win Iowa gets, the scrutiny will intensify. Every game they play in, they’ll have a target on their backs. Make no mistake about it, even though they didn’t show it, the Hawks did have that target there heading into this game.
There’s pressure when you’re in the Top 10, but Iowa played like a team that had none Saturday afternoon at Kinnick Stadium.
The Hawkeyes came out in a spot where many teams would naturally let down, and they didn’t let up. That’s been a constant about this team in 2015. Through injuries, through question marks, through adversity and through pressure—Iowa hasn’t given up.
Perhaps it’s the gritty play from quarterback C.J. Beathard—who has been playing injured— that has formed this team’s never relenting attitude. Or maybe it’s the fact that Iowa boasts a stingy, hard-nosed defense that’s easily one of the best in the nation. The Hawkeyes are simply ball-hawks defensively, and they proved that again Saturday against Maryland.
The Iowa defense held Maryland to just 15 points (all in the fourth quarter) and 241 total yards of offense. The ball-hawk Hawkeyes picked off quarterback Perry Hills three times, including a pick-six mid-way through the fourth quarter from future NFL draft pick Desmond King, his seventh interception of the year.
— Iowa on BTN (@IowaOnBTN) October 31, 2015
Whatever it is that keeps this team going, the Hawkeyes simply just won’t let down.
Credit head coach Kirk Ferentz and his staff for the job that they’ve done coaching these young men, especially considering Ferentz himself has changed some of his in-game habits in the process. It turns out old dogs can learn new tricks, and the Ferentz revolution is a prime example of that.
Credit the staff, but also keep in mind that it’s the players out on the field proving just about everybody wrong about them. They didn’t need to be believed in. They didn’t need respect. They just went out and won.
This Hawkeyes team probably doesn’t need the national headlines, either. No matter who’s paying attention or giving them the respect they deserve (not many are), they just keep being ball-hawks.
Headlines or not, they just keep being undefeated.