NORMAN – Given their success in recent years, it wasn't a banner year for Kirk Ferentz and his Iowa football team. But, then again, it's not as if too much was expected of a team picked to finish in the middle of the Legends Division. (The Hawkeyes are in the Legends, right?)
“We have lost a lot of good players over the last two years, so we knew we had work to do this year,” Ferentz said. “It has been a little bit of a season of ups and downs.”
Iowa went 3-3 in the second half of the season, ending up 7-5 and landing in the Dec. 30 Insight Bowl to face 9-3 Oklahoma.
Marvin McNutt is a big-time, playmaking receiver — a held-over star from those teams to which Ferentz made mention. At 6 foot 4 and 215 pounds, he will give Oklahoma's corners all they want in terms of a physical matchup.
McNutt caught 78 for 1,269 yards and 12 touchdowns his senior season. The only issue is getting him the ball. Quarterback James Vandenberg has completed only 59.4 percent of his passes this season. McNutt has accounted for 45 percent of Iowa's receiving yardage this season.
Getting past Michigan 24-16 on Nov. 5 was undoubtedly Iowa's signature victory this season, considering the Wolverines went on to get into the Sugar Bowl as an at-large team. Down eight, Michigan was driving late in the game, but Iowa held the Wolverines out of the end zone.
Iowa also defeated Pitt early in the year, but that win lost some luster as the Panthers struggled through the middle part of their schedule.
One thing that made the Michigan win all the more surprising is that it came on the heels of the Hawkeyes' worst loss, a 22-21 defeat at Minnesota the week before. Strangely enough, Iowa lost despite the fact that running back Marcus Coker ran for 252 yards. Each team turned the ball over once, too, so it's not as if Iowa handed the game to Minnesota. Just one of those head-scratchers.
“We had a couple of losses that, like anybody, I'm sure we'd love to have back,” Ferentz said. “You don't get that chance.”
Why they won seven games