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Homecoming as heartbreak

BY JON LINDER | OCTOBER 09, 2009 7:20 AM

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If Charles Dickens could have chronicled Iowa’s 2009 football season, he likely would have penned the ghost of Homecomings past for a visit to the Hayden Fry Football Complex this week.

The Hawkeyes have lost two-straight Homecoming games in uniquely frustrating fashions. For No. 12 Iowa to extend its nine-game winning streak, that trend will need to be expunged against Michigan on Saturday.

“For a lot of guys, I think this is just another big game against a good team,” junior tackle Bryan Bulaga said. “I think every week [we are] playing for the ex-Hawkeyes who played here and all the alumni. I don’t think this week’s any different.”

Since bestowing a 47-17 beat down to Purdue in Homecoming 2006, Iowa has dropped its last two Homecoming games to Indiana and Northwestern. While the games hardly mirrored one another, untimely mistakes and fluke plays highlighted both contests.

In 2007, Indiana quarterback Kellen Lewis and wideout James Hardy terrorized the Hawkeyes in one of Iowa’s most embarrassing losses in recent memory. Lewis dominated Iowa in the first half, accounting for three touchdowns. Hardy caught the first touchdown, a 39-yarder, after Iowa’s fumbled punt earlier in the quarter gave the Hoosiers excellent field position.

Hardy set up the second score as well with a crowd-deflating, 48-yard catch at the Iowa 16. Later in the half, Lewis broke the game open by scoring a third touchdown, this time with his legs. On third and 9 for Indiana, Lewis slung a pass to Josiah Sears and one of the most frustrating plays in the Kirk Ferentz era ensued. Sears fumbled on the play, but Lewis scooped the ball and took it 71 yards before flipping into the end zone for a 21-0 lead.

Iowa fought back into contention in the second half, but could not overcome two turnovers, nine sacks, and nine penalties for a total of 73 yards.

“I couldn’t believe that happened,” Iowa linebacker Pat Angerer said. “That was a really athletic play from him, especially the flip. That was pretty impressive.”

Last year’s 22-17 Homecoming loss to Northwestern wasn’t quite as impressive, but it was every bit as disappointing. Iowa literally fumbled the game away against the Wildcats.

The Hawkeyes had no trouble moving the ball early, and they held a 17-3 lead late in the first half. But with 1:14 left before halftime, Andy Brodell fumbled a punt to give Northwestern the ball at the Iowa 33.

Three plays later, the Wildcats were in the end zone and had closed the score to 17-10 at the half.

The Wildcats torched Iowa through the air to open the second half, scoring quickly and pulling within 17-16. The Hawkeyes clung to their one point lead as Amari Spievey and Shonn Greene coughed up two more fumbles, but Northwestern eventually tallied the winning score with 7:54 to play.

Without Greene, who was knocked out of the game during his fumble, Iowa stalled on two-straight offensive drives to end the game. The last drive ended with four incomplete passes in a row after a first and goal just inside the 10-yard line.

“Our offense is a lot more experienced [this year],” senior wide receiver Trey Stross said. “Rick [Stanzi] has got a whole year under his belt. Our line has a full year. And our receiving corps is more experienced and mature. I’m not expecting five turnovers or anything like that.”

Iowa will have another glaring losing streak on the line when Michigan comes to Kinnick Stadium on Saturday. The Hawkeyes have not beaten the Wolverines since an 30-27 victory in 2003.

That game was also Iowa’s Homecoming.


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