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Commentary: An undefeated sensibility

BY SCOTT MILLER | OCTOBER 12, 2009 7:20 AM

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Well, this is getting interesting.

Thanks to Ricky Stanzi’s short memory, Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson’s turnovers, and Tony Moeaki’s career night, Iowa sits at 6-0 for the first time since 1985. No other team in the Big Ten, and only seven other Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country, can boast an undefeated record.

How did the Hawkeyes get to this point?

How did they get over their we-can-never-win-close-games mental block to win three games by three points or fewer this season, including a 30-28 blackout thriller against Michigan?

Before this season, Kirk Ferentz’s squad was 4-9 since 2006 in games decided by five points or fewer.

“This is great experience because we’ll probably be involved in more 2-pointers than 20-pointers,” Ferentz said after the game.

How did they win despite all of the injuries and illnesses going against them — Jewel Hampton’s knee, Bryan Bulaga’s thyroid, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos’ hamstring, Tony Moeaki’s ankle, and Julian Vandervelde’s pectoral tendon?

Before this season, I didn’t know where/what a thyroid was or that you could tear a pectoral tendon, but thanks to Ferentz’s Tuesday press conferences, I feel I’m one step and a few credit hours away from being a medical student.

How did the Hawkeyes shake off Stanzi’s third pick-six of the season to win against an explosive Michigan team?

Think about that. On three different occasions this season, Iowa’s starting quarterback has thrown an interception that was subsequently returned for a touchdown — and the Hawkeyes have won every one of those games. It was remarkable when it happened the first time.

Now, it’s almost laughable. That’s the thing about this team.

Everything that’s happened thus far can be categorized as the following: 1) completely, utterly, and almost laughably ridiculous (think, Iowa’s two-consecutive blocked field goals to beat Northern Iowa and Stanzi’s 3-0 record when throwing pick-sixes), 2) unbelievable (think, Tyler Sash’s penchant for interceptions getting thrown right to him), 3) jaw-droppingly, head-shakingly shocking (think, the Hawkeyes’ 21-10 dismantling of Penn State).

That’s it.

And really, when Iowa is 6-0 for the first time in 24 years, there shouldn’t be any other descriptors other than ridiculous, unbelievable, and shocking.

“The whole season, it just feels like everything is going our way,” linebacker Jeremiha Hunter said. “I don’t know, but the only thing I can say is God is good. Things are working out in our favor.”

Coming into the season, I had Iowa penciled in for an eight-win season, a fourth-place Big Ten finish, and a January bowl game — a solid season in every sense of the word. I even confidently made a bet with former Hawkeye safety Matt Bowen to cement my prediction.

But being 6-0 changes everything.

Fans start looking at the schedule, dissecting matchups, and planning bowl trips. Players spout clichés about being only halfway through the season, and fighting through adversity, and not looking ahead of Wisconsin this weekend.

And writers who made uninformed preseason bets with former players all but concede them at the midway point of the season.

I have to admit: This is a weird feeling. Undefeated seasons are expected at places like Florida and Texas and USC. But here, fans will take a nine-win year and January bowl game. I don’t think anyone would complain about that.

But I don’t think anyone is complaining about a 6-0 start, either.


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