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Michael Jackson to the rescue

BY JON LINDER | NOVEMBER 06, 2009 7:20 AM

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Kirk Ferentz might want to thank Michael Jackson for his team’s unprecedented 9-0 record.

While the King of Pop obviously didn’t directly affect Iowa’s play on the field against Indiana on Oct. 31, his legacy helped to spark the crowd in Kinnick Stadium after a lackluster first half.

Channeled through the Hawkeye Marching Band, a classic Jackson tune changed the dynamic in the stadium and sparked more intensity from fans in the game’s final 30 minutes.

`If the Hawks are up, the crowd always seems to be more receptive to our halftime show,” Hawkeye Marching Band Director Kevin Kastens said. “So it was nice to kind of perk up the crowd.”

Indiana had marched down the field on the opening drive to go ahead 7-0, deflating the Hawkeyes and the 70,585 fans crammed into Kinnick Stadium. The Iowa faithful would never get fully back into the game until halftime.

Neither offense did much after the Hoosiers’ initial scoring drive, until a shanked Ryan Donahue punt led to another Indiana touchdown and an early 14-0 hole for the Hawkeyes.

Iowa responded with a five-play, 85-yard drive capped by a Brandon Wegher touchdown, and the Iowa faithful seemed primed to watch another Hawkeye comeback.

However, a fumbled punt return with 26 seconds left in the half led to a demoralizing touchdown by the Hoosiers, a 21-7 halftime deficit, and a distraught Iowa fan base.

“I probably made the biggest bonehead play of the day by going for the return,” Ferentz said after the game. “I got greedy there right before the half instead of just getting off the field.”

Iowa fans, who never seemed completely into the game after the opening kickoff as it was, were left in disbelief.

The Hawkeye Marching Band then brought the sellout crowd to its feet with one of the most fan-pleasing halftime shows in recent memory. The morale boost in the stands could not have been more palpable.

As what seemed to be a fairly routine halftime show drew to a close, a section of the band set down their instruments during “Thriller” and the result was enduring.

The band members performed Jackson’s iconic “Thriller” dance, and the entire crowd exploded in applause. As band members exited the field, they limped off in imitation of Jackson’s historic, zombie-themed music video and were greeted with a deafening round of applause and a standing ovation.

“That’s the only time in my four years here that I’ve seen the Marching Band get a standing ovation from the crowd,” senior band member Dan Stiles said. “That’s the first time I’ve done anything like that [dance] in Marching Band.”

Hawkeye golden girl Chelsea Russell choreographed and taught the dance to the band. Stiles said the zombie exit was the brainchild of graduate student Michael Hart, who also put together the drill for the show.

Kastens, who arranged the music, said the band would probably put “Thriller” into its season highlight show for Iowa’s game with Minnesota on Nov. 21 as an encore for the dynamic performance on Halloween.

While the song may not have directly revitalized Ricky Stanzi’s throwing ability in the fourth quarter or ignited the Hawkeyes’ suffocating defensive effort, the crowd was unquestionably dialed in for the entire second half.

Once the fourth quarter began, the crowd roared to life following two touchdowns on Stanzi’s first two throws of the quarter. The deafening crowd noise aided a reinvigorated Hawkeye defense that forced three three-and-outs and two interceptions on Indiana’s final five possessions.


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