Hawk fans trudged home in the relentless rain at 1 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 18, after a sad, strange evening of late-night football. Our boys in black and gold suffered a disappointing early-season loss that reminded us all what it means to be a Hawk fan: near heart attack-inducing stress levels, violent, nonsensical cursing, fists shaking at the sky, and all the heartbreak of watching your very best and most adored get dismantled and dismayed at every turn.
Everything about the Arizona game felt off. Thanks to an Auburn/Clemson (who cares?) overtime, most Hawk fans watching in Iowa City missed the key first possession, and the resulting blocked punt that led to Arizona’s first touchdown. How could the boys in black & gold be expected to perform without the emotional push provided by the rallying cries from the home? While Iowa’s offense moved the ball well in the first half and dominated statistically, Arizona’s offense picked apart the Hawkeye defense with precision.
We looked out-manned and out-gunned. Questions began to surface: Since when do Samwise Gamgee & Frodo Baggins play on our offensive line? And how is it that Beowulf is playing defensive end for Arizona? How many years of eligibility does that guy get? And why has he mistaken Ricky Stanzi for a dragon?
To add insult to injury, at the toot of every whistle (and there were a lot of ‘em this game) Arizona Coach (and former Hawkeye, if you can believe it) Mike Stoops stood wailing on the sidelines, throwing up his arms llike an over-dramatic teenage girl at each and every call his apparently perfect squad was forced to endure. Kirk stood stoically, chomping his gum a little harder, furrowing his brows so low they nearly touched, making the non-scene that is Kirk on the sidelines. God, we love that about him. We officially disown you Mike Stoops. Stay out of the Big Ten.
We all know what it’s like to be a Hawk fan: the crazy highs, the abysmal lows, enduring the cold and rain at Kinnick with a smile, cheering as the band forms a perfect Tiger Hawk before the game starts, lifting that silly Panchero’s burrito high. As Iowans, we’re proud to see the qualities we like about ourselves reflected in our team: our stoicism, our willingness to do the work that needs to be done without complaining and our modesty. But there’s one quality shared by the Hawkeye Nation and the actual Hawkeye football team that we may want to reevaluate: our stubbornness. Man, HOW MANY TIMES DO YOU RUN IT UP THE GUT WHEN YOU ARE GETTING ZERO TO NEGATIVE 3 YARDS EVERY SINGLE TIME? What sort of adjustments need to be made to your defense when a quick drop pass over the middle gets the opponent 8-10 yards every time it’s executed?
Okay, it’s our style of ball. Everybody knows it. We run up the gut, and up the gut, and up the gut, and then, WHAM! Robinson breaks free, the blocks line up perfectly, and he’s off to the races. Or perhaps DJK breaks down the sideline, cuts in slightly toward the end zone, and Stanzi lobs a perfectly-placed spiral into his hands. The repetitive nature of Hawkeye football wears down the competition, puts them in the sedated mindset of expectancy, then surprises them with a well-timed strike.
Works almost every time.
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Looking ahead, Hawk fans learned after the Arizona game that Jewell Hampton is officially out for the season. Again. That poor dude has some kind of luck. With Wegher M.I.A. that left, as far as most of us knew, Adam Robinson. Luckily, the Ball State blowout gave us a chance to check in on the new kids in school and they did not disappoint. Both Brad Rogers and Marcus Coker (both Freshmen) ran strong, fast, and hard against Ball State, and they showed a ton of promise. Rodgers is a big guy, strong runner, knows how to charge a lane. Coker is fierce, determined, a runner with quick moves whose legs don’t stop pumping even when he’s being tackled. A guy who’s gonna pick up yards after contact out of sheer determination.
The Ball State 45-0 win gave fans a fresh feeling of enthusiasm a return to the “positive Hawkeye Nation” that my adorable and wise friend Kasey often reminds us townies who’ve had a lil too much to drink to remember. You know, the positive Hawkeye Nation that supports our boys through every tough loss and every kick-ass win, every injured starter and rising star, every interception and touchdown miracle pass to McNutt? Yeah, those guys. Us guys: The fans at Kinnick, the families gathered near the TV each Saturday, the rowdy bar crowds.
Much like the first quarter of your typical Hawkeye game, the first quarter of this season leaves plenty of room for doubt. But we’re there for our Hawks even when everything isn’t coming up
Rose Bowls and sunshine. So c’mon everybody! Positive Hawkeye Nation! There’s plenty of fooball to play and it’s time to start the Big Ten season!