At What Cost Victory?
At what cost victory?
The Iowa Hawkeyes are now 8-0 on the season, their first ever 8-0 start to a season in school history.
Getting to that point was not easy. As I wrote in a column from Sunday, Iowa has had to play four straight conference games against teams who believed they had a shot at a Big Ten title and the Rose Bowl. With Penn State, they were thinking national championship, so you know Iowa got the best shot they could muster that night. Michigan was coming off of a loss at Michigan State, but that was just their first loss and they still felt like they could win the rest, as they had Penn State and Ohio State at home. Wisconsin knew that if it beat Iowa, it would be favored in its remaining games and they had a shot at a Big Ten title and BCS bid. Michigan State knew that if it lost to Iowa, it had no chance at a Big Ten title, but if it won and took care of business the rest of the way, their destiny was in their own hands.
When you play a slate like that, it exacts a physical toll. Iowa navigated that arduous four game stretch, winning all four games including three on the road. That was quite an accomplishment, and one that I will never forget.
Yet, it took a toll…the physical play caught up with Iowa on Saturday night, as Dace Richardson, Adam Robinson, Colin Sandeman, Brett Greenwood and Brandon Wegher suffered injuries. Those are just the injuries we could tell from watching the game. The MSU contest was easily the most physical game this year, and one of the most physical games in memory. MSU laid it all on the line, because that’s all they had left to do.
Richardson will be out until at least the bowl game, with a lower leg/foot break. No word on Sandeman or Greenwood with regards to availability for the Indiana game. Wegher will be available for that game, but its a strong possibility that Adam Robinson, Iowa’s leading rusher, may not be available for this week’s game against Indiana, or beyond; Iowa will know this week if he will require surgery on his ankle.
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So as they have had to do so many times this year, the Hawkeyes will march forward with their ‘next man in’ philosophy. The home games against Indiana and Northwestern, games that many Iowa fans, me included, had already put in the win column, become more treacherous now.
I said prior to the Michigan State game that if the Hawkeyes won in East Lansing, they would have one foot in Pasadena. I still feel they are in the driver’s seat for the Rose Bowl, but only if they win their next two games. That will give them some ‘breathing room’ if they are unable to win in Columbus for just the 3rd time since the late 1950’s. Of course, they must beat Minnesota in the season finale, but there is no way that Iowa loses that game with the Rose Bowl on the line, or perhaps more.
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Iowa is going to be down to Brandon Wegher and Paki O’Meara at running back for at least the Indiana game. I think those two are capable, but the margin for error and injury has evaporated from this team. Jeff Brinson has had a foot injury that just will not heal, and he has not been a factor in games or practice as of late. Iowa can always pull the redshirt off of Brad Rogers. Some will wonder if you make a move like that in game nine of a season.
Iowa pulled the redshirt off of offensive lineman Mike Jones in game seven of his freshman year. Seasons like this don’t come around very often, and if the coaches feel Rogers can help them win now, and need him to help them win now, I don’t think they would hesitate and players love opportunities to get involved, especially during a season like this one. But I have not heard any indications of that; it’s just roster speculation.
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This season has been marked with adversity since the summer conditioning sessions, where Julian Vandervelde injured his arm & Jewel Hampton injured his knee. That continued into fall camp, when Jordan Bernstine broke his ankle. Kyle Calloway and Bryan Bulaga were out of fall camp practice more than they were in it, and Bulaga missed three weeks of practice and games in the regular season. Tony Moeaki missed three games this year, too, and several receivers have missed significant playing time this year. Pat Angerer has an injured thumb.
The 2009 Iowa football story has been truly amazing to this point, and if this season ends in Pasadena, one way or another, it may be the most amazing chapter in Iowa football history because of what they had to overcome to get there.