Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Trip Down Memory Lane: 2006 Iowa at Syracuse, "The Stand"

Yeah. That seems about right. (Photo, obviously, courtesy of LIFE Magazine)
Every Hawkeye fan remembers this game. Which is funny, because the game was so bad, had it ended under normal circumstances, nobody would want to remember this game. Or care to reflect on it years later at all. Syracuse wasn't a very good team. They had lost 10 straight coming into this game, and would finish the 2006 season with a 4-8 record. Iowa was definitely the superior football squad. However, Iowa was also missing their three year starter at quarterback, Drew Tate. Tate did not play due to a strained abdominal muscle, that had been bothering him since before the season. As it turned out, this was all the Orange needed to make it this a game.

To reiterate my point about this game being ugly. Take a look at the drive chart:


Iowa's fourth drive ended in a touchdown, and their eighth drive ended in a field goal. That was it for regulation. Of their 9 drives in regulation that didn't end with a score, Iowa ended 4 of them with an interception, 4 with a punt, and 1 with a missed field goal. Yikes.

Syracuse scored a touchdown on their first drive, and didn't turn the ball over as much as the Jason Manson quarterbacked Hawkeyes did. However, they also didn't move the ball very much. In their 10 drives that did not end in a score, Syracuse only had 1 drive where they averaged above 4 yards per play. That one drive, the tenth drive, they averaged 6.71 yards per play, but then missed a field goal. They also had three drives where they went backwards, averaging negative yards per play. In other words, Iowa's defense was doing it's best to win the game, despite an offense that was doing it's best to give away the game.

In the end, the defense did win this game for Iowa. I mean, the offense got the winning touchdown in overtime. But, the defense put together an amazing 8 play goal line stand. The Iowa defense did give Syracuse every opportunity to tie the game, as they decided to get called for pass interference at the goal line twice. Nonetheless, the penalties ended up making this goal line stand even more special, and these 8 plays, are what made Hawkeye fans want to go from drinking to forget this game, to drinking in celebration of this game. So, let's reflect on those final 8 plays. Shall we?

Before I break it down, let's all relive the awesomeness through video (thanks to jaxhawk06). There is also a coaches tape here, that I used to break it down below.

After writing this post, I've now relived this almost 100 times. I still get chills every time. Now, for the analysis.

Play 1: 1st and Goal at Iowa 5

Syracuse was on the Iowa 5 yard line. They overloaded the formation to the right, and called for a quick slant to the wide receiver lined up on the left. Iowa had it read perfectly. The wideout got inside on Godfrey, but Humpal was there to break the pass up. The problem was that Godfrey was called for pass interference. Giving Syracuse first down and goal on the Iowa 2 yard line.

Play 2: 1st and Goal at Iowa 2

With the ball on the 2 yard line, Syracuse moves from a passing formation in the first play, to a goal line formation in this one. They put a man in motion to the right side, which led to Iowa defensive back, Adam Shada, following him across the formation. The Orange gave the ball to the fullback, and faked the pitchout to the running back. They tried to open up a hole between the right guard and right tackle, but Mitch King and Ettore Ewen weren't having any of it. King gets lower than his man and the Syracuse left tackle just flat out doesn't make his block on Ewen. A combination of bad blocking and good technique stop Iowa's opponent at the 1 yard line.

Play 3: 2nd and Goal at Iowa 1

On the third play, Syracuse came back out in goal line formation. It was actually the same formation, only this time, they motion from the right side to the left side. The Orange gave the ball to the fullback, once again, and similar results ensued. This time he was met by Mitch King, who busted through the line like he was diving through a brick wall. King didn't make the tackle, but he blew this play up. King pushed the ball carrier outside to where Alex Kanellis and eventually, Mike Humpal and Marcus Paschal, would be waiting. No gain.

Play 4: 3rd and Goal at Iowa 1

Syracuse went back to the same goal line formation they used on the second play. They also motioned their man to the right side again, and Shada followed him across the formation like last time. They did their best to sell the run to right side again, but they ran a play action bootleg left. They tried to sneak their tight end, that motioned to the right side of the line, out of the backfield on the left. Needless to say, Iowa was not fooled. Marcus Paschal and Edmond Miles had this play covered. Too bad for the Hawkeyes, Paschal had it covered a little too tightly. As he got called for pass interference.

Play 5: 1st and Goal at Iowa 1

Syracuse lined up in another goal line formation, only this time the tight end was a little tighter in the formation on the right side. They tried to run a fullback dive up the middle, right off of where the right guard down blocks on Brian Mattison, who happened to be playing defensive tackle on this play. Syracuse looked to get close to the goal line here, as their offensive line got a little bit of a push. But, it wasn't enough, as Mitch King and Brian Mattison did a good job of standing their ground (taking on three offensive linemen no less) and creating a wall. This allowed Matt Kroul, to come across the formation and bring the fullback down for no gain.

Play 6: 2nd and Goal at Iowa 1

Apparently, Syracuse felt that they were so close to getting a touchdown on the last play, they decided to run it again (Oh, Greg). Fullback dive in the same hole as the previous play. What happens? Same play gets the same result. Mitch King and Brian Mattison do a great job of creating a wall again. This allowed Kenny Iwebema to come in and get the fullback from behind, while Edmond Miles also jumped on the wall, stopping any momentum the Syracuse fullback might have had. Just like last time, no gain.

Play 7: 3rd and Goal at Iowa 1

After running the same play back to back didn't work, Greg Robinson decided that if they can't go up the middle, they would go outside. Didn't work. Syracuse lined up in a goal line offset I formation, and ran the option to the left side of the field. When the ball was snapped, the left tight end tried to block Alex Kanellis, who shed him immediately. This left the fullback one on one with Kanellis. Needless to say, he whiffed on the block pretty badly. Kanellis made Syracuse's quarterback, Patterson, string the run out wide where the unblocked Marcus Paschal took away the pitch option, staying between the pitch man and the ball. This forced Patterson to keep the ball and cut up field between Kanellis and Paschal. The Hawkeyes did a good job of stringing this run out, allowing Mike Klinkenborg to come across the field and stuff Patterson at the goal line. Paschal missed the tackle, Kanellis grabbed him from behind, but Klinkenborg hit him and Patterson looked like he hit a brick wall. There's a good chance that if Klinkenborg's tackle hadn't stopped his momentum, Iowa would have lost the game.

Play 8: 4th and Goal at Iowa 1

In what would be the final play of the game, Syracuse called a timeout, and came back to the field with two wide receivers, two tight ends, and one running back. They sent the wide out on the right side of the field in motion, so that he received a fake hand off after the snap. They then handed the ball off to the running back who tried to go through the same hole that Syracuse had been unsuccessful at on previous plays. As was par for the course on this drive, this play ended no differently. Iowa didn't bite on the fake. The Hawkeyes' defensive tackle's, King and Kroul, created a wall (Kroul did a good job spinning off a double team) that the Syracuse running back would run into. Left defensive end, Bryan Mattison, bull rushed the right tackle and shed him in the backfield, diving at and wrapping up the running back's legs. Kenny Iwebema then came from the right defensive end position to help put him away. Thus, capping off an amazing 8 play goal line stand, and sealing the victory for Iowa.

  • No matter how many times I watch these clips, I still can't believe that Iowa got called for pass interference twice, and didn't lose. The Hawkeye defense had both pass plays read and covered, but the defensive backs decided to get too handsy. 
  • The Mike Klinkenborg goal line tackle is my favorite of these plays. He stonewalled Patterson.
  • Defensive line play was key on the run plays. They never let the Syracuse offensive line get a push on them. They did a good job of getting in the backfield. The defensive tackle's did a really good job of clogging up the holes and creating a wall, allowing other Hawkeyes to come in and clean up. Mitch King, Alex Kanellis, and Bryan Mattison were huge.
  • The Syracuse offensive line helped out by not blocking very well.
  • What was up with Greg Robinson's play calling? Even if it was his offensive coordinator calling the plays, what the hell? Syracuse ran the same play back to back. He tried to run the ball in the same hole four times. Not to mention, he kept giving the ball to the fullback and his back up running back. Starting running back, Curtis Brinkley (68 yards on 15 carries), didn't see the field at all during that drive. Finally, I'm surprised they didn't attempt a quarterback sneak with Perry Patterson. Patterson was listed at 6'4" 242 lbs by the Syracuse athletic website. The guy wasn't small. I think it would have made sense to try it once. 
Overall, this game was sixty minutes and one overtime of bad football, and one overtime of amazing football. And even that one overtime of amazing football, came equipped with two pass interference penalties. Granted, Iowa was playing without their starting quarterback. But, this wasn't a very good Syracuse team. This game probably shouldn't have even been a blip on the radar of Hawkeye history. Instead, it turned out to be one the most memorable endings to a college football game ever. A story that will be passed on and live forever in Hawkeye lore and legend. And it came against what would be a 4-8 team that year... But, unpredictability is why we love this game. Right?

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