Iowa Week Is Here & So Is The History Brush-Up

Let’s really pivot in to Iowa week by brushing up on the series history which of course, selectively begins with the year 1995, or at least the infamous Gary Barnett – Hayden Fry run-in that Iowa fans will tell you never happenned.

Northwestern – Iowa Series Capsule
Alltime Series: Iowa leads 47-22-3
In Evanston: Iowa 23-15-3
Since 1995: Northwestern leads 9-6
Kirk Ferentz Record vs NU: 5-5
Pat Fitzgerald Record vs Iowa: 4-2
Trends:NU has won 4 of 6, but 3 of those 4 have been in Kinnick Stadium
LTP favorite win: 1996 – “The Darnell Game”
LTP least favorite loss: 2000 “The Rose Bowl Spoiler”
LTP Favorite Iowa Player: Tim Dwight
LTP Least Favorite Iowa Player: Chad Greenway (although thanks for the ’05 personal foul!)

We all know the ‘Cats have enjoyed a resurgence of success since 1995 against a team that had one of the most dominating stretches (21 straight wins) against any team in Big Ten history. Hawkeyes fans are saying “fluke” when referencing our ‘Cats disrupting one (’08) and ruining another (’09) on the Brad Phillips missile hit to  Shonn Greene (which he told me IN PERSON it was clean) in 2008 and Ricky Stanzi getting injured on a Corey Wootton, TD-inducing sack in 2009. They somehow overlook the fact our starting QB, Mike Kafka, was injured for a half of the same ’09 game (Dan Persa spelled Kafka, but he too got injured and had to leave the game). Whatever. The ‘Cats have enjoyed some great turnover margins, a few lucky bounces and some stellar “D”. Let’s relive a few of the many wins in the past 15 years:

2010 – The Persa Game

If Iowa fans wonder if we’ve sold our souls to the football Gods in exchange for wins against Iowa, this would be the burden of proof game. The ‘Cats found themselves down double-digits entering the 4th quarter and the Hawkeyes NFL pipeline D-line was playing stellar “D”. The ‘Cats, meanwhile, we’re playing the most aggressive, swarming “D” of the season despite the deficit. Persa would ignite the ‘Cats on a classic comeback and his up-tempo offense had NFLers like DLs Adrian Clayborn and Chris Klug gasping for air on the sideline. Persa, as we all know, threw the game-winning TD to Demetrius Fields with just over a minute to play, but he would rupture his Achilles on the play. We went on a tailspin from that game through most of the 2011 season underscoring the selling ones selve to beat the Iowa devil or whatever conviluted cliche I butcher, intentionally.


2009 – The BCS Buster
Iowa entered the 2009 meeting allegedly seeking revenge from the 2008 “upset” as NU had shocked Iowa 22-17 in the Big Ten opener for both teams. The Hawkeyes entered 9-0 in 2009 with an outside shot at a BCS title game, but an undefeated mark was becoming tangible. The ‘Cats entered 5-4 and a rare schedule fluke of a second straight visit to Kinnick. The result would be NU handing Iowa just its 7th loss at Kinnick in 7 seasons and NU would account for 3 of them. The win would propel NU to a super strong finish and a New Year’s Day classic with Auburn in the Outback Bowl.

2008 – Opening Surprise
Iowa returned to Kinnick on September 27, 2008 reeling from a 1-point loss at Pitt to drop them to 3-1 with NU coming to town was just what the natives thought would be the perfect tonic to open the Big Ten season. Little did they know or little did we know, we’d be embarking on a 9-3 regular season and the 22-17 upset at Iowa was a key springboard for the season.


One of the rare down years for both teams as Northwestern was trudging through the shellshock season of Randy Walker’s passing and Pat Fitzgerald’s first year at the helm. Iowa, meanwhile would be in the middle of a slide to a 6-7 season and was uneven in the back half of the season. Still, the Hawkeyes were favored to beat NU handily. The ‘Cats again played great “D” at Kinnick and did just enough as Andrew Brewer had the big play and turned NU fans’ heads for what would become a regular combo of Bacher-to-Brewer.

2005 – The Glimmer of Hope GameThis is one of the most overrated games in NU-Iowa lore as the first 58 games were downright boring. However, the final two minutes were two for the ages as NU mounted an epic comeback including an onside kick to shock both sets of fans at Ryan Field and the win would turn out to be the difference maker for NU to get a Sun Bowl bid against UCLA. The game – senior day in a downpour – would be Brett Basanez’ final game in Ryan Field and secure a bowl berth. Who knew the onside kick would be our downfall that very same season vs UCLA?

1999 – Kustok Keeper
I always forget about this one since 1999 was such a forgettable season. However, there aren’t many games we’ve had that come down to essentially the final play – and we convert. Unless, of course, Zak Kustok is involved. Such was the case in ’99 when the ‘Cats found themselves down 21-16 on the 2 yard line with time for one more play. Context is needed here as NU and Iowa were battling to stay out of the basement – Iowa was 1-5 entering the game and would end up 1-10 while NU wasn’t much better at 3-8. This would be the only Big Ten win for either team. Regardless, a win over Iowa is a win over Iowa.

1997 – The Swirling Snow Game

This one is lost in the archives/memory for me. The ‘Cats closed their disappointing 1997 season in impressive fashion on yet another “weather” day against Iowa. Playing through a swirling snow, Chris Hamdorf got injured and Tim Hughes came on in relief and connected with Brian Musso for the game-winner in the third quarter as Musso’s final game at NU was clutch as usual (109 rec yds, 2 TDs) as he led the ‘Cats to a 15-14 upset of #22 Iowa. The ‘Cats were playing for pride and in this finale were able to muster the fifth win of the year (5-7) and capture their third straight against the Hawkeyes.

1996 – The Darnell Game

This is simply a personal favorite as it was my favorite Darnell Autry game. We all know how rare NU blowout wins are, but following up the 1995 21-game streak buster by going to Kinnick and throttling # 18 Iowa 40-13 was all too enjoyable. Especially when you consider it was a “respond” game as NU, a week earlier, had been thumped by Penn State ending a 13-game Big Ten winning streak. The Big Ten title was still on the line and NU responded in a big way as Darnell just carried us on his back. He had a career high 241 yards and 4 TDs as the anchor of what was a classic Gary Barnett trickeration game. NU moved to 8-2 and would beat Purdue the following week and secure a Citrus Bowl bid on New Year’s Day.

1995 – The Freezing Cold Game
So many memories in this game that was so frigid. A morning snow storm, college gameday moved inside, Darren Drexler dragging Iowa in to the endzone on 4th down, Musso’s 60-yard punt return and of course, Hootie’s fumble/pick-up 6 to seal the game. I never get sick of ’95 highlights. NU wins 31-20 and the Rose Bowl march continued. The lone downer was Pat Fitzgerald would break his leg feeding fuel to the fire that he’s always sought revenge as a coach.


Obviously the 2007 game could make this list as it was stolen from the future playbook of the 2010 “can’t hold a lead” category. However, when it comes to Iowa, a couple of losses were of the large margin variety to the level that they didn’t even feel too painful. Kind of like the novacaine at the dentist, if you will. There is one all-time House of Pain candidate of recent vintage in this series and you all know what it is:

2000 – The Rose Bowl Buster

Similar to this Big Ten season, there was a log-jam atop the conference with several teams, including NU vying for the title. The 12th-ranked ‘Cats entered Iowa City with a 7-2, 5-1 (sound similar to this season Hawkeyes?) record and were playing a 2-8 Iowa team that was similar to Michigan’s 2010 defense. The ‘Cats had the best offense in the conference and this looked like a laugher on paper. It’s hard to recall how low the Hawkeyes program stooped before the Ferentz resurgence, but consider this. Iowa was seeking it’s first back-to-back conference win since 1997. The Hawkeyes simply swarmed the ‘Cats led by underrated Bob Sanders and the 27-17 upset would cost Northwestern a Rose Bowl appearance and outright Big Ten title (we shared it at 8-3, 6-2).

Then, last year, of course there was the:

2011 Miscommunication Game

Iowa doesn’t make a big deal out of playing Northwestern, or so they say. So, this night game, which became a card trick game for fans and a bumblebee version of a blackout, where fans wore alternating black and yellow showed the Hawkeyes had this game circled. For Northwestern, our defense ran in circles as broken coverages galore made life way too easy for Iowa who was rolling on us 17-0 before Persa showed some fight in a comeback that wasn’t meant to be as we tied it up at 17 all in the third and racked up nearly 500 yards of offense on the day, but Iowa scored on four straight possessions with some keystone cops moments in our secondary on the game that sent our fan base up in arms about our defense. The Hawkeyes got back on track with a 41-31 win. Persa was 30-39 for 242 yards, which seems foreign to us based on the ‘Cats B1G worst passing this year.

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  • Jersey Cat

    LTP – don’t forget the dreaded 1992 game. The “hope we didn’t hurt any of your boys” game, which stands today still as the reason many NU fans despise Iowa.

    • Thanks Jersey Cat – referenced it in the opening paragraph without mentioning the year..

  • Jimgocats93

    Van Hoose and Evans doubtful per Teddy in the Trib. Mr. Vandenberg must be smiling and walking around like he is 3′ off the ground.
    Prove me to be wrong Cats…..very concerned here.

    • UVA Cat

      Agree. I say bring some pressure like we did against Martinez i(n the first 3 quarters) and make him uncomfortable in the pocket; plus, he’s much less of a threat to run than Martinez. Otherwise, I fear he’ll have too much time to pick apart our dinged up secondary.

    • CMF

      VH is a stud – at least by our standards for CB at NU. I can’t wait to see him as an upperclassmen with some of our other young defensive guys. I agree that our CB situation scares me this week – which might make this game closer than it should be. That said, this coaching staff has all week to prepare for these guys to be out. I know that in-game adjustments are not our strength, but at least they have a week to figure our the plan before Saturday. Hopefully we can find a way to win Saturday and use the bye week to get healthy. I still believe a strong finish is possible.

      • Agreed. He has the chance to be Chris Martin/Ismaeli level as a DB. The foundation of VanHoose and Campbell back there is great, hopeful Henry matures with game experience then we’re down to one hole in the secondary. It could be our strongest unit in 2013…

  • DT

    At this point, let’s keep it simple… If Northwestern coaches and plays like they did in Q-4 against Penn State and Nebraska, Iowa will kick our tails… Period..

  • sailingcat

    According to FBS Schedules, Western Michigan is going to replace Vandy on our schedule:

  • David

    I loathe the Io_a FB program. This is the game I am flying in for. From bad character players to a coddling head coach, there is little to like. I am hoping that NU will continue what PSU started last week.

  • Nate

    I had the pleasure of attending the thrilling 2005 game. Just as hope was fading fast, Brett marched the troops down the field twice in the rain for the win. The onside kick was perfect, the celebration on the field afterwards was joyous. I really liked that ’05 team, it’s too bad they had a tough time stopping people lol.
    Iowa always brings a good crowd, so let’s use some of the energy the Nebraska fans displayed last week to drown out the Black & Gold faithful!

    • PBRCat

      My best memory of this glorious 2005 game was watching Pat McGarigle’s parents. His dad was smiling ear to ear and his mom laughing hysterically as they exited the stadium. I wondered if they stopped at a motel on the way home?

  • My detest for Io_a goes back to Hayden Fry having Chuck Long going back to pass in the 4th quarter, with his team up by 7 touchdowns. Almost got into a brawl with nearby Io_a fans who thought my screaming about taking out his knees was out of line. . . as if running up the score wasn’t? Yeah, I may only be 5’8 165 (back then 165!), but alcohol does make one seem braver.
    Nothing is ever sweeter than a win over those $#%%$#s. Go Cats!!!