A week ago Iowa traveled to Penn State and had it taken to them pretty good. One of the worst losses/performances an Iowa team had put out for a long time. At 5-4 with some bland and unspectacular performances thus far in what many had set for very high expectations, fans, media, coaches, and even players, were pretty clear that "something" was missing for this team, but what? Was it leadership? Coaching? Schemes? Will? Effort? Desire? Execution? Chemistry of some kind? More than one of these and/or something else?
When you are searching for that elusive missing "something" the list can seem deep and long with all the things it could be. It can be overwhelming searching for it and you can get lost in that search and eventually find yourself even further off course. And usually there are no easy or simple solutions.
So you tend to do what you know, focus on fundamentals, and just keep working hard, trusting that things will eventually right themselves and you will get back on track. But then of course we risk just "doing the same old thing" over and over but "expecting a different result," which as you know, many describe as insanity. So we are forced to balance between having trust and faith in what we are doing and sticking with it; verses reviewing, questioning, and then deciding to make some changes and possibly take a different approach. And some times it requires a little bit of both.
So a week goes by. A hard week of critique, second guessing, doubt, worry, and all the like. Predictions of what everyone expected to be a very tough game before them, against an undefeated team, with little chance of success. But a team and coaches just keep working, looking for what they might be able to add or tweak, but also trusting who they are and what they are about. They keep working hard to try to fix the problems they have had, the mistakes they have made, so they might take advantage of the opportunity that lies before them. And what an opportunity games against Michigan have been......
So for those who may not remember, we/Iowa has been down this road before with Michigan. To put it in perspective remember that the last time Michigan won in Kinnick was 2005. Since then (including Saturday night) they have lost 4 straight trips to Kinnick. But probably more important to this story than that statistic, is the story of the 1985 game. You might remember that was the season Iowa went on to win the B1G and had a bevy of great players including Chuck Long, Ronnie Harmon, Larry Station, Hap Peterson, and the like.
So in 1985 Iowa was ranked #1 and undefeated and Michigan came in ranked #2 and also undefeated (I know this story well because I was a part of the Iowa staff at the time and was in the coaches' box during the game). After a typical Big Ten slug fest Iowa got the ball back and was able to drive to the Michigan 12 yard line. After a time out by Coach Fry with 2 seconds left on the clock, Rob Houghtlin came in (with a hold by Mark Vlasic) and kicked the game winning field goal with no time on the clock. Iowa wins 12-10 and goes on to win the B1G and earn a trip to the Rose Bowl. And of course the most memorable piece of trivia in all of that? The Michigan QB in that game was none other than Jim Harbaugh, the current Michigan Head Coach. So that no doubt was a long bus ride to the Cedar Rapids airport and an even longer flight home to Michigan. A long trip he had to experience again this past Saturday night.
But what possibly could the Iowa football team have done in one week to go from one of the worst performances of recent history to upsetting an undefeated, highly ranked,
and totally dominant Michigan team? A game and a victory that will go down in history and be listed with other great Iowa victories of all time. What does a team do, or fix, or change, that allows them to do that?
There are probably a lot of little things that if we had time to sit and watch the game film we could see that the entire team did better. But how did they do those things better against a team that had the top ranked defense in the country and 3rd ranked scoring offense? How do you make those kind of improvements in a situation like what the Iowa team faced on Saturday?
As you might suspect I have a couple of thoughts on that:
First, they clearly stayed together as a team and did a great job ignoring all the outside voices who told them they did not have a chance. Can't listen to those who are not within your circle and pulling you away from your vision.
Second, they continued to BELIEVE. They BELIEVED that they could get better, they BELIEVED that they could be the team that all Iowa fans have been waiting on for this entire season, AND they BELIEVED that they could beat Michigan.
Third, they put that belief into action and continued to work hard to make it a reality. So often it is small things, repeated over and over but done well/better, that lead to success (or failure if you can not do them). It is an amazing power when a group of 100+ people focus intently, commit themselves to a common goal, believe they can do something, and then work together to make it happen. It has always been the committed, passionate, and hard working in our world that make things happen.
Fourth, in the midst of it, in the battle, even when things were not going their way, they kept pushing, driving, and fighting, to make their reality happen. As we have noted here several times, things do not always go our way and then we are faced with what to do next. The only thing is to keep believing and to keep fighting.
So does a single victory make everything OK? Certainly not. But I will tell you that just winning cures a lot of ills and I have no doubt that is true for the Iowa football team and all of its fans. So yes, still lots to work on, still a long shot to win the west, still not where we thought we would be. But a single great performance on a great night by a committed group of college kids fighting to be their best, has sure made all the rest of us feel much better.
How will it all end? Do not know. Is there still something missing, and if we found it what was it? Do not know that either but I do know that this week Monday looks a lot brighter and feels a lot better than it did last week. And I am OK with that and plan to just keep believing.
Have a great week seeing and achieving your vision.