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December 27, 2012With 2012 coming to a close, we take a look back at some of the top stories in the world of Hawkeye sports. It was another interesting year with Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa Football team missing out on being bowl eligible for the first time since 2000. It was also a year where we saw the Fran McCaffery's rebuilding job with the Hawkeye Basketball program really start to take hold with a trip to the National Invitational Tournament.
Here's a look back at ten of the biggest stories in 2012
Iowa Football Stumbles
There were plenty of question marks heading into the 2012 season for Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeye Football team. Unfortunately, the answers weren't what most Iowa fans were hoping for this year. Iowa did open the season by defeating a team headed to a BCS bowl game, when they squeaked past Northern Illinois. They also opened the Big Ten season with two wins and one of those on the road against Michigan State. Beyond that, the season was filled with offensive struggles from beginning to end and a defense that played better than expected in the first half of the season before stumbling in the final month of the season. The Hawkeyes were 4-2 at the midpoint of the season, but lost their last six games to finish the year with a dismal 4-8 record. If there was any silver lining (and it's hard to find one), five of the losses were by a combined total of 16 points.
The Revolving Door At Running Back
Whatever you want to call Iowa's running back retention/health problems, they continued in 2012. Shortly after the Insight Bowl, Mikail McCall and Marcus Coker left the program. Then in the spring, expected starting running back Jordan Canzeri tore his ACL and did not play this year. De'Andre Johnson moved on after a pair of off the field incidents. Freshman Barkley Hill, who was expected to play this year, tore his ACL in fall practice. Damon Bullock and Greg Garmon were injured against UNI. Mark Weisman emerged and then he was injured against Michigan State. After the season ended, Garmon decided to transfer from the University of Iowa. Another typical year for Iowa running backs.
KOK Moves On
Some Iowa fans finally got their wish, as Ken O'Keefe moved on to become the wide receivers coach for the Miami Dolphins under former Hawkeye assistant coach Joe Philbin. The move came as a bit of a surprise shortly after signing day in February, when the only offensive coordinator of the Ferentz era at Iowa said he was moving on to the NFL. For several years, O'Keefe was a lightning rod for fans on the message boards and sports talk radio shows because some felt he was too conservative and predictable in his play calling.
Greg Davis Moves In
Kirk Ferentz knew he had to move fairly quickly to find a new offensive coordinator before the start of spring football in the middle of March. Ferentz took his time and by the end of February, he hired former Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis. At the time of his hire, Davis received a warm welcome from Iowa fans anxious to see some changes on the offensive side of the football. Davis arrived in Iowa City with a very solid resume, but the final chapter in Austin wasn't pretty and after being let go by the Longhorns, he had spent the year on what he called a coaching sabbatical. Those warm feelings from the spring didn't last long for Davis as the Iowa offense struggled all year to score points and move the football on a consistent basis.
Phil Parker takes over the Iowa Defense
While the hiring of Greg Davis probably classified as a surprise, the promotion of Phil Parker was basically expected. Once Norm Parker announced his retirement following the 2011 Insight Bowl, long time assistant coach Phil Parker was always the front runner in the clubhouse. Parker had been Iowa's defensive backs coach for the entire Ferentz era and had turned down a few other coordinator opportunities during that time and stuck with Ferentz and the Hawkeyes. Ferentz reward him with the opportunity to lead the Iowa defense. After a stronger than expected start to the season, Parker's defense struggled down the home stretch in 2012.
Hawkeyes Make The NIT
Iowa's post season drought in basketball officially came to an end in March when the Hawkeyes were selected to play in the National Invitational Tournament. The Hawkeyes finished the season with a 17-16 record, but they were 8-10 in the toughest conference in the county and that propelled them into the NIT. The Hawkeyes picked up a first round win on March 13th when they defeated Dayton at Carver-Hawkeye Arena before losing on March 18th at Oregon. While the NIT wasn't the ultimate goal for Coach Fran McCaffery and his squad, post season play of any kind was welcomed by Hawkeye fans.
McDonough Returns To The Winner's Circle
Matt McDonough made his third straight trip to the NCAA finals at 125 pounds in March of 2012. For the second time, his hand was raised as the match ended earning him another individual national championship. After losing last year to Anthony Robles in the finals, McDonough picked up his 100th career win when he defeated Nico Megaludis from Penn State, 4-1 in the finals. Now a senior, the former Linn Mar prep will be shooting for his third individual title in four years in March of 2013.
Hot Finish Gets Bluder's Bunch Into The NCAA's
Heading into a January 28th meeting with Purdue, Lisa Bluder and the Hawkeyes were 11-10 and their hopes of returning to the NCAA Tournament slipping away. Then the Hawkeyes ran off eight straight wins to finish the regular season to get back to the Big Dance. What makes that accomplishment even more impressive is that they made that run largely without the services of star shooting guard Jamie Printy, who tore her ACL in the final minutes of an overtime win over Wisconsin on February 2nd. Iowa's winning streak came to an end in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament against Nebraska and they lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to California, but it was still quite an accomplishment just to get there, especially after losing Printy.
Reiff Drafted In The First Round
Riley Reiff was never much of a talker during his time with the Hawkeyes. He let his play do the talking and the folks in the National Football League took notice. Reiff quietly declared for the NFL Draft after the 2011 season and in late April the Detroit Lione used the 23rd pick in the first round on the Hawkeye offensive tackle. It marked the third year in a row that an Iowa player was drafted in the first round and the second time in that span that an Iowa offensive lineman was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Gatens Shines in Senior Season
I'll be the first to admit, I'm a little biased when it comes to Matt Gatens. You won't find a better person off the court than Gatens and that's why it was really nice to see the reward of post season play happen for the Iowa City native in his senior season. Gatens averaged 15 points a game in his senior year and was the unquestioned leader for the Iowa team in 2011-12. The 6-foot-5 guard earns his spot on the list because of back to back performances in February when he put his Hawkeye team on his back and willed them to wins over Indiana and Wisconsin. Against the Hoosiers, Gatens played all 40 minutes, scoring 30 points, including an incredible 7-10 from three point range. Four days later, Gatens continued his red hot shooting with a career high 33 points in a one point win over the Badgers. In that game, Gatens was once again dialed in from three, hitting 7-10 shots.