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October 29, 2013Overtime wins always elicit a little extra emotion out of the victors, but the euphoria displayed by the gritty bunch of Hawkeye players rushing the field after defeating Northwestern Saturday had some extra juice to it.
You could feel it in the stands as well - a catharsis of sorts.
Minutes earlier, as a lethargic second half offense had another drive peter out just short of field goal range, things looked pretty grim. Several of the fans around me in our section were grumbling "here we go again." So often in the past few seasons, close games went the way of the opponent.
And no team seemed better able to take advantage of Iowa's inability to finish than the Wildcats.
I'll be honest: I was already thinking about opening lines for this column talking about yet another depressing collapse.
Then a funny thing happened on the way to despair. The non-existent Iowa offense awakened, capped off by one of the gutsiest passes thrown by an Iowa quarterback in Kinnick in years for the go-ahead touchdown.
And then the defense that struggled to contain a relentless Northwestern quick running game dominated on four straight plays, corralling the cat-like Kain Colter and setting off the celebration.
It's never wise to read too much into the outcome of a single game, but it sure felt like the Iowa program exorcized some demons on its last game prior to Halloween. A four-game losing streak to Big Ten foes in Kinnick? Gone. The inability to finish late? Taken care of. Another excruciating loss to the insufferable Pat Fitzgerald? Not this year.
Looking forward, it's hard to imagine the Hawkeyes won't pick up at least one more win and once again go bowling. Unless something very unlikely happens, the 2013 season probably won't go down as one of the greatest in Iowa football history. But I suspect we may look back on it in the same fond fashion we look back at 2001. It may end up being a season that shows Iowa is back on the upswing, and becoming relevant not just in the Big 10, but on the national season.
That's why I've been a bit surprised to see a fair amount of negativity on internet forums, blogs, Twitter and other places Hawkeye fans share their opinions. Sure, one can argue that a program that reached the heights Iowa did under Kirk Ferentz shouldn't have to learn how to win again. But they did, and they are. Rather than cry over spilled milk and pick apart the areas of the team that still need to be improved, why not try to enjoy the fact the bottom was reached and the Hawks are moving back in the right direction?
I'll admit the second half on Saturday had me scratching my head at some play calling and strategy decisions. In particular, I was confused why Iowa went away from the straight ahead running game on third and short and medium and kept trying plays out of the shotgun. But on the macro level, the team buckled down and got the job done when it mattered, something in short supply since the beginning of the 2010 season.
And how can you not be excited about seeing the Wisconsin Badgers come into Kinnick this week? Historically, this game has always been a great battle. Wisconsin does look very good this year, but how many times has it looked like a Herculean task for Iowa to beat the Badgers only to see the good guys win?
The Badgers better strap it on and be ready for a physical game. I think this young group of Hawkeyes is getting a big taste of success and will be hungering for more. As the postgame euphoria wore down last Saturday, the swarm almost seemed reluctant to leave the field and the adoring cheers of the home crowd that hadn't been heard during a Big 10 game at Kinnick for some time.
Let's hope they get to soak up that love a few more times before the season winds down.
Follow me on Twitter @ToryBrecht and follow the 12 Saturdays podcast @12Saturdays.