• Travis Thornburgh

Top 10 Impactful Wins of the Decade

With the beginning of 2020 upon us, I took some time to reflect on the last decade of Hawkeye Football to compile a list of the 10 Iowa victories that impacted my fandom the most. As a bit of a caveat, there are many factors that impacted the way that I viewed the wins including the opponent, the expectated outcome, the age at which I experienced the victory, and the memories I have associated with the game. Some of the games on this list may not stand out as some of the best wins of the decade for Iowa, but each one impacted the way I root for Iowa Football today. It is also worth noting that I was 14 years old in 2009, so there is a nostalgia factor that played a role in how I ranked these victories, but without further ado, the 10 wins that impacted me the most throughout over the last decade.

10. November 26, 2019 vs. #7 Minnesota - "Iowa Ends Minnesota's Undefeated Season"

This game makes the list based almost entirely on the pregame cirumstances and breaking the Golden Gophers' hearts. I grew up attending almost every Floyd of Rosedale game both home and away, and all too often those trips to Minneapolis involved a long, miserable trip home. It was another notch in Iowa's November spoiler belt, and was made even better by keeping Floyd of Rosedale away from the Gophers for another year. Ending both Minnesota's playoff hopes and undefeated season served as the cherry on top of what will always be a memorable, yet expected November field storming.

9. October 31, 2009 vs. Indiana - "Iowa Rallies against Indiana Behind Tyler Sash's Pinball Interception"

To this day, I still don't know how the ball ended up in Tyler Sash's hands on the 86 interception return for a touchdown that turned the tide in this game, but it still stands out in my mind as the iconic play of Tyler Sash's time at Iowa. The offense had done next to nothing to that point, and it felt like the dream season was going to come to an end if Iowa gave up another score on that drive. Instead, Tyler Sash injected life into Kinnick Stadium and the offense would go on to score 28 points in the 4th quarter to win a game they had trailed 21-7 midway through the 3rd quarter by a score of 42-24. Fittingly, on the strength of Sash's interception, Iowa moved to 9-0 with the comeback victory.

Photo Credit: The Cedar Rapids Gazette


8. December 27, 2019 vs. #22 USC - "Iowa Dominates Trojans in Big Ten's Holiday Bowl Swan Song"

This game certainly gets some bonus points from recency bias, but boy did it feel good to dismantle the Southern California Trojans in San Diego. A convincing, thorough beatdown of a name brand program was the perfect way to cap the decade. With all the pregame talk of how Iowa hadn't seen an offense like USC's all year and how Iowa wouldn't be able to keep up with USC's scoring, it was nice to beat USC emphatically while exorcising many of the offensive demons that had plagued the Hawks all year. It was also a great way to springboard into the new decade with a monster game from a young Iowa receiving corps. The thing that will always stick out in my mind is that Iowa honored two icons in Coach Hayden Fry and Athletic Director Bump Elliott with their exceptional performance.

Photo Credit: Hawk Central


7. September 9, 2017 at Iowa State - "Hawkeyes outduel Cyclones to Capture Cy-Hawk Trophy in Extra Period"

This is the first game on the list that who I was with was just as important as the game itself. The back and forth nature of the game, the mental fortitude that a young Iowa offense showed on a day where the defense wasn't particularly sharp, and the drive to end regulation with Akrum Wadley dragging Cyclones into the endzone to force overtime all made it a certainty that it would be on this list. Add to those factors that it was the first time I had watched a game with my college friends since we graduated in May 2017 and this game will always stand out as what the Cy-Hawk game is supposed to be.

Photo Credit: SBNation.com


6. November 12, 2016 vs. #2 Michigan - "Harbaugh's Not So Triumphant Return to Kinnick Stadium"

Another November game in Kinnick Stadium appears on this list, and for good reason. The defensive nature of this game stands out to me and reminded me of the Norm Parker days, which will always help me remember a game fondly. It was a classic example of Iowa forcing a team to play out of their comfort zone and proving that they can beat anyone in a defensive struggle. The Jaleel Johnson safety from this game will always be an iconic moment, and this game is where the legend of Consensus All-American Keith Duncan really began. I think this game would be higher on the list if I hadn't been so sure that Iowa would beat Michigan that day. Prior to the game, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh sent his equipment managers to Iowa City well in advance of the game to cover the pink locker room with Michigan wallpaper. In my mind, that was when Iowa beat Michigan, and the result on the field was a foregone conclusion and thus the result wasn't as awe-inspiring to me as games later on this list.

5. September 5, 2009 vs. Northern Iowa - "Iowa Special Teams Says We'll Take Two"

As a 14 year old, this is where I truly fell in love with Iowa Football. I don't know if I will ever see anything quite as miraculous as the ending of this game, aside from the 2005 Capital One Bowl. This was a game that shouldn't have been close, and if the Iowa special teams doesn't come up with a pair of field goal blocks in the waning moments of the game, this would likely be one of the biggest black eyes of the decade. Instead, this is one of the most memorable moments of my Iowa Hawkeye fandom and was the point that I knew something special was going to happen in 2009.

Photo Credit: Hawk Central


4. November 15, 2015 vs. Minnesota - "Iowa Grapples with the Gophers to Secure 10 Wins"

This game stands out more because of the circumstances around the game rather than the contest itself. On that mild November afternoon and evening, two historic moments in Hawkeye history moments happened within the walls of Kinnick Stadium. The first saw Kinnick Stadium undergoing a transformation, trading in the football pads and cleats for headgear and singlets as the wrestling team hosted the Grapple on the Gridiron. Tom Brands' team would emerge victorious over a highly ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys team to set the table for what would be an historic Blackout football game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The game was a back and forth contest that saw Iowa notching its tenth win of the season, the first time Iowa football had achieved a 10-0 record.

Photo Credit: The Villager Newspaper


3. September 26, 2009 at #5 Penn State - "Adriaaaaaaaaaan!"

This game is one of the iconic games of the 2009 season. A strip sack safety to get Iowa's first points on the board, a Pat Angerer interception, and the Iowa defensive line dominating all night all provided moments announced Iowa as a title contender that year. Despite all the moments from this game, the one that will always stand out for me was the Adrian Clayborn blocked punt. There will be few plays more memorable for me than Adrian Clayborn blowing through the Penn State offensive line, completely burying the Penn State punt, scooping the ball up, and rumbling through the Pennsylvania rain to give Iowa a lead that it would never relinquish, all while my dad yelled Adriaaaaaaan at the top of his lungs like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky IV. IT was a beautiful moment that I will never forget.

Photo Credit: Hawk Central


2. January 5, 2010 vs #9 Georgia Tech - "If You Don't Love It, Leave It"

In a lot of ways, this game felt like a consolation prize for an Iowa team that I am still convinced would have competed for a national title if Ricky Stanzi didn't get hurt. The way they played on that cool Miami night left no doubt who the better team was and provided another iconic Adrian Clayborn moment for me when the Georgia Tech quarterback thought he had escaped the clutches of Adrian, just to be dragged down by the scruff of his neck and tossed to the turf. Needless to say, it sounded like Rocky was in my house that night too. Adrian Clayborn was a man among boys that year, and that play will always be emblematic of that domination. This game also provided one of the most iconic interviews in Hawkeye history when Ricky Stanzi reminded everyone that there is nothing better than being an American and "If you Don't Love It, Leave It. U.S.A. #1"

Photo Credit: orangebowl.org


1. November 4, 2017 vs #3 Ohio State - "Woodshed, Iowa"

There is little doubt in my mind what will be the game that I remember most from this decade. This game was one of the few games of the decade (outside the 2012 season) that I truly believed Iowa was overmatched in. That Ohio State team seemed so talented, and through the first 20 minutes, they went blow for blow with Iowa. Over the final 40 minutes of that game however, Iowa only allowed 7 points and completed dominated one of the best teams in college football that year. The Amani Hooker pick six, the Iowa tight ends running wide open all over the Buckeye defense, and Nate Stanley throwing a dagger of a touchdown pass with a Buckeye defender hanging on his leg were all iconic moments that will forever be etched in my mind.

Honorable Mention:

2009 at Michigan State: Stanzi to McNutt as time expired will always be one of the most memorable endings to a game. The game outside of that final play didn't stand out above the others on this list.

2019 Outback Bowl: An upset of a confident fanbase, an emotional Kirk Ferentz in the postgame press conference, and winning the game in typical Iowa defensive fashion all contributed to this one standing out, but my expectation of a win reduced this game's overall impact for me.

2015 at Wisconsin: There were no moments that stand out to me thinking back on this game, which certainly contributes to its lower impact. In hindsight however, this victory opened the door to the Big Ten West and paved the way for Iowa to make a run at Indianapolis.

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As always, On Iowa! and Go Hawks!


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About Travis

A lifelong Hawkeye fan and a 2017 graduate of the University of Iowa in Civil Engineering, Travis now calls Des Moines, Iowa home and continues to passionately follow University of Iowa athletics

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