3 posts categorized "Northern Iowa Sports"

February 04, 2013

You just never know

It's remarkable sometimes how an athlete's career plays out.

Years ago _ it was the summer of 1997 _ I stood on the floor of Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Des Moines, interviewing the quarterback of the winning team in an Arena Football League playoff game.

This particular quarterback, who played for the Iowa Barnstormers, went on to win two regular-season MVP awards in the NFL and was the MVP of the 2000 Super Bowl.

Of course, we're talking about Kurt Warner. But in 1997, who could have foreseen all that happening? Arena football could be fun to watch, but it wasn't exactly the NFL's prime feeder system.

Now, fast forward to December 2007. I slogged through an ice and snow storm so I could get to Cedar Falls to cover a Northern Iowa football playoff game. Not sure what I was thinking because this was after I had retired and I easily could have said, nope, not gonna risk it. But my trusty Pathfinder got me there safely and, looking back, I'd have to say it was worth it.

Northern Iowa was unbetean and a contender for the Division I-AA championship. But the Panthers were upset that day, in part because they had a terrible time trying to tackle the opposing quarterback.

He was big, strong, had a cannon for an arm, was fairly mobile and he just wouldn't go down, even as defenders seemed ready to wrestle him to the turf. Time after time, he slipped away to make a key play. He ended up throwing for two touchdowns and running for another. Afterward, he sat in the modest interview room and talked to us about the "insane atmosphere" in the UNI-Dome and how much fun he had playing there.

Well, on Sunday that quarterback performed in a much bigger dome, in a much bigger game.

Yep, it was Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens, MVP of the Super Bowl, former quarterback at Delaware.

This is one of the great things about football or any other sport. You just never know where it's going to take someone.



September 24, 2010

Big day at Iowa State

Another football Saturday at Iowa State is coming up and this one is huge.

It has nothing to do with the opponent (Northern Iowa) or the date (September 25) or the type of game we can expect (entertaining and competitive).

No, this game is big for a much more important reason.

It's Taco Day!

Iowa State serves up a pretty good spread in its pressbox on game days. Maybe not always the healthiest fare, but the menu changes with each game and the food is nicely prepared and tasty. And there's plenty of it.

They never put out a bad meal, either. But ISU pressbox veterans -- and I'm among the most veteran of all -- will tell you the tacos are the best of the lot. You can get beef or chicken (or both), hard shell or soft shell (or both), lettuce, tomatoes (not on my plate) and chips that you can drown with a thick, gooey cheese sauce.

As I said, we're not talking healthy eating here. But hey, once in a while you've got to stop to smell the nachos.

This year, though, there's a complication that will make things a bit more challenging.

Used to be, you could go up and down the food line as often as you wanted. Then, at halftime, out came dessert. Sometimes it was cookies, sometimes it was cupcakes, other times it was brownies or lemon bars. Whatever the item, few managed the discipline to resist them.

Now, to cut costs -- which is entirely understandable in these times -- the food folks limit you to one trip through the line. And the dessert is out there, too, so you have to work that onto your plate as well. You can pile on as much as you want, but only once.

So what's a taco-holic to do? Two huge soft shells? Three or four smaller hard shells? Stack the nachos and cheese sauce on top of everything else?

Hmm, this is going to require some strategy. Good thing the game doesn't start until 6 p.m. Gives me more time to plot.

Lest you think that's the only reason I'm going to Iowa State on Saturday, I just want to note that when kickoff approaches, I'll have my game face on (hopefully free of dried cheese sauce), eager and ready to pay attention and work.

Will I remember to wave at my friends Jim and Joyce at the end of the first quarter?

Probably not.

But it won't be because I have another plate of nachos beside me.


September 05, 2009

A sigh of relief for Hawkeye Nation

It's OK, Hawkeye fans. You can let your breath out now. It's safe to uncover your eyes.

You won. Barely, but you still won. Just be sure to salute those determined special team players who blocked not just one, but two Northern Iowa field goal attempts in the final seconds to prevent the Panthers from pulling off the upset.

Those guys could have been deflated after the bizarre sequence that gave UNI kicker Billy Hallgren a second chance. If the ball doesn't go beyond the neutral zone on a blocked field goal, the kicking team can recover it and retain possession? Who knew? Certainly not the Hawkeyes. And other than the officials, I'd wager that no one else in Kinnick Stadium did, either.

But those Hawkeye frontliners dug in, got their hands up and did it again. So kudos to them.

As for the rest of the Iowa performance, pretty spotty, eh? Tight end Tony Moeaki showed what the Hawkeyes were missing when he was sidelined so often by all those injuries. The big guy's got some hands and athletic ability. The tight ends long have been a comfort factor for Iowa quarterbacks and a healthy Moeaki certainly is that.

But this team still has some issues.

The running game. The offensive line. The pass rush. They all need work. Yes, it was the first game and yes, Northern Iowa is pretty darn good. Still, a Top 25 team should win the battle along the line of scrimmage against an FCS opponent and the Hawkeyes didn't do that.

Quarterback Ricky Stanzi seemed to settle in during the second half, but I'm not sure the wide receivers scare anyone right now. On the plus side, Amari Spievey looks to be on his way to becoming one of the best cornerbacks ever to wear the black and gold.

There also are a couple of positives for coach Kirk Ferentz. The Hawkeyes won, which is always better than the alternative. And after a close call and with Iowa State up next, Ferentz certainly will have his players' attention.