Hawkeyes Fall Short at the B1G Championship Game

So the Big Ten Championship football game didn’t exactly end the way Iowa Hawkeye fans hoped it would, with Michigan State beating our Hawks 16-13 after completing a 22-play drive that ended with a Spartan touchdown (barely) with less than 30 seconds left in the ballgame.

It was a tough way to lose a championship game, but it was an incredibly exciting game between two very evenly matched teams. You can’t ask for more than that.

Apparently, the College Football Playoff Committee agreed, as they dropped Iowa just one position, from 4th to 5th in their final rankings. The result is that the Hawkeyes will be taking on Stanford in the Rose Bowl.  

20151205_183826_HDRMy son and I made the trip to Indianapolis for the game and while it made for a lot of driving over the course of about 30 hours, but it was well worth the effort, despite the disappointment of the loss, and I decided to share a bit about the trip here today.

I made one good decision several weeks ago. A week or two before Iowa even clinched the B1G West title and the berth in the championship game that goes with it, I went to StubHub and bought a pair of tickets in what’s called a “Club III” section of Lucas Oil Stadium. I was able to get those tickets for about 60% over face value, but from the research I did online, the section for our tickets is considered one of the best seats in the stadium for football.

By the week after Iowa officially clinched the B1G West title, prices for seats in the same area had more than doubled.

Booking a hotel room was a different story, however.

While I knew I’d be able to recover most of the cost of my tickets (or, more likely, show a decent profit) if Iowa had flopped down the stretch and not played in the championship game, it turned out that I would not have been so fortunate with hotel costs if I made those reservations at the same time. Downtown hotels were getting over $300 per night and requiring either a nonrefundable pre-payment or, at best, requiring cancellation a week or two before arrival.

I wasn’t going to take that risk, so I found a room along I-74 about 40 miles west of Indianapolis for a more normal rate and with full cancellation privileges right up to the day of arrival. We were able to check in on our way into Indianapolis, then made the easy 45 minute drive out to the hotel after the game. It also resulted in a somewhat shorter drive home on Sunday, so that worked out well.

On advice of a friend of my son’s, we used ParkWhiz to arrange parking, in advance, and thanks to a discount code, we parked for just $5 about four blocks from the stadium. Upon arrival, it looked like we had pulled into a Hawkeye tailgate lot at Kinnick Stadium!

20151205_150133_HDRWe left Cedar Rapids about 6:30 Saturday morning and, by the time we stopped to check into our hotel and have lunch in Crawfordsville, we made it to downtown Indianapolis by 2:15 or so (which was only 1:15 Central Time). We spent a pretty pointless hour or so wandering around downtown trying to find a bar we could get into to watch some early football, but every place was packed beyond anything the Fire Marshall could have been comfortable with.

The Georgia Street Walkway in downtown Indianapolis was set up with food/beer vendors (including a Craft Beer truck with several local craft beers on tap), a large stage, a large video board and plenty of tables/chairs, so we stopped there and settled in to watch the SEC Championship game on the video board and listen to a really good cover band on the main stage.

20151205_170759_PanoBefore the band took the stage, however, they held a Iowa vs MSU shrimp eating contest on the stage. Two teams of four people ate shrimp from St. Elmo’s Steakhouse with their famous “very spicy” cocktail sauce. From what I’ve heard, “very spicy” doesn’t come close to describing it. The Spartan team jumped to a quick lead, but the #3 eater for the Hawkeyes virtually inhaled his bowl of shrimp to close the gap. Unfortunately, the Iowans fell just short of a successful comeback.

20151205_152340_HDRThe only down side to that choice was that the venue was outdoors and it was chilly enough to see your breath (maybe 40 degrees), but they also had portable heaters set up and, frankly, we knew we’d likely be spending a few hours wandering around downtown before the game, so we dressed warmly enough to not be too uncomfortable.


We met up with some friends, had a few good craft beers, watched some football and then walked about three blocks to Lucas Oil Stadium when the doors opened. (Any time I buy pricey tickets on the secondary market and take electronic delivery, I try to get into the stadium early, just in case some jerk decided to sell his tickets more than once. I’ve never had that issue with StubHub, but did not want the first time to be at this game, either.)


The seats were every bit as good as advertised. Right on the 25 yard line in a small section of seats that came with access to a “Club” area with its own concession stand, restrooms and tables/chairs. Again, there were some craft beer options, but as this was a college game, no beer was allowed in the seating areas. I really don’t mind that rule. It allows you to have a beer before the game and one at halftime, but keeps the NFL-fan-type drunks from making everyone in seats around them miserable.


I also have to mention the turnout of Iowa fans. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Hawkeye fans outnumbered MSU fans at least 3-1. I shot a video of the Iowa Marching Band’s pregame set and, toward the end of it, I panned the stadium. MSU fans are in one quadrant of the stadium. The other 3/4 of the sections are dominated by black & gold.


20151205_201838_HDR20151205_201928_HDRYou probably know all you need to know about the game. If you’re a fan of 50-45 games with no defense, this wasn’t something you probably would enjoy. I still believe defense is a big part of football (or should be), so I thought the game was incredibly exciting.

We checked out of our hotel by 8:30 Sunday morning and got back to Cedar Rapids in time for me to get to a bar for most of the Vikings game against Seattle. Yeah, that was totally worth getting back early enough to see. #sarcasm

The bottom line is this: If your favorite B1G team ever gets a chance to play in the championship game and you’re wondering whether it’s worth the time, effort and expense to go, just do it. I don’t typically go to Iowa’s bowl games, but if they are anything like what we experienced in Indianapolis, I may have to start making some of those trips, too.

The results weren’t what we wanted to see and it would have been incredible to have Iowa in the College Football Playoffs, but I’m still extremely proud of this group of Hawkeyes and already looking forward to the Rose Bowl and the 2016 season.

EDIT: By Monday, we were seeing this photographic evidence make its way around Twitter which proves conclusively that Iowa got screwed by the officials on the so-called final MSU touchdown! Damn blind refs!


Hawkeyes & Gophers Battle for a Pig

It’s been a few days since I really had much to write about concerning the Twins. I still don’t have much to write about concerning the Twins.

So let’s talk football.

As I’ve written here often, I’m a season ticket holder for Iowa Hawkeyes football. I realize that most of the time almost none of the people reading this blog care about the Hawks, but it’s my blog (partially, anyway), so I’ll write about them when I feel like it, regardless.

This week, however, there’s an off-chance some of our Minnesota-based readers might actually care about Iowa football, since Iowa City is about to be invaded by the golden rodents from the University of Minnesota.

It hasn’t really been this long since Floyd of Rosedale resided in Iowa… it just seems like it. (Photo: The Gazette)

It does seem odd that this game is being played so early in the year. Usually, our respective teams have battled through a number of ups and downs over the course of the entire season before facing off to see who gets to keep Floyd of Rosedale for the next year.

But things change. Iowa now has a Thanksgiving-weekend season finale scheduled against the new kids on the Big Ten block, the Cornhuskers, so Iowa/Minnesota has become the first conference game for both schools.

I understand folks up north are pleased with this year’s Gophers. They’re 4-0, so one would hope their fans are pleased.

Fans in Iowa are less pleased, to say the least, with our Hawkeyes, who sit at 2-2 through the non-conference part of the schedule. The Hawks pretty much sleepwalked through the season opener against Northern Illinois in Soldier Field, but escaped with a win. They failed to wake up for at least another week and lost their intra-state game with Iowa State. The Hawks did manage to avoid losing to traditional FCS powerhouse Northern Iowa. They weren’t so fortunate last week, botching an on-side kick attempt by Central Michigan and losing the game on a CMU last-second field goal.

Most Hawk fans weren’t really expecting much more than a .500 season this year, but even those projections didn’t include entering B1G play at 2-2. It could be a long year down here. That said, people here do get fired up for the border wars, so the environment should be pretty well charged up.

With things being what they are in the respective camps, however, I would imagine we’ll be seeing a bit more maroon in Kinnick Stadium this Saturday than has been the case over the past decade or so. Minnesota hasn’t played here since 2009 and the Gophers have won both of the two most recent games up at TCF Stadium. Ticket prices on StubHub have been dropping all week, so there should be no shortage of opportunities for the Minnesota faithful to attend the game.

So, in the interest of sportsmanship, I thought I would share a few inside tips for my Minnesota friends that might be considering a trip to Iowa City for the game.

Parking: Unless you’ve managed to get a hold of a premium parking permit from one of the big-givers, don’t even think about trying to park near Kinnick Stadium. You’ll just get frustrated by being told, “you can’t park here.” We aren’t picking on you because you’re from Minnesota, honest (though I’d be fine with that if it were the case). Most of the rest of us can’t park there, either.

Here’s what I tell virtually everyone who asks me about parking for an Iowa Game: “I take the train and you should, too.” It’s called the Hawkeye Express and it runs every half hour (top and bottom of the hour) from the Clarion Suites/IHOP location toward the west end of Coralville. There’s a lot of free parking room there and even more up in the south parking lot of Coral Ridge Mall, just 2 blocks away. It’s about a 10 minute train ride that drops you off near the Southwest corner of Kinnick Stadium. Trips to the stadium start at 8:00 am and return trips start at the beginning of the 4th quarter, with the last train leaving 90 minutes after the final gun. 

The Hawkeye Express unloading passengers near Kinnick Stadium

The price is $12 per person round trip (children 12 and under ride free, but DO need a ticket). There’s a ticket booth beside the IHOP restaurant, but the lines can get pretty long there and, for those parking in the Coral Ridge Mall parking lot, you’ll walk right by a “Black and Gold Shop” which I believe will sell you train tickets, as well. Of course, you’ll have to go inside and be surrounded by black and gold for a few minutes, but you should probably get used to that anyway.

If you feel you really must park and walk, I suggest the Finkbine Golf Course Lots. Plan on about a 20 minute walk.

Tailgating: You can actually tailgate in the parking lots used by the Hawkeye Express, but there’s plenty of food and drink to be had once you get up to the stadium, too. Check out Melrose Avenue (along the south end zone of Kinnick, to the right of where the train drops you off) for food stands set up in the front yards of the houses along Melrose facing the stadium.

One word of warning: while having a beer is allowed within the space of your own tailgating area, wandering the parking lots and streets of the area with open containers is prohibited. They’ve clamped down on enforcing this a bit in recent years.

Trash talking: I think it’s pretty juvenile to wander around the tailgating lots before a game and talk trash to the fans of the home team. I do understand, however, that some people take some pleasure in that kind of thing. If you’re one of those people, here’s my advice: Be creative. Think outside the box.

If the best you can do is taunt Iowa fans with, “your team/quarterback/coach sucks!” you’ll probably get nothing more than a shrug from a lot of Iowa fans right now. In fact, there’s a good number who would probably respond by offering you a beer and inviting you to sit down while they tell you just how much they agree with you. Not the response you were hoping for, but you may get a beer out of it anyway.

Speed Limits: On your way down to Iowa City, you’re probably going to be driving through Cedar Rapids in I-380. If so, you will see speed limit signs alerting you to the fact that the limit is 55 mph through most of the city, especially the S-curve through downtown. You may also note that the signs alert you to the fact that speeds are “photo-enforced.” They aren’t kidding.

Traffic Camera along I-380 in Cedar Rapids (Photo: Jim Slosiarek, The Gazette)

There are cameras installed at several points along I-380 in Cedar Rapids. If you’re going 5 mph over the posted speed limit, you’ll probably be fine. If you’re going 10 mph over the speed limit, you’re going to GET fined. You will get a nice letter in the mail in a few days advising you how to pay your fine. The process has withstood court challenges and there are reciprocity agreements supposedly in place with most other states, so ignoring the issue is likely to just make things more expensive for you in the long run. Maybe you can figure out a way to avoid paying the tickets, but seriously, it’s just easier to ease up on the gas as you go through Cedar Rapids. By the way, the Iowa Highway Patrol is out in full force along all of I-380 on game days, as well.

Yanno what? On second thought… forget what I just said about the speeding thing. Our local economy can use all the help it can get.

Game time Saturday is 11:00 am. See you there!

– JC