Story of the year: 12 & 0, baby

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As the final horn sounded and a disenchanted Nebraska crowd looked on, the smattering of Iowa fans in Lincoln’s Memorial Stadium went nuts.

Coach Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeye football team had done it; they had completed an undefeated season.

12-0.

It was more than just 12 wins and 0 losses. Four rivalry trophies in Iowa City. A chance to play for a national championship. A ranking near the top of the College Football Playoff Poll.

The unthinkable happened, and it’s why Iowa football’s spotless regular season is the DI’s story of the year.

No one who is being completely honest thought the Hawkeyes would be in contention for a national championship at the end of the regular season. Sure, some might have predicted a better record than 8-5 or 7-6, two of the most popular preseason predications.

But an undefeated regular season and a team in serious contention for a national championship? It seems like something out of a dream.

Ferentz was starting to see his seat warm up as Iowa entered the 2015 season. A bad loss to Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl spawned quite a bit of discontent among the fans.

In hindsight, we should have seen the signs. Before the season began, the general consensus was the Hawkeyes had good running backs and some of wideouts. The defense seemed to be solid, anchored by cornerback Desmond King, who ended up playing himself into first-round NFL draft consideration.

King tied the interception record (held by Iowa legend Nile Kinnick and Lou King) and generally was one of the best players on the defense. Linebacker Josey Jewell also blasted on the scene, helping lock down what became one of the best defenses in the nation.

The last and most important piece, of course, was a quarterback by the name of C.J. Beathard. A mixture of pure grit and determination, he excelled under pressure.

Special players are built for special moments, and Beathard proved he was exactly that this season. He played through a serious groin injury for most of the year and displayed untold amounts of grit.

All of these things began to make themselves obvious as Iowa picked up steam. A strong running game mixed with the toughness of its quarterback and a superb defense led to wins.

And lots of them.

As the season built, the excitement around the team did, too. A fan base that was lethargic (at best) became vibrant and excited again. The attendance at football games exploded, and it was obvious people cared again.

Confidence was rebuilt in both Ferentz and the program — things were good for the Hawkeyes again.

While Iowa’s season ended on a sour note, the Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl losses will never overshadow the 12-0 regular season.

As the wins racked up, it became more and more obvious to everyone watching that history was being made.

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