One-on-one with former Iowa quarterback Drew Tate

Iowa clinched a share of the Big Ten title by defeating Wisconsin in 2004. DI Pregame Editor Robert Read spoke to Tate about that game and the rivalry with the Badgers.


Aaron Holmgren

UI quarterback Drew Tate evades Ohio State defensive end Mike Kudla in the second half of the Hawkeye’s victory over Ohio State on Oct. 16, 2004. Tate passed for 331 yards with three touchdowns, rushed for 24 yards with one touchdown and completed 26 of 39 passing attempts.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

The Daily Iowan: Thinking back to that Iowa-Wisconsin matchup in 2004, do you remember anything leading up to the game, whether it’s in practice or anything that week, knowing what you guys had at stake?

Drew Tate: I know we knew that if we were able to win and Ohio State was able to beat Michigan we were going to be co-champs. At that point we’d won six in a row, we were already kinda rolling. And that’s kinda Iowa football with coach Ferentz. Playing your best ball by November. We were able to start that off in October, and really hit our stride in November. Especially defensively, we were so good on defense. Offensively it was one of those, ‘Alright, what are we going to do to win this week?’ We knew they were really good. They were undefeated to start off but lost their previous game against Michigan State. But where we were at in November mentally, we didn’t think anyone could beat us except ourselves.

DI: The touchdown you had at the end of the first half where you spun out of a hit and then threw it, was that all instincts on your part or what did you see on that play?

Tate: Yeah, playing football is pretty much all instincts. That was going in right before half, so I think we might have even been in two-minute mode where we’re just kinda calling the play out. When the play breaks down or something, you’ve just got to make stuff happen with your feet, that’s your job as a quarterback. Keeping the play alive with your feet at least.

DI: Winning a share of the Big Ten title, and doing it in a game you dominated at Kinnick Stadium against a top-10 team, what was it like to have the trophy presented?

Tate: Yeah that was the pinnacle really… Winning the Big Ten in Kinnick Stadium like that, with the crowd. That was only my second night game. So I thought that was awesome. It was great for the fans, great for the program, the city, everything. You won a Big Ten Championship on your field. You get to have the trophy presentation with all your fans. That’s what you do it for. I don’t think there’s anything better than that.

DI: In the second half of a game like that when you’ve pretty much taken control, did you ever catch yourself thinking, ‘We’re about to be conference champs’ or does that not really kick in until the game is over?

Tate: By the fourth quarter, I remember having a conversion with [former Iowa running back Tom Busch] like, ‘Dude can you believe this? We’re about to win a Big Ten championship right here.’ We knew before the game started that Ohio State had won. We were so focused by that point that it didn’t matter. A meteorite could have hit in Chicago and it wouldn’t have affected us in Iowa City one bit. We were so focused at that point.

DI: Obviously you guys had plenty of motivation for what you could do as a team, was there any extra factor that you guys beating Wisconsin prevented them from going to the Rose Bowl?

Tate: Me as a player, and I think coach Ferentz and his staff, it’s never been about anyone else. It’s about us and what we do and how we do it. Because if we do what we do, we’ll be fine. We don’t want others to dictate what we do. Our motivation was beating them and winning a Big Ten Championship on our field. We never thought anything about them, or preventing them from doing something. Because it’s not about them. The only team we thought could beat us was ourselves.

DI: What was it like playing in the Iowa-Wisconsin rivalry? Is it any different than some of the other rivalries you guys have against Minnesota or are all those rivalries kind of similar?

Tate: It definitely picked up when they brought in the trophy. I think that year was the first year when they brought in the Heartland Trophy. That was a new trophy game. You had the Cy-Hawk and you had the Floyd of Rosedale, and then the Heartland came in. It wasn’t that kind of rivalry trophy game at the time. The best part about it is the managers, they have the biggest rivalry playing for the toolbox.

DI: You lost two of your first four that season, including your Big Ten opener, but you won out after that. What allowed the team to get going and get on that streak?

Tate: I think it was our defense, first off. The best defense that I’ve ever seen personally would be our defense that year. They were at least going to give us an opportunity on offense. We could only take it one game at a time. We tried to make a leap every day. I was only a sophomore at the time. We had a lot of young players on offense. So it took us a little time to get better. Our defense was lights-out from the beginning.

DI: I’m sure I’m only the 100th person to ask you something like this, but how often does someone bring up the last-second touchdown in the Capital One Bowl? Can you even go a week without hearing something about it?

Tate: In the spring and the summer it dies down a little bit. But during football season it picks up. That was cool. It was obviously amazing. The best part about it was that it was Warren Holloway’s only touchdown. People are always like, ‘Oh man, that was you?’ It’s just one of those things where you watch it like, ‘What are y’all doing? Oh my God you just won the game.’”

DI: This is a question I have to ask whenever I talk to guys from older Iowa teams, I talked to Pat Angerer and Marvin McNutt and some other guys from that 2009 team last season and they were propping the 2009 team up as the best under Kirk Ferentz. When you talk to guys from other teams, is there any argument about things like that or do you stay out of it?

Tate: I don’t think you can really compare the teams. All the teams that won are good. I mean there’s only two Kirk Ferentz teams that have won Big Ten championships, so I think those sort of stand alone to be honest with you. In 2009 they were really good. I remember the year before in 2008, they were playing awesome football in October and November and just crushed South Carolina in the bowl game. The 2015 team, they went undefeated. It took the most insane drive in college football history probably from Michigan State to beat them. If you want to say your team is the best, I’m all for that. I’m all for self-motivation. That’d be pretty hard to say you’re better than the 2004 team that has a ring.

DI: Have you talked with Spencer Petras before?

Tate: Coach [Ken] O’Keefe invited me on a Zoom call with all the quarterbacks over the summer, right before they found out the Big Ten canceled their season. So I was able to talk to all the quarterbacks. I just gave them my two cents on playing football at Iowa, playing quarterback at Iowa, playing pro football in Canada and stuff like that. I haven’t had a one-on-one conversation with him. I’m pulling for him. He has a lot of praise from the coaching staff and his teammates. Iowa’s offense as a quarterback, you have so much responsibility not only in the pass game but the run game. That can be a lot for a young quarterback. I know that. You just want to see some improvement every week. This last week he just had his best game. Hopefully he’s starting to understand, it’s starting to slow down. Understanding fronts and coverages. I’m sure Brian [Ferentz] is helping him out a lot because he’s extremely knowledgeable about football. He’s gotten better as a play-caller I believe. They’re figuring it out. It just takes time.

DI: Spencer’s in a really weird situation. This offseason wasn’t the dream scenario for a guy who’s going into his first season as a starter. But what have you seen from him on the field this season?

Tate: He didn’t have a spring, he didn’t have a summer or a real training camp. He’s basically a raw quarterback who’s trying to figure it out. Like I said, the Iowa offense is hard to understand. I came into Iowa’s offense, I had to learn run game, I had to learn protection, I had to learn how to take a snap under center, I had to learn how to take a five-step drop. All these things I never did before. We were just shotgun, throwing it every down and putting points on the board down in Texas. Then I come up in the “I” formation and I’m like, ‘What the hell is this?’ But I was able to figure it out. It takes time. [Petras] is extremely talented. It’s all about learning the body language of your receivers, getting the timing down. How you want a guy to run this comeback, if a guys doing this then expect a back-shoulder ball. Things like that. I believe he’s got all the tools. Really similar to Stanley in that he’s a big guy, big arm. You just have to have touch. You can’t just have one pitch, you can’t just have a fastball. You have to have touch and put some finesse on some throws. You don’t want to throw a five-yard out route the same way you do a 15-yard comeback. It’s trial by error, and it comes with experience.

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