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Everything had been sunny for Iowa football during the first seven months of 2010.
The Hawkeyes had ridden good health, good fortune and a good defense to a school-record 11 victories the previous season, and they spent the winter, spring and summer basking in the glow of a national spotlight brightened by a victory in the Orange Bowl. Iowa was tabbed by forecasters as a Big Ten title contender with a shot at a national championship run if the stars aligned.
Then the storm clouds started appearing on the horizon in early August. Running back Brandon Wegher left the Hawkeyes on the second day of training camp for personal reasons and his mysterious absence hung over the team for more than a month. Wegher never came back. The bizarre twists for Iowa football never went away.
The biggest questions before the season turned into assets by the end. The biggest strengths turned into liabilities.
Interception-prone quarterback Ricky Stanzi threw just six picks against 25 touchdowns and turned in one of the best passing seasons in school history. The rebuilt offensive line adeptly protected Stanzi, but the highly publicized defensive line finished in the middle of the Big Ten in sacks as opponents neutralized Iowa's pass rush with quick passes.
The Hawkeyes went from having a perceived surplus of talented running backs to barely having enough by the end of the year. Iowa uncharacteristically let games get away late, losing five times in contests the Hawkeyes either led or had tied with five minutes to play, and stumbled down the stretch, dropping three straight to finish the regular season after a 7-2 start.
In December, the school's all-time leading receiver, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, got booted from the team after his arrest on multiple drug-related charges. Later in the month, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz announced the suspension of Adam Robinson, the team's leading rusher the last two seasons, for the Insight Bowl. Robinson was cited for marijuana possession on the eve of Iowa's bowl game against Missouri and subsequently kicked off the team.
The Insight Bowl followed the season's strange script. Freshman Marcus Coker, the fourth running back on the depth chart in August, set a school bowl-record with 219 yards rushing. Cornerback Micah Hyde picked off Blaine Gabbert and returned the interception 72 yards for the go-ahead score, and the Hawkeyes, at last, held onto a late lead, winning 27-24.
The oddities didn't end there. In January, 13 players were hospitalized during the first week of off-season training after being diagnosed with rhadomyolysis, a condition that causes muscle fiber to break down and has possible effects that include kidney damage.
"We're not looking at what happened two years ago or a couple months ago," Hyde said in response to a question about the public relations hit the Hawkeyes have taken since last fall. "The things that happened, they're unfortunate. ... You make mistakes, but you move on in life and that's where we're at."
Head Coach: Kirk Ferentz (Connecticut '78)
Record at school: 89-60 (12 years)
Career record: 101-81 (15 years)
• Ken O'Keefe (John Carroll '75) offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
• Norm Parker (Eastern Michigan '65) defensive coordinator
• Erik Campbell (Michigan '88) receivers
• Lester Erb (Bucknell '90) running backs/special teams
• Eric Johnson (Vanderbilt '95) tight ends/recruiting coordinator
• Rick Kaczenski (Notre Dame '97) defensive line
• Reese Morgan (Wartburg '72) offensive line
• Phil Parker (Michigan State '86) secondary
• Darrell Wilson (Connecticut '81) linebackers/special teams