This was Hlas’ column from the Florida International-Iowa game:
IOWA CITY — Kyle McCann was booed in 2001, Nathan Chandler was booed in 2003, and Drew Tate was booed in 2006. Right here, in Kinnick Stadium, by their own team’s fans.
They were all Iowa quarterbacks. They did things to distinguish themselves as Hawkeyes. Each played well in bowl games that were their career-finales.
As do fans in so many places, Iowa’s considers themselves among the best. No one agrees with as much sincerity and appreciation as Hawkeye coaches and players. That 70,000 of them would pay American currency to see Iowa devour uncompetitive Florida International supports that claim.
But there is always a segment of those fans ready to clear its collective throat and boo an Iowa quarterback for crimes against humanity, like failing to acquire a first down.
That segment was audible in the stadium and on the Big Ten Network Saturday during Iowa’s 42-0 September waltz over FIU. The reason for the booing was quarterback Jake Christensen misfiring on his first passing attempt. It happened late in the first quarter with Iowa up 14-0 and Ricky Stanzi already on his way to showing his first career start would surely lead to another in a week against Iowa State.
The booing was classless, of course. It was kicking a guy when he was down. Christensen had already lost the starting job that was his all last season.
McCann, terrific in Iowa’s Alamo Bowl win over Texas Tech, probably still remembers the booing in a 32-26 home loss to Michigan that 2001 season. Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz certainly does.
“We’ve been booed a couple of times since I’ve been here,” Ferentz said, “end of November last year, and I understand that totally, didn’t say a word about that one. But I found it really distasteful back in 2001. Kyle McCann doesn’t deserve that, and that’s just one guy’s opinion, and I still feel the same way.
“We’re talking about guys trying to play well and do good things for our team, and I know that’s not the way our fans are, I want to make that clear. But I hope everybody is supporting whoever is in there for us and appreciate that.”
Christensen spoke for himself in the interview room. The answer he repeated the most was that whoever starts at quarterback against Iowa State is the coach’s decision, and he’ll keep working hard. But he couldn’t completely bite his tongue when pressed about the booing. It hurt him, and the pain was visible on his face and in his voice.
“It’s terrible,” he said. “There’s no other way to describe it. I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong, but that’s their choice. If they want to boo guys, that’s fine. I’ve got thick skin. It won’t be the first time they boo me, it probably won’t be the last.”
It was far from everyone in the stadium who booed, and the crowd was plenty vocal in a positive way when Christensen hooked up with Colin Sandeman for a slick second-half touchdown. But if anyone thinks the jeering helped Jake step up his game, they’ve never been booed themselves.
“I don’t know if they’re trying to motivate guys (by booing),” Christensen said. “I don’t know if they realize it doesn’t make people play better. It motivates you. (But) I could throw three touchdowns and then throw a bad ball and get booed. That’s just how it is. That’s the nature of the beast. I can handle it. I don’t want to, but I can.”
Christensen was the first Hawkeye to reach the interview room, much as he might have wanted to be anywhere else on campus.
“I didn’t want to talk to you guys,” he said. “That’s something Coach preaches. We talk to you guys in good or bad.”
Over two games, the statistics of Stanzi and Christensen aren’t far apart. But Iowa’s offense has been more in sync with Stanzi. His long throws, especially his 59-yard touchdown strike to Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, were pretty. His running instincts were good when it was time to scramble. He might have just begun three years of masterful college quarterbacking.
But remember Christensen threw four TD passes in Iowa’s 35-0 win over Syracuse in Week 2 last season, then the actual substance of Iowa’s schedule showed up. Stanzi will see no defense as soft as FIU’s the rest of this season.
Stanzi praised Christensen’s skill and heart repeatedly. He said the fans weren’t booing Jake for that errant pass, but instead were upset pass interference wasn’t called on the play.
He meant it. Maybe he needed to believe it. Because he’s about to become The Man. And if he doesn’t keep producing, the bull’s eye will jump onto his jersey.