Second in our series in conjuction with The Rivalry, Esq.
No matter how valiantly anyone tries to highlight an underrepresented angle of the 2006 Outback Bowl, any discussion of the game always begins and ends with the defining moment: Iowa is down 31-24 with just 1:24 left in the game and, well, this happens.
Yes, the call.
Even some prominent Florida fans were forced to admit afterward that the officiating in the game left something to be desired. Like competence. Some Iowa fans' complaints were off-base -- when a player runs into the kicker, he generally gets flagged for running into the kicker -- but several of the calls were questionable at best and awful at worst. And the most controversial one is always going to be the one that effectively ends the game.
It's too bad. Because even with all the blown calls in the 2006 Outback Bowl, it was nothing if not exciting. Florida piled up a 24-7 halftime lead and stretched it to 31-7 in the third quarter as WR Dallas Baker had one of the best games of his career: 10 catches, 147 yards, 2 TDs. Urban Meyer looked prepared to roll to victory in his first postseason game with the Gators, maybe winning by enough to make all those blown calls irrelevant.
Then, Iowa QB Drew Tate, capping off a successful day (32-of-55, 346 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT), engineered a 17-point fourth-quarter rally that brought the Hawkeyes within a score -- before the infamous onside kick.
Would Iowa have won without the bad calls? Like most other "what if" questions in sports, we don't know. None of the questionable calls that I've seen actually put points on the board or took them off. And even if the correct call is made on the onside kick, who's to say that Iowa scores? Sure, the way Florida's secondary was playing, we can speculate, but it's still speculation.
In the end, sometimes the greatest games are a mystery.
A footnote: Using many of the same players, Urban Meyer would go on to win his first SEC title and national championship the following year. He would not coach the Gators in a bowl game against a team from outside the Big Ten until his fourth year at Florida, when he won his second national title in the BCS National Championship Game against Oklahoma.