In the 2009 Outback Bowl, Iowa took a 21-0 halftime lead by taking advantage of South Carolina's turnovers. The Hawks won 31-10 against the Gamecocks at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium. Running back Shonn Greene was named most valuable player of the game and finished the season with a school record of 1,850 yards and 20 touchdowns. After the game, the Doak Walker Award winner announced he was skipping his senior year at Iowa to enter the NFL Draft.
Almost losing against the University of Northern Iowa in the season's first game, Iowa blocked two field goal kicks in the last few seconds. The Hawkeyes squeaked by the Panthers in a 17-16 win.
Down by ten points after the first quarter, the Hawks struggled in the Penn State game. Junior defensive end Adrian Clayborn blocked a punt and returned it 53 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, giving the Hawkeyes momentum towards a 21-10 win against No. 5 Penn State.
In a heart-stopping game against Michigan State, Iowa took possession with only 1:32 left on the clock. After three incomplete passes—with just two seconds remaining in the game—junior quarterback Ricky Stanzi threw a pass to sophomore wide receiver Marvin McNutt for a touchdown that ended the 15-13 nail-biter.
Stanzi was sacked in Iowa's end zone during the second quarter of the Northwestern game, suffering a severe ankle sprain. With a perfect record on the line, the Hawkeyes' fate rested in the hands of redshirt freshman quarterback James Vandenberg. The Wildcats handed the Hawkeyes their first loss of the season, 10-17.
Hawkeye fans could almost smell the roses as Iowa bounced back late in the fourth quarter from a 14-point deficit against Ohio State. With the score tied at 24-24, the ball at Iowa's 33-yardline, and 52 seconds left on the clock, Ferentz sent the game into overtime. Unfortunately, an Ohio State field goal sent the Buckeyes to the Rose Bowl and the Hawkeyes to a 24-27 defeat.
Vandenberg earned his first victory as a starting quarterback when Iowa shut out Minnesota for the second straight year, 12-0. Coach Kirk Ferentz was honored as the Big Ten's Coach of the Year for the third time in his 11 years at Iowa, seven Hawkeyes were named either to the coaches or media all-Big Ten first teams, and junior offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga was voted the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year.