Sept. 6, 2004
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The "Throwback Game" was the most successful single-game promotion ever staged by the Iowa Athletic Department. It was a smash -- both financially and artistically.
In celebrating 75 years of football at Kinnick Stadium, an opening game against Kent State on Labor Day weekend drew a capacity crowd of more than 70,000. Compare that to a year ago, when only 54,000 showed up to see the opener against Miami of Ohio, a much stronger and more attractive opponent than Kent State.
That's a difference of 16,000 fans in the stands, and when you add up the additional revenue in ticket sales, concessions, parking etc, it represents a significant amount of money at a time when budgets are being cut and every dollar counts in the Iowa Athletic Department.
So the hard work that went into the Throwback Game -- highlighted by players donning Nile Kinnick-style uniforms -- and the willingness of the fans to support it should be applauded. Everyone please take a bow.
The game itself produced a 39-7 Hawkeye triumph and produced no major surprises. Iowa was a 30-point favorite, so the margin of victory was about right, although the score could have, and probably should have been more like 48-0. It's often uncanny how those Las Vegas odds makers can get it right.
Defense is expected to be the strongest part of Iowa's game and it didn't disappoint, generally overwhelming a veteran Kent State offense that scored more than 30 points in seven of its last eight games a year ago. The visitors finished with minus rushing yardage, indicative as to how strong Iowa's defense is going to be once again.
Linebacker Chad Greenway was clearly the game's outstanding player, intercepting two passes, running one back for a touchdown and setting up a score with the other. He also recovered a fumble and recorded 10 tackles. A junior who played eight-man football in small-town South Dakota, Greenway was named the national defensive player of the week by the Walter Camp Football Foundation.
Iowa's offense, in the rebuilding stage, probably didn't strike fear in future opponents. A general lack of experience was compounded by three tailbacks under suspension, an injury to a fourth, the No. 2 quarterback sitting out with an injury, and the No. 1 quarterback missing the second half because of dehydration. After halftime, when the score was 23-7, the Iowa coaches had very little wiggle room with substitutions at those important positions.
The early focus was on sophomore Drew Tate, the sixth different quarterback to start a season in the six years under Coach Kirk Ferentz. After misfiring on some early passes, he completed 10 straight, two for touchdowns. He also showed quick feet in scrambling for 39 yards, although Coach Ferentz says Tate must harness his fearless running style if he wants a long career at Iowa. Dehydration forced Tate to sit out the second half.
It can't get much better than senior David Bradley's 51-yard average on four punts, but sophomore Kyle Schlicher must sharpen his accuracy on placements. His missed two extra points can spell disaster in a close game (see Northwestern's opening loss at TCU). On the plus side, Schlicher's kickoffs were generally into the end zone and he made two of three field goal attempts, barely missing a 45-yarder. It also should be noted that Schlicher is under real pressure in replacing Nate Kaeding, the best kicker in college football the past two seasons.
Negative notes start with the 12 penalties that set Iowa back 136 yards. Many were major infractions for holding, pass interference and personal fouls, and are uncharacteristic of a Ferentz-coached team.
And just when it appeared Iowa was going to pad its lead to 30-0, Tate threw the ball into the hands of a Kent State defender, who ran it 100 yards the other way. That was a costly 14-point mistake and provided the visitors with their only points of the day, a fact that was noted by Matt Roth after the game.
"We pitched a shutout," said the senior defensive end. "That was Tate's seven that he gave up." Someone needs to tell Roth, a pre-season all-American, that veterans don't build confidence in young quarterbacks with statements like that.
So the Throwback Game is in the books and Iowa State is next at Kinnick Stadium Saturday. The Cyclones opened with a decisive and somewhat surprising 23-0 victory over a Northern Iowa team that was expected to be more competitive than the score indicates. Most surprising was Iowa State's defense, which held a veteran and potentially explosive UNI attack to less than 100 yards.
Hard to believe, but Dan McCarney, who played and coached at Iowa with distinction, is in his 10th season as Iowa State's head coach. Probably his greatest achievement is beating Iowa five straight times. The streak ended last year when the Hawkeyes won at Ames, 40-21.
Iowa has moved up in both national polls and will be favored to make it two in a row over the Cyclones. But if McCarney's defense is indeed for real, this will be a close, low-scoring game. A pass interception, missed kick or major penalty could decide the outcome. Let's hope the Hawkeyes got those mistakes out of their system.
Editor's Note:George Wine, the University of Iowa's long-time sports information director who is now retired and living in Coralville, Iowa, is the author of George Wine Online. George has remained very close to the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI since his retirement and, in fact, has authored two books during that time. The first was a collaboration with the subject of today's editorial, Hayden Fry, and named "A High Porch Picnic." The second, "Black & Gold Memories, The Hawkeyes of the 20th Century," included many of the essays George originally wrote for "The Voice of the Hawkeyes." As he wrote in the book, "Collectively, they serve as a historical reference, and hopefully provide entertaining reading." "Black & Gold Memories" is currently available at Barnes & Noble book stores across Iowa and on the world wide web.