Iowa Football History Lesson: The Early '20s
Editor's Note: The University of Iowa football team will wear "throwback" uniforms on Saturday when the Hawkeyes square off against Iowa State in the annual Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series event. The change in attire is intended to celebrate Iowa's 1921 and 1922 undefeated and Big Ten Conference championship teams under the direction of Howard Jones. Both teams were considered by many to be among the nation's best and were anchored by several student-athletes who earned all-Big Ten and all-America honors. Today, we'll introduce you to that era of Iowa football. The rest of the week will look like this: Thursday - 1921 season, Friday - 1922 season, Saturday - 1923 season. All is compliments of Dick Lamb and Bert McGrane, authors of the book, "75 Years with the Fighting Hawkeyes."
The taste of moderate success that came during the early years of the Howard Jones' regime was hardly enough to compensate for the many less productive years that had preceded him. From the glories of the 1900 team through fifteen seasons that followed, prosperity was rare at Iowa and never sustained. During seven of the fifteen years the Hawkeyes were unable to win a Conference game. The turn toward better days might be dated from the third season of Jones' tenure when the wartime team of 1918 lost only two of nine games in finishing with a 6-2-1 record. But the real climb lay ahead.
It was midway through the 1920 season that Iowa thundered into a stretch of sustained greatness that never has lost its luster. Through two full seasons and part of two others the Howard Jones Hawkeyes stacked up triumph after triumph until they had won 20 consecutive games, two Big Ten championships in a row, and a rare look from the Rose Bowl authorities, who had an eye on the Hawks. Conference rules prevented what otherwise might have been the first Iowa appearance at Pasadena. As they stormed through the most spectacular winning streak in their history the Hawkeyes conquered Minnesota, Notre Dame, Yale, Northwestern, Illinois, Purdue, Indiana and Ohio State, among others. All of them fell in the ruthless march, some of them three times.
Commanding the Hawks was the wiry, unemotional Coach Jones, a man of fierce concentration who, in the course of a football season, featured the well known "one-track" mind, and it was geared to football. He was quiet, even reticent, until the demands of football called for fiery action.
William S. Kelly, a Minneapolis insurance executive who captained one Jones team (1920) had this to say of him long after the famous coach had departed from Iowa:
"He liked clean, hard football. He never would stand for anything out of line. He never was known to swear. He was a terrific disciplinarian. For him to `go after' one of his players was something never to be forgotten. He was a hard man to get close to. He never had more than 40 men on his Iowa squads and during most of his years he was athletic director as well as coach. Many times, he actually was selling tickets up to within an hour or so of the game."
Jones coached at Iowa for eight seasons and his record of 42 games won, 17 lost and one tied assures him a place among the most successful of Iowa coaches.
In addition to a good nucleus of letterman returning from the 1919 team, including the Devines, Lawrence Block, Bob Kauffman, Duke Slater, Joe Skyes and Captain Bill Kelly, Howard Jones welcomed a promising group of sophomores that included Max Kadesky, Gordon Locke, Craven Shuttleworth, Paul Minick, Chet Mead and George Thompson.
Expectations of a long-awaited conference championship were high, particularly so when it was recalled that only five points separated Iowa from the Big Ten title the year before. Three days before the season opener Coach Jones was offered and accepted a new five-year contract calling for $7,500 a year.
Highlighted by the line plunging of Gordon Locke and the accurate passing of Aubrey Devine the Hawkeyes opened with a hard fought 14-7 victory over Indiana at Bloomington. Devine scored once and passed 25 yards to Max Kadesky for the game winner.
Seven first half touchdowns, including a 34-point flurry in the second quarter, carried Iowa to an easy 63-0 conquest of Cornell College the following week in Iowa City.
Next, Illinois broke open a tight defensive struggle with 17 points in the third quarter to push Bob Zuppke's eleven to a 20-3 triumph, and a week later Chicago, taking advantage of fumbles and an inconsistent Iowa attack, shut out the Hawkeyes, 10-0. Disappointing as the loss was, it would be the last suffered by the Iowa team for three years.
The Northwestern Wildcats were the first of 20 consecutive victims, falling before the Iowans in a rain drenched and mud-spattered battle, 20-0. Minnesota closed the conference season, determined not to drop a third straight decision to Iowa. Never in her long football history had a Minnesota team been defeated three years in a row by an opponent. The Gophers scored early and held a 7-0 lead as the second quarter began. However, Iowa dominated play in the final three periods, and the brilliant all-around play of Devine, coupled with the line plunging of Locke, carried the Hawks to four touchdowns and a satisfying 28-7 victory. In the season finale an unexpected stubborn Ames team battles the more highly rated Hawkeyes throughout, succumbing in the face of three pass interceptions made, a touchdown scored and another thrown - all by the brilliant Aubrey Devine. Les Belding was on the receiving end of the 23 yard scoring pass. Polly Wallace, recognized as the greatest of all Iowa State lineman, stood out for his defensive play and was named the finest center in the nation by many prominent selectors, including the respected authority Walter Eckersall.
The Devine bothers, Aubrey and Glenn, along with Les Belding and Duke Slater, earned high post-season recognition. Belding, who gained his first varsity letter as a 17-year old freshman, received all-American, all-Western and all Big Ten honors. He was the only Iowan to be named to a nationally recognized all-America, being picked by Walter Eckersall and The Chicago Tribune as a second team end. Slater, like Belding playing his third season, was all-Western and consensus all-Conference at tackle. Glenn Devine, a defensive and blocking standout, was a second team all-Western pick of Colliers' Magazine, and brother Aubrey was a unanimous selection on both the all-Western and all Big Ten first units. The versatile quarterback, although only a junior, rushed for more than 600 yards during the season and added an additional 500 as a result of his passing. For the second year in a row he had led the Hawkeyes in rushing, passing and scoring.
Tomorrow: The Hawkeyes' 1921 season.