Wine Online: Of Panthers, 'Clones, Ferentz, Fry and Brechler - Hawkeye Sports Official Athletic Site
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Wine Online: Of Panthers, 'Clones, Ferentz, Fry and Brechler
Former UI staffer reaches back to 1950s in this week's report
Kirk Ferentz takes his Hawkeyes on the road Saturday, squaring off against intrastate rival Iowa State in the annual Hy-Vee Cy-Hawk Series battle on the gridiron.
Kirk Ferentz takes his Hawkeyes on the road Saturday, squaring off against intrastate rival Iowa State in the annual Hy-Vee Cy-Hawk Series battle on the gridiron.
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Sept. 7, 2009

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    IOWA CITY, Iowa -A week after Iowa's swat team of Broderick Binns and Jeremiha Hunter blocked Northern Iowa's upset bid, the Hawkeyes travel to Ames for a football game with another in-state rival, Iowa State.

    This turn of events makes me think of the late Paul Brechler, Iowa's athletic director in the 1950s when the Hawkeyes were among the nation's best in both football and basketball. The football team won two Big Ten titles and were crowned national champion by the Football Writers in 1958. The basketball team also had two Big Ten titles, plus two Final Four berths, finishing second in the nation in 1956.

    There was considerable pressure during those years to add Iowa State to the schedules, especially in football, but Brechler would have none of it. In fact, he wouldn't talk about it, other than say, "We have nothing to gain by playing Iowa State."





    For only the second time (the first was in 1995) Iowa will play UNI and Iowa State back to back. On consecutive Saturdays the Hawkeyes will play two in-state opponents. I wonder what Paul Brechler would think of that.


    Most Iowa fans agreed with him.

    Twenty years later Brechler was gone, Bump Elliott was in the AD's chair, and Iowa began competing with the Cylcones in basketball and wrestling, but not football. By the mid-1970s, however, political pressure grew and a four-year series of football games was contracted with Iowa State.

    The first game was played in 1977 with Iowa winning 12-10. The score was close but the game did not have much excitement, nor did it have fist fights and brawls in the stands, which was the reason Iowa ended the rivalry in 1934.

    The two teams have met every year since 1977 and, barring the unexpected, will meet every year into future. The first four games were played at Kinnick Stadium, but when Iowa State built a new stadium in the early `80s the series has been home-and-home.

    As Northern Iowa grew from a Normal School to a Teachers College to a State College to the third University in our state, its football program also rose in stature. UNI has played in Kinnick Stadium four times, but never posed much of a threat to the Hawkeyes until last Saturday, when the Panthers came very close to pulling off what might have gone down as the biggest upset of the year in college football.

    And it was no fluke. For 59 minutes and 53 seconds UNI outplayed Iowa. Both coaches agreed to that.

    Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said, "They were the better team, quite frankly, for most of the game . . . until those last few seconds." UNI Coach Mark Farley said, "We should have won that game, hands down."

    Instead, the Hawkeyes won it with their hands up, resulting in two blocked field goals, and will go to Iowa State 1-0 instead of a team with a less-than-inspiring 0-1 record.

    What should we make of the 17-16 outcome? Were the Hawkeyes fat-headed and flat? Or are they simply not as good as their No. 21 ranking? Or are we underestimating UNI, which has enjoyed great success in Division 1-AA (now the FCS) over the years?

    Hayden Fry, who viewed the contest from the press box, calls this kind of game a "gut check" that can be beneficial. He also says that good teams find a way to win when they are having a bad day.

    It was not surprising that UNI scored 16 points. The Panthers have a veteran offense that averaged 29 points in winning 12 games last year. Iowa's defense played reasonably well. The disappointment was an Iowa offense that barely gained 100 yards and did not score a touchdown in the first half. Fortunately it came to life after intermission with 225 yards and two touchdowns (a third was nullified by a holding penalty).

    Coach Ferentz says there is a lot to sharpen up in the Hawkeyes' attack before heading for Ames, where Iowa has lost four of the last five games. The Cyclones have a new coach, a new offense and a new attitude. They are confident after winning their first game. This will be a very tough road game for the Hawkeyes.

    For only the second time (the first was in 1995) Iowa will play UNI and Iowa State back to back. On consecutive Saturdays the Hawkeyes will play two in-state opponents. I wonder what Paul Brechler would think of that.

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