A Classic, 20 Seasons Later
Oct. 18, 2005
Has it really been 20 years? Has that much time passed since the Hawkeyes, ranked No. 1 in college football, hosted Michigan, ranked No. 2?
The records tell us that game was played on Oct. 19, 1985, at Kinnick Stadium before a capacity crowd of 66,350. Hard to believe, but that was two decades ago.
My own recollections of that week focus on how I was going to get everyone who wanted to cover the game into the press box. While Hayden Fry was formulating a game plan and preparing his team for the biggest game he had ever coached at Iowa, I was worried about press box space.
Funny how we have our own priorities. But I had never been through a space crunch like this before, and never experienced one like it again.
Brent Musburger, Dick Vermiel and what seemed like a CBS-TV crew of thousands were there, every major daily newspaper in the Midwest was there, many national publications were there, and every bowl had representatives there.
Somehow, I squeezed them all into the press box.
The kickoff was set at 2:40 p.m. to accommodate television. The nation was eager to watch this match-up of Hayden Fry, the new kid on the block, match wits with Bo Schembechler, representing the establishment.
Iowa led the nation in scoring and Michigan had the nation's best defense. Something had to give. The winner would have a leg up on the Big Ten title, the Rose Bowl, and perhaps the national championship.
Because of the late kickoff, Musco Lighting was brought in and for the first time since it was built in 1929, Kinnick Stadium was illuminated. Musco set up at midweek and ran a test after dark, lighting up the whole west side of town.
How much pre-game excitement could we stand?
Some games do not live up to their hype, but this one did, and then some. The game started in good football weather, 60 degrees with a light wind from the north. Because we had a better passing attack than Michigan, we hoped the weather forecasters were wrong about the possibility of rain. They were.
Two decades later, these memories are still strong:
- With no score in the second quarter, Chuck Long completed a pass to Scott Helverson in the back of the south end zone. An official ruled Helverson was out of bounds, but TV replays revealed it should have been a touchdown. "Is a bad call going to cost us this game?" I wondered. Rob Houghtin kicked a 35-yard field goal on the next play.
- At halftime, Iowa had outgained Michigan by a two-to-one margin and had twice as much possession time. But Michigan was leading 7-6 and I wondered, "Is that bad call going to beat us?"
- With six minutes left in the game, Michigan had a 10-9 lead and a third and two at its own 35. On a play over right guard, Jamie Morris was thrown for a two-yard loss by Larry Station. Morris said later, "Just before the ball was snapped Station was looking right into my eyes. I should have called timeout." Today, Fry calls it the pivotal play of the game.
- Iowa took the punt on its own 22 and converted three third-down plays to put the ball at the Michigan 12. With two seconds left, Iowa called timeout to set up a field goal attempt. Then Michigan called timeout. "They're trying to ice you," Fry chuckled to his kicker.
- The atmosphere was almost surreal as Houghtlin booted the ball up into the darkness. It was nearly six o'clock and the sky was black. There was no time on the clock as the ball sailed between the uprights. The stadium exploded. The bad call did not beat us.
- The Hawkeyes poured from the west sideline and jumped all over Houghtlin and his holder, Mark Vlasic, who was buried under a sea of humanity and twisted his knee, putting him out of action a couple of weeks. The capacity crowd roared its approval as the scoreboard flashed the final score: Iowa 12, Michigan 10.
- Final statistics s showed Iowa had an advantage in first downs 16-9, total yardage 422-182, and possession minutes 38-22. I thought, "We should have won by two or three touchdowns." But that would not have made this one of Iowa's epic games.
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 UI's long-time head football coach, 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.