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Wine Online: One Strange Half of Football
Weird goings on in West Lafayette, but all is well that ends well
James Vandenberg travels to Lincoln, Neb., and the inaugural Heroes Game presented by Hy-Vee as the Big Ten's top quarterback.
James Vandenberg travels to Lincoln, Neb., and the inaugural Heroes Game presented by Hy-Vee as the Big Ten's top quarterback.
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Nov. 20, 2011

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- My phone rang Saturday midway through Iowa's football game at Purdue. A friend who has closely followed the Hawkeyes for 70 years said it was the strangest half of football he had ever seen. I couldn't disagree. There were some highly unusual twists and turns in those 30 minutes.



Operating with cool proficiency, Iowa's offense sustained touchdown drives of 80, 81 and 70 yards. The first two took up most of the first quarter. Ken O'Keefe couldn't have drawn them up any better.

But when it was twice presented with a short field and an opportunity to salt the game away, the offense stumbled and failed to capitalize. After Anthony Hitchens pounced on a Purdue fumble Marvin McNutt almost but couldn't quite haul in a touchdown pass. Then Mike Meyer's field goal attempt bounced off the wrong side of an upright.

Two minutes later Kyle Steinbrecher blocked a Purdue punt and Iowa was in business at the nine-yard line with an opportunity to grab the game by the throat. But Mika'il McCall fumbled it right back to the Boilermakers.

Then Tanner Miller's pass interception at the goal line killed a Purdue scoring threat. But on the very next play James Vandenberg, attempting to pass out of the end zone, was sacked and fumbled the ball. It was recovered by the Boilermakers and the game was tied.

It was then that the Hawkeyes showed some serious resolve, because the second quarter had been a nightmare to that point. The offense drove 70 yards for a Marcus Coker touchdown with 30 seconds left in the half, giving Iowa a 21-14 lead and some much-needed momentum.

The Hawkeyes had a huge advantage in first half statistics. They led in total yardage 257 to 117 and had an eight-minute bulge in ball possession. The score could have easily been 35-7. Instead, it was a one-touchdown game.

Iowa would not have won this game 31-21 without a stout performance by its defense, led by Broderick Binns, Mike Daniels, Shaun Prater and Miller. The Hawkeyes had five quarterback sacks and nine tackles for loss. Purdue gained only 282 yards, a season low for Iowa's defense.





Iowa would not have won this game 31-21 without a stout performance by its defense, led by Broderick Binns, Mike Daniels, Shaun Prater and Miller. The Hawkeyes had five quarterback sacks and nine tackles for loss. Purdue gained only 282 yards, a season low for Iowa's defense.


Miller made his second interception late in the third quarter and the offense didn't allow this one to go for naught. Vandenberg threw a pass to McNutt, who made a highlight-reel catch. He juggled the ball for several yards and took a ferocious hit from a Purdue defender, but he managed to keep his feet and run into the end zone. The play covered 51 yards and was McNutt's second TD of the day.

Going into the last game of the regular season, McNutt leads the Big Ten in receiving yards (1,240) and touchdown catches (12). He has clearly established himself as the best wide receiver in the Big Ten and deserves serious consideration for all-America honors.

Vandenberg threw for 273 yards and three TDs at Purdue and is No. 1 in yards passing (2,634) in the Big Ten. His 23 touchdowns for the season put him in the No. 2 spot. He's thrown only five interceptions.

Coker turned in another workhorse performance with 30 carries for 139 yards, and topped 100 yards for the seventh time this season. His 262 rushes lead the Big Ten and he ranks second in yards with 1,297.

Heroes Game white, 300 wide

UPCHUCK LONG - Nebraska is Iowa's new season-ending football rival, but the two schools have never had much of a rivalry. In fact, they have met only four times in the last 30 years. One of those games was the 1982 opener at Lincoln, which reminds me of an amusing story.

Chuck Long drew his first start at quarterback that day, and he made his first mistake at the pre-game meal. "I ate everything in sight," he recalls. "I stuffed myself. I don't know if it was nerves or what, but I ate way too much."

The day was hot and humid, and after a quarter on the artificial turf, Chuck's belly was boiling. He was feeling queasy, and not just because the Cornhuskers had sacked him three times. His pre-game meal was not digesting and he thought he'd better get to the sideline before he threw up on his teammates.

"So I called time out for no other reason than I was sick," he says. "When I got to the sideline Coach (Hayden) Fry was all over me, wanting to know why I'd called timeout. But before I could tell him I threw up all over his white pants and shoes."

Here's Hayden's recollection: "When Chuck came to the sideline I jumped all over him. Then I noticed his color wasn't good and his expression was unusual, and before I could say another word he threw up all over me. I'd been a football coach for more than 20 years and thought I'd seen it all, but that was a first for me."

The two didn't laugh about it much that day (Iowa lost the game) but it's a good story now because it has a happy ending. Things couldn't have turned out much better. Fry and Long led Iowa to four straight bowl games and a Big Ten championship in 1985. Long became Iowa's best quarterback of all time and Fry its most successful football coach. Chuck is now the offensive coordinator at Kansas and Hayden has retired to Nevada.

They won't be at Lincoln this Friday when Iowa tees it up with Nebraska, but if they catch the game on TV they'll likely smile as they recall that hot day 29 years ago when Chuck called timeout and messed up Hayden's white pants and shoes.

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