Oct. 11, 2004
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Iowa began its football rivalry with Ohio State in 1922 and won three of the first four games. Maybe you’ve noticed things have changed since then. Over the years, on average, the Hawkeyes have won only once in every seven games played with the Buckeyes. Kirk Ferentz has beaten Penn State four in a row and owns two straight wins over Michigan, but he’s 0-3 against Ohio State.
Maybe that’s why my stomach always hurts the week we play the Buckeyes, Iowa’s opponent at Kinnick Stadium Saturday. But this year I’m trying hard to be positive, and recalling some memorable Hawkeye victories might help.
Saturday’s Iowa-Ohio State game is a sellout less a very limited number of “singles.” You can purchase yours at the UI Athletic Ticket Office in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Here are three that come to mind. One was the No. 1 upset in college football that season, one clinched a Big Ten championship for Iowa, and one was a stunning last-second victory that got an Ohio State coach fired. Let’s take them in order.
Oct. 25, 1952 in Iowa City – The new Hawkeye coach was 32-year old Forest Evashevski, who never came close to winning any of his first four games that year, so what happened in game five was shocking. With powerful Ohio State coming to town, Evy junked his single-wing offense and installed a Spread-T formation with an unbalanced line.
“We didn’t have the personnel to stay on the field with Ohio State and we needed an element of surprise,” recalls Evy, “so we gave our players a new offense on Wednesday and only had a couple of days to work on it.”
With rugged Jerry Reichow operating at quarterback, the Hawkeyes controlled the ball. The surprised Buckeyes failed to adjust to Iowa’s new attack, which ate up the clock and produced a stunning 8-0 victory. It was considered the biggest upset in college football that season.
The result cost Ohio State the Big Ten championship and threw the national spotlight on Iowa’s innovative young coach. “I had to make the Big Ten aware that Iowa was in the league,” said Evy. He succeeded.
Nov. 17, 1956 in Iowa City — Evashevski had installed a new offense during spring practice called the Wing-T, which combined single-wing blocking and T-formation deception. The new attack, combined with a rugged defense, had Iowa on the verge of its first Big Ten title in 34 years. But coming to town was mighty Ohio State, with a 17-game winning streak in the conference.
In perhaps the most ferocious and bruising game ever played in Kinnick Stadium, Iowa made a third-quarter touchdown pass from Kenny Ploen to Jim Gibbons stand up for a 6-0 victory. Iowa’s defense overwhelmed the powerful Ohio State running game and the visitors never threatened to score.
University administrators extended the holiday break so students could travel to Pasadena to watch Iowa make its first appearance in the Rose Bowl, where the Hawkeyes routed Oregon State 35-19.
Nov. 14, 1987 at Columbus – In his ninth season at Iowa, Hayden Fry had his program well established, with two Big Ten titles under his belt. But he never had much luck against Ohio State and the Hawkeyes hadn’t won at Columbus in 28 seasons.
This encounter in the Big Horseshoe was a free-wheeling game with lots of big plays, including a 50-yard touchdown run by Kevin Harmon, and for the fourth time that season Rob Houghtlin kicked three field goals. But when Ohio State took a 27-22 lead with 2:45 remaining it appeared Iowa was headed home with another defeat.
A 35-yard kickoff return by Harmon and five completed passes by Chuck Hartlieb gave the Hawkeyes hope before a sack and a penalty put them in a seemingly impossible position – fourth and 23 at the Ohio State 28 yard line. Only seconds remained.
That’s when Hartlieb and his roommate, Marv Cook, made The Play. Cook ran down the sideline and curled back, catching Hartlieb’s perfectly delivered pass at the nine-yard line. He was hit by one defender, then another, but they couldn’t take him to the ground before he crossed the goal line.
As the scoreboard lights flashed the final score of 29-27, the 90,000 Buckeye fans sat stunned. The silence was deafening. Two days later a good coach lost his job when Ohio State officials fired Earle Bruce.
Yes, Iowa’s rivalry with Ohio State has been one sided, but there have been some unforgettable moments for the Hawkeyes. Maybe Saturday’s match-up at Kinnick Stadium will produce some more.
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.