Wine: Take a Deep Breath, Hawk Fans

Sept. 21, 2008

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Maybe you’ve heard that the Hawkeyes have questions at quarterback. Yes, four games into the football season, the all-important quarterback position remains uncertain.

While this is unusual at Iowa, it is not without precedent. Let’s look at two seasons where “quarterback controversies” resulted in success. And keep in mind that our current head coach was around for both.

Following spring practice in 1982, Hayden Fry announced that Chuck Long — a lightly recruited and little-known high school quarterback — was “destined for greatness.”

The fans and news media might have found that laughable if Hayden had not accurately predicted Dennis Mosley would become Iowa’s first 1,000-yard rusher and Reggie Roby would become the best punter in college football. The fact that Hayden was right on both counts gave him a great deal of credibility.

Iowa opened the 1982 football season at Nebraska with Long at quarterback. The Cornhuskers were still mad about the defeat dealt to them at Kinnick Stadium the previous season.

This was a very difficult test for a rookie quarterback, and Long compounded his problems by “eating way too much” at the pre-game meal. By the second quarter on the steamy artificial turf, Long’s belly was boiling. Not wanting to vomit on his teammates, he abruptly called timeout.

“When I got to the sideline Coach Fry was in my face, wanting to know why I’d called timeout,” recalls Long. “Before I could tell him, I threw up all over his white pants and white shoes.”

From there, things went downhill for the Hawkeyes. Long performed more like a quarterback who was headed for obscurity than greatness, and Iowa absorbed a 42-7 whipping.

The head coach wants to win as much as the fans and the media. He know his quarterbacks better than anyone.

Let’s all calm down and let the man do his job.

The following week at home vs Iowa State, Long was on the bench and Tom Grogan was the QB on the field . The Hawkeyes lost to their cross-state rival 19-7. After two games Iowa was 0-2 and the offense had struggled to score only two touchdowns. Things looked bleak.

Next was a game in the desert at Arizona, and Long was given a second chance. This was a tough road test that could make or break a young quarterback, but Chuck was up to the challenge. He put some spark in Iowa’s offense, threw two touchdown passes, and Iowa flew home with a hard-earned 17-14 victory.

That team went on to win eight games, finish third in the Big Ten, and beat Tennessee in the Peach Bowl. And Hayden Fry was right — Long went on to a brilliant four-year career with the Hawkeyes.

In 1987, Iowa had three quarterbacks contending for the position. Going into the opener at the Kickoff Classic, there was little difference between Dan McGwire, Chuck Hartlieb and Tom Poholsky.

Coach Fry decided to give them all a shot against Tennessee. McGwire started and played into the second quarter. When Iowa recovered a fumble inside the Tennessee five-yard line, Hayden decided it was time for a quarterback change.

Hartlieb entered the game and almost immediately threw a pitchout that was intercepted by a Tennessee defender, who ran 96-yards for a touchdown. But that failed to rattle young Hartlieb, who took Iowa on a 70-yard touchdown drive in his next possession.

Poholsky played most of the second half, which ended with Tennessee kicking a field goal in the final seconds, and Iowa lost the opener 23-22.

Nothing was settled in the next four games. Three quarterbacks rotated on and off the field in wins at Arizona and Iowa State, plus a victory over Kansas State and a loss to Michigan State — both at home.

Iowa’s 2008 Homecoming game Saturday against Northwestern will kick off shortly after 11 a.m. Iowa time and will be televised live by ESPN on its “ESPN Classic” channel.

It wasn’t until Game Five at Wisconsin that the coaching staff gave the nod to Hartlieb, who led the Hawkeyes to an impressive 31-10 Big Ten win on the road.

Those 1987 Hawkeyes didn’t settle their quarterback issues until midway through the season, but that didn’t keep them from winning 10 games, finishing second in the Big Ten and beating Wyoming in the Holiday Bowl.

It’s worth noting that Kirk Ferentz was an assistant coach on both of those Iowa teams. He’s been there, done that.

The head coach wants to win as much as the fans and the media. He know his quarterbacks better than anyone.

Let’s all calm down and let the man do his job.