Wine Online: Down But Not Out in the Desert

Sept. 19, 2010

IOWA CITY, Iowa — When playing a good football team late at night and 1,500 miles from home, making one mistake can be costly. Making three can be fatal. Iowa learned that lesson Saturday night in Tucson.

A blocked punt, an 85-yard return of an intercepted pass, and a 100-yard kickoff return gave Arizona three touchdowns before the game was 16 minutes old. It’s a credit to the Hawkeyes that they did not wilt under this turn of events and 90-degree heat.

Down 27-7 at halftime, they erased that 20-point deficit with two touchdown drives and an interception by Broderick Binns, who swiped the pass one-handed and ran the ball into the end zone. An extra point that would have given Iowa a one-point lead was partially blocked, leaving the scored tied.

There were eight minutes remaining in the game and Iowa’s defense had been superb the first 22 minutes of the second half, holding Arizona’s potent offense to 58 total yards. But with the game on the line, the Hawkeyes could not stop a 72-yard touchdown drive by the Wildcats. Then, to add an exclamation point, Arizona sacked Ricky Stanzi on three consecutive plays to seal the victory.

This was expected to be a close, hard-fought game between two good football teams, and it was. Did the Hawkeyes lose it because of some bad plays, or did Arizona win it because of preparation and execution?

Kirk Ferentz thought it was a little of both. “They made some big plays to win the game, but we made some sloppy plays,” he said. “We competed hard, but we gave away too many points.” The Iowa coach called his team’s kick coverage “pathetic” after the Iowa State game. After the Arizona game, in which a punt and extra point were blocked and a kickoff run back for a touchdown, he called the play of his special teams “awful.”

On the plus side, Iowa had three scoring drives, one of 93 yards, that resulted in Stanzi throwing TD passes to Jewell Hampton, Darrell Johnson-Koulianos and Marvin McNutt. There was Broderick Binns’ spectacular play that knotted the score. And Iowa’s defense held Arizona to one sustained touchdown drive. Unfortunately, that was the game winner.

The Hawkeyes have to take some lessons from this defeat, shrug it off and move on. Sometimes adversity is a good thing, and they got their share of it in Arizona. Will that make them a better football team? Let’s hope so.

Arizona Coach Mike Stoops, who played and coached for the Hawkeyes during the 1980s, wanted this one badly. That was obvious from his sideline behavior. He scowled at the officials and growled at his players. But when the game was over and his team had won, he flashed a big smile.

The Hawkeyes have to take some lessons from this defeat, shrug it off and move on. Sometimes adversity is a good thing, and they got their share of it in Arizona. Will that make them a better football team? Let’s hope so.


Jim Zabel has been telling me for years that he is going to write his memoirs. Guess what? At 89 years old, he has finally done it.

And it was worth the wait. Titled “I love it! I Love It! I LOVE IT! 65 Years of Fun & Games,” the book chronicles Zabel’s life from his boyhood days in Davenport to his semi-retirement in Scottsdale, Ariz. Along the way, he tells interesting and funny stories about his days as a student at the University of Iowa, and the many Hawkeye coaches and athletes he has known and covered as the play-by-play voice for WHO radio.

As his friends will agree, Zabel is a good story teller, which is why he has been a popular master of ceremonies at Hawkeye outings and I-Club events. When my wife asked me why I was laughing as I read the book, I told her it was because of a funny story. When she reminded me I’d heard it before, I responded, “I know, but it’s still funny.”

The book is not all about the Hawkeyes. Zabel also recounts his association with the Iowa State Fair, his coverage of the Iowa state high school basketball tournaments, his play-by-play days of Iowa State and Drake basketball, and his many duties at WHO not connected with the Hawkeyes.

When I retired I was often asked to pinpoint my most memorable moment as Iowa’s sports information director, to which I responded, “It wasn’t the Michigan football game of 1985 or the Georgetown basketball game of 1980. It was one night in Los Angeles when Jim Zabel picked up a bar tab.”

In the book, Zabel pokes fun his reputation as a tightwad, as well as the way he described Hawkeye games. He relates the story about Forest Evashevski, his football color man for several years, telling the WHO listening audience after one season, “Jim, I enjoyed doing these 22 games with you.” When Zabel said they’d done only 11 games, Evy replied, “There were the 11 games you did and the 11 games I saw.”

Read the book and get some laughs.