Wine Online: Stout Lion Defense Too Much

Oct. 9, 2011

IOWA CITY, Iowa – It is very hard to win a football game without scoring a touchdown. It’s not impossible, however.

The legendary 1939 Iowa Ironmen beat Purdue 4-0 when Mike Enich twice tackled ball carriers in the end zone. When “Iron Mike” recorded his second safety, a press box wag accused him of running up the score.

Two of Hayden Fry’s teams won crucial games without crossing the goal line. In 1981 at Michigan, Tom Nichol kicked three field goals to give Iowa a 9-7 victory. In 1985, also against Michigan but this one at home, Rob Houghtlin booted four field goals in a thrilling 12-10 Hawkeye victory. Iowa needed those wins to make two Rose Bowl appearances.

Fans of the Iowa Hawkeyes will once again have the opportunity to “stripe” historic Kinnick Stadium for the enjoyment of a prime time television audience Saturday when Iowa entertains Northwestern on BTN.

If you’re going to Kinnick, the same rules apply: Even numbered sections wear GOLD, odd numbered sections wear BLACK, and UI students in the student section wear BLACK.

Go Hawks!

More recently, Iowa beat Penn State 6-4 on Nate Kaeding’s two field goals. That was in 2004 — seven years ago on the same field in where the Hawkeyes played last Saturday. As we all know, history did not repeat itself.

Kirk Ferentz had coached Iowa to four upsets at Beaver Stadium and had beaten Penn State eight of the last nine games in this series. But whatever spell the Hawkeyes held over the Nittany Lions vanished on this visit, and the home team won 13-3.

Maybe we should have seen this coming early in the game when a Penn State pass bounced off the leg of an official into the arms of surprised but grateful receiver. When is the last time you saw that happen? And it led to a field goal.

Also unexpected were the dropped passes by Iowa’s usually reliable receivers.

Not surprising, however, was Penn State’s defense, one of the best in college football. On this day it looked like the best, especially in the second half. The Nittany Lions have allowed only six touchdowns this season, and half of those were scored by Alabama, a team that has its eye on the national championship.

Close games are usually decided in the fourth quarter, and Penn State had its way with Iowa in the final period. That’s when the Lions forced three turnovers, had four quarterback sacks and scored the game’s only touchdown.

Desperation was so great for the Hawkeyes that they actually went for a fourth-and-39 from their own one-yard line. It did not work.

Maybe we can write this one off to the law of averages. After all, how many games can any opponent win at Penn State? If the law of averages does apply to football, let’s hope it is working this weekend when Northwestern visits Kinnick Stadium.

The Wildcats have won five of the last six in this series, including the last three. The percentages might be working in Iowa’s favor. Maybe that will be a factor if the Hawkeyes win. Some good old fashioned blocking, tackling and execution would also be helpful.


Ninety years ago Iowa was cruising through a football season that — even today — stands as one of the most memorable in school history. When that team had played its last game, the Hawkeyes were undefeated, undisputed Big Ten champions, and in the middle of a 20-game winning streak, a run of success that has never been surpassed at Iowa.

Coach of the 1921 team was Howard Jones, then in his sixth season with the Hawkeyes. His best players were backs Aubrey Devine and Gordon Locke, and tackle Duke Slater. All four – the coach and three players – are now enshrined in the National Football Foundation’s Hall of Fame.

It is my personal opinion that Devine is Iowa’s greatest player of all time. A gifted triple-threat back, he scored 57 points (eight touchdowns, nine extra points) in consecutive victories over Minnesota and Indiana. It is a two-game Big Ten scoring record that still stands, 90 years later.

Although 1921 was the first year Iowa won its first undisputed Big Ten title, perhaps the biggest victory that season was outside the conference when the Hawkeyes stopped Notre Dame’s 20-game winning streak. Devine sealed a 10-7 win by drop kicking a 38-yard field goal at old Iowa Field, which was located on the east bank of the Iowa River. That Notre Dame team was coached by the legendary Knute Rockne. One of its best players was Eddie Anderson, who would later return to Iowa as coach of the 1939 Ironmen, led by Nile Kinnick.

The 1921 Hawkeyes had another distinction – all 11 starters were from Iowa. Aubrey Devine and his brother Glenn, an outstanding blocking back, were from Des Moines. Slater, who was Iowa’s first prominent black player and for whom a UI dormitory is named, was from Clinton. Aubrey Devine and Slater were consensus all-Americans.

The string of 20 consecutive victories began in 1920 and ended in 1923. Perfect seasons in 1921 and 1922 brought an enormous amount of attention to Hawkeye football. Had there been national polls in those days Iowa might have very well been ranked No. 1 in the nation both years.

Jones left Iowa after the 1923 season with a winning percentage of 70.8 percent, still best in school history. He coached at Duke one year, then went to Southern California, where he continued to have success. When Jones died in 1941, he was recognized as one of the greatest college football coaches of all time.

One thing is certain – ninety years ago he led Iowa to an unforgettable football season.