Sunday, October 24, 2004

Believe It! Winning Season Possible for Cyclones

Forget the sports talk-show requests that constantly call for coach Dan McCarney’s head.

Forget the 17-10 loss to Iowa six weeks ago.

Forget the close call at Colorado and the not-so-close calls against Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.

Forget all those things and pay attention to what I’m going to say.

Three more victories are all Iowa State needs to have a winning season and to be bowl-eligible.

And three more victories are certainly possible for McCarney and his players in the last four regular-season games.

At the risk of sounding like I’ve been slipping something strange into my two cups of late-night green tea, I could also say that the Nov. 20 game at Kansas State is also winnable.

But let’s put that one on hold for a while. Like you, I think it’s about time McCarney ended that 0-9 record against Bill Snyder’s Wildcats, but right now I’ll settle for Iowa State beating only Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri—three other teams from the very ordinary Big 12 North.

A 6-5 finish is possible—very possible—for this Iowa State team, which won at Baylor, 26-25, yesterday. It starts Saturday against Kansas at Jack Trice Stadium. The Jayhawks, like Iowa State, are 1-3 in the Big 12 and 3-4 overall.

Nebraska, which comes to Ames on Oct. 6, and Missouri, which visits Ames on Nov. 27, are 2-2 and 4-3. Kansas State is 1-3 and 3-4.


I'm really starting to feel sorry for Joe Paterno, whose Penn State team is awful again. It's time for him to get off the coaching freeway. I wish he could find a graceful route to the exit sign.

Paterno's Nittany Lions had more turnovers (5) than points (4) before a crowd of 108,069 in Saturday's 6-4 loss to Iowa.


The Rev. David P. Mumm of Des Moines, talking about what he calls “the craziness of sports,” was wondering about something after Iowa’s 6-4 victory.

In an e-mail, he wrote:

“In your many years of following sports, have you ever seen a football game with a final score of “4”? I know it is possible, but I can never recall a game like Iowa’s game Saturday.”

Well, Pastor, I can think of an even stranger game. I was only 4 years of age when it was played, and I didn’t know Nile Kinnick from the Nile River, but I wrote about a 4-0 game Kinnick and his Iowa Ironmen won in my recent book “Tales from the Iowa Sidelines.”

Here was the segment:

“The strangest game Iowa played in 1939 was on Nov. 4 at Purdue.

“The Hawkeyes won, 4-0, because right tackle Mike Enich, who was known as ‘Iron Mike,’ blocked two Purdue punts into the end zone for safeties.

“Iowa really didn’t need the second safety, people said afterward.

“’We just wanted to make it decisive,”’ line coach Jim Harris joked to the players.

“End Erwin Prasse said Harris had another funny line after the game.

“’Well, Enich hit a home run with the bases loaded,’” Harris told Prasse.”

In my earlier writing life, I didn’t attend Iowa’s 5-3 loss to Arizona in 1980, but I was on hand for another game—in 1972--that set collegiate football back about 40 years.

That one was played in Columbia, Mo. Johnny Majors, in his final season at Iowa State, took his team there for a game against Missouri. The Cyclones had a 5-2-1 record and were expected to clinch a bowl bid if they beat the Tigers.

But Missouri won, 6-5, in a game that embarrassed Majors, Iowa State’s fans and the bowl scouts who were present.

Still, Iowa State received a bid to the Liberty Bowl later that night,

But the 6-5 loss was the start of a horrible stretch for the Cyclones. They wound up losing their last four games, sending Majors off to his next job at Pittsburgh with a 5-6-1 record.

Iowa State lost at Oklahoma State, 45-14, the following week; lost at San Diego State, 27-14, and to Georgia Tech, 31-30, in the Liberty Bowl.


Jerry Kellar of of Northeastern Pennsylvania on the Iowa-Penn State game:

"And to think more than 100,000 fans laid out 46 bucks a pop to watch this."


Former Iowan Al Schallau, now of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., sent this letter to the St. Petersburg Times today after learning about the firing of Florida football coach Ron Zook:

"The mid-season firing of Ron Zook and his staff is one of the most cowardly acts by an athletic director in the history of college football. It shows enormous character by Coach Zook and staff that they have agreed to coach for the rest of the season.

"I wish the future Florida Gators and all their fans the very worst of luck. May the Gators become the next version of the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

"Nebraska fired Coach Frank Solich because his record of 59-23 wasn't good enough. He was fired because their athletic director couldn't stand losing to Kansas State.

"For me, it was DELICIOUS to see the Cornhuskers get bombed, 70-10 by Texas Tech and 45-21 by Kansas State.

"In future years, I will be rooting HARD agains the Florida Gators every Saturday."

[NOTE: I've always maintained that a coach should be allowed to serve out the remainder of his contract. But no athletic director pays attention to that philosophy anymore. Most of them are afraid of getting canned themselves. In regard to Iowa's 6-4 victory over Penn State, Schallau wrote that it will "go down in history as one of the all-time 'ugly wins' in Hawkeye football history. And how I love, love, love those 'ugly wins'--which beat hell out of those heroic losses."]


It seems like it was many moons ago when I was interviewing a young man named Rob Ash, who was about to be named the new head football coach at Drake.

Actually, it was only 1989.

I wrote the first story about Ash for the local paper. Little did either Ash or I know he'd still be piling up victories for Drake in 2004.

When the Bulldogs rolled past Valparaiso, 37-10, yesterday, Ash raised his record with them to 106-57-2. Drake is 6-2 overall, and its first-place record in the Pioneer League is 3-0 heading into Saturday's showdown with Dayton.

Despite upgrading Drake's schedule in recent seasons, Ash continues winning consistently, and there's no one at his level of competition who coaches any better.


Memo to Kyle Orton, the Purdue quarterback who played at Southeast Polk High School:

Well, all that Heisman Trophy stuff was fun while it lasted.

A lot of other guys who thought they might win the Heisman, but then saw it all go down the drain, share your feeling.


Not all Chicago Cubs fans may remember Mark Bellhorn.

But they should.

The guy who hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning to send Boston past St. Louis, 11-9, in the first game of the World Series was one of a million or so players who tried, and failed, at third base for the Cubs.

Bellhorn hit 27 home runs for the Cubs in 2002, but struck out often and was a liability on defense. He finally was dealt to Colorado, and from there he went to the Red Sox, for whom he now plays second base.

The scouting report on the $490,000-a-year switch-hitter isn’t pretty:

“Bellhorn’s weaknesses have been exposed: Just keep the ball away from him and he won’t come close. He is overmatched by sinkers and sliders. His only hope is when a pitcher tries to overpower him and gets the ball out over the plate. Bellhorn can play a lot of positions, but none well enough to be an everyday player. He doesn’t have the quickness needed at third base nor the lateral movement to handle second. He also can fill in briefly at short, play first and left field. He has decent speed, but isn’t a steal threat.”

Tell that to Julian Tavarez, the Cardinals relief pitcher whom Bellhorn lit up for the winning homer last night.

And oh, by the way, Tavarez is also an ex-Cub.

Vol. 4, No. 270
Oct. 24, 2004