Thursday, October 14, 2004

Iowa-Ohio State: A Rich Collegiate Football Tradition

All right, let’s get the negative stuff out of the way first.

Iowa is winless in the last 12 football games it has played on Oct. 16.

Overall, the Hawkeyes are only 2-11-1 on Oct. 16

And it just so happens that Saturday is Oct. 16.

Yep, that’s the day the Hawkeyes tee it up against Ohio State at 2:30 p.m. in Kinnick Stadium in the renewal of what has become a rich collegiate football tradition.

Iowa has met the Buckeyes only one other time on Oct. 16, and that was when Woody Hayes’ 1954 team scored a 20-14 victory.

Ohio State has pretty much had its way with Iowa in recent years. The Buckeyes have won the last eight games in the series, and 10 of the last 11. Iowa hasn’t beaten Ohio State in Kinnick Stadium since a 20-14 victory on Sept. 24, 1983.

Ohio State is a 2 ½-point favorite Saturday [if anyone out there can tell me how the Buckeyes are going to score that half-point, please let me know], but I don’t consider that a negative.

I’ll take my chances on Kirk Ferentz’s Hawkeyes when they’re 2 ½-point underdogs.

Don’t forget, Iowa has a 15-game winning streak at Kinnick Stadium.


There are a number of Iowa-Ohio State games that I remember vividly.

Some I saw in person. Some I heard on the radio. Some I saw on TV.

Some I wish I didn’t remember at all.

One I wish I didn’t remember was played on Oct. 28, 1950.

I had just turned 15 a month or so earlier, and I was a student manager for the football team at old Wilson High School in Cedar Rapids. Bill Barnard was the coach, and he had written me a letter the summer before from a camp in Minnesota where he worked, inviting me to be the manager.

The way I recall it, the Wilson team—the players, Barnard and his staff, the trainers and the manager--were on their way to Keokuk on Oct. 28, 1950. Wilson was to play Keokuk that night.

The radio broadcast of the Iowa-Ohio State game was being played loudly in the team bus.

It was not good listening.

Vic Janowicz, a 5-9, 187-pound Ohio State halfback, ran for two touchdowns, passed for four and kicked 10 extra points as the Buckeyes embarrassed Iowa, 83-21.

The late Bill Reichardt played in the game for Iowa and is convinced Janowicz won the Heisman Trophy with his performance against the Hawkeyes.

“We fell behind, 28-0, very quickly and there was a strong wind coming out of the south,” Reichardt told me. “We couldn’t pass or kick.

“I had to run kickoff after kickoff back because Ohio State was scoring so many touchdowns. Late in the game, one guy from Ohio State nailed me on a play. It ticked me off. They had my arms pinned back, and a guy from Ohio State used his fist to smack me.

“He said, ‘What’s the matter, Reichy? Ain’t they blocking for you.’”


Just two years later, things changed dramatically for Iowa.

And the listening was a lot better on the radio.

Forest Evashevski was the Hawkeyes’ new coach, and he went on to produce the three best teams in modern [1939 and later] Iowa football history—1958, 1956 and 1960.

Something happened in 1952 that was…..well, amazing.

I heard that game on the radio, too.

I then was in my final semester at Wilson, and was working at the Martin’s clothing store in downtown Cedar Rapids. That was one of two parttime jobs I had while earning enough money to get through my freshman year at the University of Iowa.

The other job was in the sports department of the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

I was the do-everything kid at Martin’s. I was the office boy, I ran the elevator [in those days, elevators weren’t automatic], I drove owner John Carey’s shiny 1938 Chevy around town to run errands and I sometimes worked with Bill the Mail Room Guy.

I made sure I worked with Bill the Mail Room Guy on the afternoon of Oct. 25, 1952.

I wanted to listen to the Iowa-Ohio State game.

More than a half-century later, I researched that game for my book “Tales from the Iowa Sidelines.”

This was how I described the 1952 game in the book:

Woody Hayes Threw His Coat

Forest Evashevski’s first season as Iowa’s coach got off to a lackluster start.

The 1952 Hawkeyes lost their first four games to Pittsburgh, Indiana, Purdue and Wisconsin by a combined score of 129-54.

Powerful Ohio State, coached by Woody Hayes, was next on the schedule. The game was played Oct. 25 at Iowa City.

It was a date that was very important in Evashevski’s coaching tenure and in the history of football at the university.

In a shocking upset that would set the tone for Evashevski’s future seasons at Iowa, the Hawkeyes unbelievably won the game, 8-0.

A half-century after the game was played, I asked Evashevski if he had any idea his tam would pull off the monster victory.

“No,” he said. “In fact, I was afraid we might get really clobbered because we gambled so much. I think if Woody had started throwing the ball early, Ohio State could have gotten us out of the defense we were in.

“We jammed up to stop their running game, and I knew Woody was stubborn enough to keep trying—and he did. Fortunately, they didn’t start throwing the ball until it was too late.”

Bump Elliott, was in his first season as Iowa’s backfield coach, recalls the Ohio State game as being very unusual.

“I would say it was on Tuesday in the week of the game that Evy came up with the idea, and we developed as a staff, to change the whole offense from the Michigan single-wing and T-formation that we were using,” Elliott explained.

“Before the Ohio State game, we went to an unbalanced line, split-T formation, with big splits in the line. The linemen were two yards from each other, and it looked like we were spread clear across the field.

“We came in with a very limited passing game off of it—some hook passes, some swing passes to the halfbacks. It was nothing exceptional, but the fact we changed the whole thing made it work. The other thing that was significant was that the offense learned to call the plays at the line of scrimmage, depending on where the defense lined up.”

Elliott said, “We’d come to the line of scrimmage, look it over, then call a play that would go to the open hole of the defense. I think everything upset Ohio State so much that they forgot about their own offense and we stopped them.

“If Ohio State had tended to their business, they probably could have moved the ball better. But they got frustrated with their running game and passing game. We also changed the defense for Ohio State. We went into a five-man front after using a variety of six- and five-man fronts earlier.”

Elliott said it was during the game that the frustrated Hayes took off his sportcoat and threw it into the grandstand that is not far from the visitors’ bench in Iowa’s stadium.

“The fans weren’t going to give it back, but they finally did,” Elliott said.

Milo Hamilton is a Hall of Fame baseball announcer, but also did his share of football play-by-play as a younger man.

He did games for KSTT in Davenport in the 1950s, and recalls the 1952 Iowa-Ohio State game.

“Coach Forest Evashevski changed his offense early in the week to the wing-T, and then it became his bread-and-butter,” Hamilton told me.

“Ohio State didn’t have a clue. In fact, I think that game was the beginning of the ‘I hate you, Evy’ stuff by Woody. That gave the whole state of Iowa something to cheer about after Evy inherited a pretty rag-tag team.”


The first Iowa-Ohio State game I saw in person was on Nov. 17, 1956.

And it was a big one.

In 1956, I was in my third year at Iowa and was still working parttime at the Cedar Rapids Gazette. One of my jobs in the fall was to accompany the Gazette photographers to the Iowa games and provide identity information for their pictures that would be in the Sunday paper.

That enabled me to walk the sidelines of every home game.

And walking the sideline on Nov. 17, 1956 was very special.

Frank Gilliam of Steubenville, Ohio, was a member of that Hawkeye team. I was fortunate enough to sit next to him in the press box at Kinnick Stadium a couple of years ago, and he gave me his perspective of the game.

So did Evashevski in a telephone conversation I had with him for my book.

The only points came on Kenny Ploen’s 17-yard touchdown pass to Jim Gibbons in the third quarter.

“Gibbons was a real good football player,” Evashevski said. “He didn’t have great speed, but in those days you went both ways and Jim was a good defensive player as well as offensive player. He was mainly a good blocker, but he did have good hands.”

Ohio State never got inside Iowa's 32-yard line during the game. The Buckeyes managed only 147 yards rushing and 18 yards passing against Iowa’s relentless defense.

“I felt pretty good about beating them because they were a good team and we were a good team,” Gilliam said. “There was a lot of good hitting. The score didn’t indicate the caliber of the football game.”

Iowa won the Big Ten title, clobbered Notre Dame, 48-8, in its final regular-season game and walloped Oregon State, 35-19, in the Rose Bowl. The Hawkeyes finished 9-1 for the season.

Although he was from Ohio, Gilliam said he got no particular thrill in beating Ohio State.

“Once I left the state of Ohio, that was it,” he explained. “I didn’t have any friends on the Ohio State team. I had some friends on the Indiana team, but Ohio State was just another game for me.”

Gilliam said Woody Hayes “tried to get me to go to Ohio State, but my recruiting trip to Iowa City was a very positive experience, and I remember telling Eddie Vincent—my teammate and friend from Steubenville—that ‘I don’t know what you’re going to do, but I’m pretty certain this is where I’m going to school.’”


Two of the biggest Iowa-Ohio State games I witnessed in person were played in Columbus, Ohio.

The first was on Nov. 14, 1987. In “Tales from the Iowa Sidelines,” I wrote about that game this way:

The “Woozy” Hartlieb-to-Cook Pass

In my many years of covering Iowa football games, a play fashioned by quarterback Chuck Hartlieb and tight end Marv Cook in a game Nov. 14, 1987 at Ohio State stands out as one of the best I saw.

The Hawkeyes were trailing in the final seconds, and Hartlieb says now that he was “knocked pretty woozy on a blitz” several plays earlier.

“I can’t say I was thinking that clearly the rest of the game,” Hartlieb said. “We had tried on a couple of snaps to get the ball downfield to Quinn Early or one of the other wide receivers, but we struggled to get them open.

“On fourth down, I went to the sideline beforehand and said, ‘Let’s try and work Marv’s matchup,’ What we decided to do was send Marv down the sideline and, hopefully, take advantage of a man-to-man situation. I dropped back and looked down the left side of the field as long as I could so I could shade the deep safeties away from Marv.

“I flipped my feet around, and Marv was running a trail down the sideline. Marv was caught man-to-man with the strong safety. I threw it at his back. It allowed Marv to kind of come back to the ball and let the strong safety run by him.”

Hartlieb said Cook “was the one who made the play. He made a great adjustment to the ball, and his heart and desire let him get to the goal line. He easily could have been stopped on the one- or two-yard line.”

Indeed, maybe he was. Hartlieb said Bo Pelini, an Ohio State free safety who played in that game and later was a graduate assistant on the Iowa staff, “swears today that Cook was down on the one-yard line. It could have gone either way.”

But it was ruled that Cook made it into the end zone to complete the 28-yard play with six seconds remaining in the game. The play gave Iowa a 29-27 victory.

“It was awfully exciting,” Hartlieb said. “For years, Coach Fry had talked about the importance of winning at Columbus. He had won at Michigan and in every other Big Ten stadium, but not the one in Columbus. So to get a win for Coach Fry in that fashion was pretty magical.”

[NOTE: Earle Bruce, Ohio State’s coach and a former coach at Iowa State, didn’t think it was so magical. He was fired two days later].


Another big Iowa-Ohio State game in Columbus that I covered came on Nov. Nov. 2, 1991.

It was a day, and a weekend, filled with tremendous emotion.

Everything began on Friday, Nov. 1.

Not in Columbus. In Iowa City.

But it was in Columbus that I heard about it.

I had gone to dinner with Dave Stockdale, a friend of mine who works as a sports copy editor at the Des Moines Register, at an Italian restaurant on the fringe of the Ohio State campus.

When we returned to the Holiday Inn, which sits across the street from Ohio Stadium, Ohio State sports information director Steve Snapp was in the lobby.

“Have you heard about the shootings?” Snapp asked.

We hadn’t. But we heard about them soon afterward.

Snapp was referring to the shooting deaths of six people on the Iowa campus. A graduate student at the university killed five people before turning the gun on himself.

Had the shootings taken place on the eve of an Iowa home game, I’m convinced the game would have been postponed.

But the Hawkeyes’ game at Ohio State was played. On orders from Coach Hayden Fry, the team’s helmets were stripped of all decals the night before, and Fry had his squad’s emotions at a fever pitch on game day.

The Hawkeyes won, 16-9. They haven’t beaten the Buckeyes since.

It’s about time, don’t you think?


Mark Robinson, a transplanted Iowan who now lives in California, e-mailed me about my last couple of columns:

“You covered a lot of territory in those two pieces.

“First, I am very sorry to hear about the loss of Mr. Modersohn. When I was the chief photog at the Times-Republican in Marshalltown (76-77), I thought he was the best. It didn’t hurt that the Register, now known as the local paper, displayed his best work in 4,5, even 6 columns with regularlity. And the print quality of the Register in those days was terrific compared to other daily publications. Believe me, it was. The bottom line is that I looked upon Modersohn as an artist, and I was a wannabe.

“In fact, the Register was home to a herd of terrific photographers in those days. They almost outnumbered the great writers…..almost.

“I love your coverage of Drake. It sounds like they are taking steps to put themselves back on the map as it pertains to sports. As you know, hiring Tom Davis was their first and best step in that regard.

“My last observation has to do with the local paper’s entrance into the land of tiny town newspaper competition that you described. What were they thinking?

“I don’t know where Sean Keeler was during his sojourn at a recent bowl game, but I do know this. Nancy [Clark] is not a writer, especially a sportswriter.

“I guess the bigger question is: What were the judges thinking? There must be better sportswriters than Nancy…..and I give as examples every sportswriter who works for an Iowa daily.

“Good grief.


[NOTE: It looks to me like Warren Taylor, another veteran photographer, has accepted the job at the local paper that Bob Modersohn turned down. I like the abilities of both guys, and I hope the future treats them well].


From David P. Mumm, senior pastor at Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Des Moines:

“Hi, Ron:

“I really like the look of your new web page. About 95 percent of what you said in the current column I had to agree with. However, when you said that no one shed a tear over Nebraska losing so big, that wasn’t quite true. I have been a Husker fan since my earliest days. Saturday was very hard to take. Losing is bad enough, but when the team quits even before the half—that’s really hard to take. The only thing worse than a Nebraska loss on Saturday was enduring the slaughter in Green Bay [Monday] night. One of the commentators on the Packer radio network, Larry McCarron, made an interesting observation about Lambeau Field. He suggested that Lambeau is not an intimidating place for opposing players. In fact, most of them are awed by the history, and frequently comments like, ‘What a great place to play,’ are heard from opposing players. If he is correct, then the Packers’ problems are not just team problems, they are also facility related. Maybe the makeover of 2 years ago was too good a job. Or maybe the Packers are just not a very strong team this year.

“Keep up the good work. I do enjoy your articles.”

[NOTE: Wouldn’t you know it? Sometimes I tend to forget about the hordes of Nebraska fans who live in our state. And I think I’ve heard from every one of them since writing that I thought new Husker coach Bill Callahan is in over his head. But I do think both Nebraska and Green Bay will win at least one more game this season].


A guy I know has been claiming for a couple of months that the latest Iowa City rumor was true.

Big deal. Hell, there's a rumor every 15 minutes in Iowa City.

Some turn out to be true, some don't.

This rumor concerned Steve Alford, Iowa's basketball coach.

Big deal. Hell, there's a rumor every 15 minutes about Alford.

This one was juicier than the others. This rumor had it that Alford had been kicked out of his house.

So who did the kicking? Alford's wife.

At least that was the rumor.

Rumor had it that Alford's wife didn't like some of the company the coach was keeping away from the arena.

The rumor was not only being talked about in Iowa City and Des Moines. I heard it was even being talked about in Shueyville.

People kept denying the rumor, but a guy I know kept saying it was true.

Now he's changed his mind. He says it probably isn't true. He says people must have had Alford confused with somebody else.

Stay tuned. There'll be another Iowa City rumor in exactly 14 minutes.


Speaking of Alford, he'll make an appearance at the Polk County I-Club Winter Sports Luncheon on Nov. 3 at the 7 Flags Events Center, 2100 NW 100th Street.

Also appearing will be Iowa women's basketball coach Lisa Bluder and Hawkeye wrestling coach Jim Zalesky. Jim Zabel will be telling Iowa State jokes while serving as master of ceremonies. Tickets are $15 at Pal Joey's, 63rd and Grand.


Dan Johnson, horseracing and women’s basketball expert and all-around good guy who works at the Register, is telling friends that he has some health problems.

“As some of you may have heard broadcast from the Jan Jensen Communications Network, I’ve been undergoing treatment for a blood disorder,” Johnson said.

“The disease is called myelofibrosis, and basically is a shortage of hemoglobin because my bone marrow is producing scarred cells instead of red blood cells.

“I’ve been getting blood transfusions an average of a unit per week, but I’m told that is not a long-term solution. Apparently the body builds resistance to the infused blood.

“The only cure is a bone marrow transplant, where chemotherapy is used to kill the bone marrow in a patient’s system, and then the new marrow is put in…..

“I’ve been to the Mayo Clinic, and the news I got was good, all things considered. My Mayo doctor doesn’t think the bone marrow transplant is immediately necessary. He’s putting me on a drug for three months that will hopefully increase my red cell production…..”

[NOTE: Good luck with your treatments, Dan. Your illness certainly hasn’t slowed you down in your job. Keep up the great work].

Vol. 4, No. 267
Oct. 14, 2004