Friday, October 01, 2004

A Season That Can Still Be Saved

This is a football season that can still be saved.

For Iowa, I mean.

Sure, after 11-2 and 10-3 records the past two seasons, this has been a rocky start in 2004. A horrible 44-7 loss at Arizona State and a mistake-filled 30-17 defeat at Michigan have left Hawkeye fans restless.

But things will get better.

There’s no Rose Bowl in this 2-2 team’s immediate future, but I’m so sure a turnaround is on the way that I’m going to give you a week-by-week rundown on how it’s going to happen:

•Saturday against Michigan State at Iowa City—The Spartans opened their Big Ten season with a 30-20 victory over Indiana. No big deal. Everybody beats Indiana—even a team coached by a guy named John L. Smith. This is Iowa’s homecoming game, and just the sight and sound of the famous alumni band, complete with tuba players and drummers, will be enough to protect the home turf for the Hawkeyes. Iowa 21, Michigan State 14.

•Oct. 16 against Ohio State at Iowa City—Now it starts getting tougher. Iowa hasn’t beaten the Buckeyes in Iowa City since 1983. There was a 24-24 tie at Kinnick Stadium in 1988 but, in that pre-overtime era, people were saying a tie was about as much fun as kissing your sister. Sister, baloney! The way I look at it, a tie was as much fun as having to kiss Woody Hayes—the former Buckeye coach who died in 1987. What a horrible, horrible thought. Ohio State 28, Iowa 17.

•Oct. 23 at Penn State—Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno refuses to end his career gracefully. He keeps putting himself, his teams and his fans through agony, and appears determined to be the first guy to still be coaching Big Ten football until he’s 150 years of age. Modern football has passed poor Joe by, but everybody’s afraid to tell him. The good thing about it for opposing teams is that Paterno’s players never get any better, and they won’t be very good when Iowa comes to town. Iowa 30, Penn State 21.

•Oct. 30 at Illinois—This figures to be a great day for any Hawkeye fan who has a birthday, or wants to find any other reason to celebrate. Talk about a guy who has let football pass him by! Illinois coach Ron Turner is that man, and he’s a heck of a lot younger than Paterno. Turner has former Hawkeye Jon Beutjer at quarterback, but that won’t make a bit of difference at Illinois’ Memorial Stadium. Beutjer can’t play defense or keep the wolves from howling at Turner’s door. Iowa 40, Illinois 28.

•Nov. 6 against Purdue at Iowa City--This will be the best game of Iowa’s season. There’s a lot of motivation for the Hawkeyes. Kyle Orton of Altoona, the Purdue quarterback who’s going to win the Heisman Trophy, comes into Kinnick Stadium to challenge Iowa’s defense. Orton will play very well, but the Hawkeyes will play better. I’m still trying to decide if the game will go into overtime. Check with me in a couple of weeks on that. Iowa hasn’t lost to Purdue in Iowa City since 1992. From 1961 through 1980, the Hawkeyes somehow found ways to lose 20 consecutive games in this series. But those days are gone—hopefully forever. Iowa 27, Purdue 24.

•Nov. 13 at Minnesota—This one makes me nervous. Very nervous. This isn’t exactly a Minnesota team of Bernie Bierman and Bronko Nagurski proportions, but coach Glen Mason has somehow worked some magic with the program. There’s a lot riding on this game, of course. One is keeping the Hawkeye fans happy who will fill half the Metrodome in Minneapolis. The other is making sure Floyd of Rosedale, the bronze pig that is awarded to the winning team, remains in a good frame of mind. Floyd has spent the last three years in hog heaven at Iowa City after Mason’s defense gave up 42, 45 and 40 points to Iowa. I’m going to encourage Floyd to wear flannel boxer shorts for the trip north so he won’t be freezing anything off, and I’m figuring on him bringing the shorts back That means Iowa must pull a big-time upset in this game. Iowa 33, Minnesota 30.

•Nov. 20 against Wisconsin at Iowa City—This will be an emotional day at Kinnick Stadium. Barry Alvarez, a former Iowa assistant coach, has an outstanding team at Wisconsin. His defensive coordinator is Bret Bielema, a former Iowa player and assistant. Alvarez knows a few things about defense himself, and his team will show it on a crisp, sunny afternoon. Even though the final score is Wisconsin 17, Iowa 10, the Hawkeyes’ 7-4 record will be good enough to put them into their fourth straight bowl game under coach Kirk Ferentz.


The University of Iowa is doing a very nice thing tomorrow.

Bill Reichardt, who died earlier this year, has been named the honorary captain for the homecoming football game against Michigan State.

The all-America fullback did something in 1951 that happens only in the dreams of other players.

Although his Iowa team didn't win a Big Ten game, Reichardt was named the conference's most valuable player.

In that season, the Hawkeyes had a 2-5-2 reocrd overall and were 0-5-1 in the Big Ten. The victories were over Kansas State, 16-0, and Pittsburgh, 34-17, and the ties were with Minnesota, 20-20, and Notre Dame, 20-20.

Reichardt's family--wife Sue, sons Doug and Duke and daughter Barb--will accompany Iowa's captains to the center of the field for the coin toss prior to tomorrow's game.

I talked to Bill plenty of times over the years about his days as an Iowa player and about football and life in general.

When I was researching my book, "Tales from the Iowa Sidelines," Reichardt told me he was "the highest illegally-paid player in the history of Iowa football."

The guy loved telling that story.

I know he'll be watching tomorrow, and he'll be a very proud man.

Vol. 4, No. 261
Oct. 1, 2004