Sunday, October 09, 2005

Weird Happenings In the Big Ten Put Iowa Back in Title Race; Meanwhile, Cyclones' Embarrassing Loss to Baylor Sends Me to the Land of Oz

Herky and his friends--his young friends, a couple of whom are pictured above, as well as his old friends--want to know what this all means.

Let's see, Iowa beats Purdue, 34-17; Penn State beats Ohio State, 17-10; Minnesota beats Michigan, 23-20, and Northwestern beats Wisconsin, 51-48 [in football, not basketball].

I'll tell you what all of that means. It means Iowa is in the Big Ten title hunt. It certainly means the Hawkeyes could be playing in another New Year's Day bowl game.

Everything that looked so bleak a few weeks ago is looking pretty darn exciting right now.

If coach Kirk Ferentz can put together something he specializes in--outstanding football in the second half of the schedule--this could very well turn into a spectacular season yet.

If it happens, that 23-3 loss at Iowa State a month ago will be forgotten by everyone except those on the Cyclone Nation message boards.

Stay tuned.


I spent most of yesterday afternoon attending a very nice, very relaxing picnic [regularly known as the Maly/Downing Fall Extravaganza] at Jester Park.

The sun was shining brightly. I drank a glass of burgundy.

I took a nap on a big blanket.

When I woke up, I heard a rumor that Iowa State had lost to [of all teams] Baylor, 23-13.

At least that's what the man known as "Alive in Clive," who also attended the picnic, told me. "Alive in Clive" sometimes tells funny stories, but the Cyclone defeat was confirmed a few minutes later by my 11-year-old grandson.

When Judy Garland, aka Dorothy, woke up, she was back home in Kansas after spending some time in the Land of Oz--thanks to a twister.

When I woke up, I thought I, too, had been transported to Oz.

I couldn't believe it. Iowa State -- a football team that was doing everything right a few weeks ago while pulverizing Iowa, 23-3 -- was now doing everything wrong.

What happened yesterday -- Big 12 doormat Baylor ending a streak of 37 conference road games without a victory -- was a shocker.

It was embarrassment to the Iowa State program. Things like that shouldn't be happening to a school that was supposed to be contending for the Big 12 North title.

When the season began, there wasn't a team on the schedule that the Cyclones couldn't beat.

But when they had to struggle to escape Army [a team buried neck-deep in the power rankings], 28-21, on Sept 23, some eyebrows were raised.

Now, there are eyebrows being raised throughout Cyclone Nation.

Iowa State plays at Missouri next Saturday. Anyone confident enough about that one to bet me the Cyclones will win?


So I suppose you figure I might've flipped out, thinking Iowa could be back in the Big Ten title chase.

Well, let me show you where I'm going with this.

You don't really think Penn State [6-0 overall and 3-0 in the conference] is going to do what ESPN announcers Ron Franklin and Bob ["Don't Forget, I Recruited All Those Players Charlie Weis Is Winning With"] Davie and "run the table," do you?

I'd like to see Joe Paterno, the Nittany Lions' coach who is almost old enough to have invented football, have a great year, too, but I'm not betting for one minute that he's going to get a free pass in road games against Michigan [Saturday] and Michigan State [Nov. 19].

Iowa, meanwhile, is the team that could run the table. The Hawkeyes have home games left against Indiana [Saturday], Michigan [Oct. 22] and Minnesota [Nov. 19] and are on the road at Northwestern [Nov. 5] and Wisconsin [Nov. 12].

Suddenly, Michigan [1-2 in the conference] and Wisconsin [which gave up 674 yards of offense to Northwestern] look very beatable. It's Northwestern [3-2 and 1-1] that worries me the most.


I wonder what the coaching future of Lloyd Carr [pictured on the left at the top of this column] is at Michigan?


Speaking of futures, let's hope Chuck Long doesn't take the heat for the problems --and there are plenty -- at Oklahoma.


The next time they hand out thistles at the local paper, they won't have to go far to find a target.

All those folks who work for the opinion pages need to do is zero in on the sports department and/or the numbnuts in the building who made the decision to not delay the city edition so the results of the St. Louis-San Diego National League playoff game could have been put into the paper.

The city [or final] edition came out today with this line:

N--St. Louis at San Diego

In other words, the game was still being played when the paper came out.

The game began at 10 p.m. and took 3 hours 7 minutes to play. That means it was over at 1:07 a.m. or thereabouts.

In the old days --like for Iowa and Iowa State football games at Southern California, UCLA and Oregon State -- the city edition would be "held" so the results could be included.

Now no thought is given to that type of newspapering.

The local paper has surrendered to the Internet and TV in a big-time way.

Horrible. Who's got the thistle?

[By the way, for a while I was thinking about writing this for Jeffrey Bruner's blog because nobody else sends him any comments. I'm starting to feel sorry for the guy].

As for the game the local paper won't have in print until tomorrow, the Cardinals beat the Padres, 7-4, to sweep the series in three games.

Afterward, the Cardinals sprayed Reggie Sanders with champagne and chanted, "MVP! MVP! MVP!"

Said Sanders: "It never gets old. It was fun. When they say, 'MVP,' it's numbing. It's not like it's over yet.'"


While on the subject of the local paper, I'm wondering when new editor Carolyn Washburn plans to write something so we know where she stands on what's going on.

Washburn has been on the job since just after Labor Day and, as far as I've seen, hasn't let us know what she thinks about anything.

How's the place going to win any "Best of Gannett" awards if she remains anonymous?


A Des Moines guy sent me this e-mail:

"Wasn't it interesting in Saturday's paper that they didn't have a staff
writer cover the Des Moines Bucs' home opener?"

Well, the Bucs now rank No. 51 on about a 50-space totem poll at the local paper. Any day now, I expect the Bucs to have to pay for an ad to get their scores in the paper.


Transplanted Iowan Mark Robinson sent this e-mail:

"It is pure hell living in California if you want to get any news of Iowa football. Especially on game-day. I had to spend Friday and Saturday in the San Jose Convention Center, so I couldn't watch the game on ESPN.

"Driving home with my business partner, we were stuck with ESPN-radio, and what a waste of radio waves they are. They commented on the Iowa game twice during the four hours we were on the road. And, I was told that ESPN-television dumped the Iowa game with about four minutes left and switched to the Ohio State-Penn State game.

"You and I know that coverage of Iowa games often has been delayed to allow for previous games to finish, even if those games were lousy.

"And there is this, Ron. I am listening to the archived broadcast of today's game on Yahoo as I write, because I pay for it.

"Gary Dolphin just called Purdue player Dorian Bryant.....Dorian Gray. I heard it with my own ears.

"I hope that is not a portent of things to come.

"Well, Gary did correct himself right away, with no allusion to the Picture.

"Take care, Ron, and keep writing."

Mark Robinson

[Mark, you're right about ESPN dumping the last few minutes of the Iowa-Purdue game in favor of going to Ohio State-Penn State. It certainly seems to me that finishing a game the network started makes more sense than going to the pregame introductions at another game. As far as I'm concerned, it's bad television].