OCTOBER 19TH, 1985: #1 IOWA 12, #2 Michigan 10. Talking about this game is a little like talking about Christmas. What more can you say that hasn’t already been said? Well, I’m going to give it a shot. First, there was a quote in a college football magazine, looking back at the 1985 season, and it made the point that, “This was the season he (the head coach) came the closest to perfection of any of the many seasons that he patrolled the sidelines.” Was it talking about Hayden Fry? No. It was talking about Bo Schembechler, who lost this game by two points on the last play of the game, then had a 7–7 tie at Illinois that year. Which goes to show you that Michigan belonged EVERY BIT as much in their slot as one of the top two teams in the country as Iowa did. This was a TRUE #1 vs. #2 game – a rarity in the regular season. How rare? The AP poll, the first of the college football polls, was started in 1936. In a strange quirk of fate, the first games of #1 vs. #2 happened between 1943 & 1946 – and there were no less than six such games in those years – including a season-closing game on November 20th, 1943 between Notre Dame and a team called Iowa. Notre Dame won that game, just as they had beaten Michigan in a #1 vs. #2 game earlier that season. After that jumble of games involving mostly Army, Navy and Notre Dame, there wasn’t another regular–season #1 vs. #2 game until the famous “Red River Shoot–Out” (Texas–Oklahoma) in 1963, although a few months earlier, the first bowl game that featured #1 vs. #2 was fought in the Rose Bowl between USC and Wisconsin. It happened four more times between 1966 and 1971, with two such games involving Notre Dame taking on Big 10 teams Michigan State and Purdue. But in the nearly 15 years leading up to this game in 1985, it had only happened one other time. And in the 35 years since then, it has only happened nine times in the regular season. Even last year’s LSU–Alabama match–up, at the time, was only a #2 vs. #3 tilt. And one of the top team’s in college football for decades, Penn State, while they have been involved in three such match–up’s in bowl games, has never hosted a #1 vs. #2. Brent Musberger, who usually had been the master of hyperbole and overhype, was remarkably on-target when he said, “The feeling here in Iowa City is like that of the lead–up to a heavyweight championship boxing match.” And so should it be, since even this old stadium was seeing things it had never seen before – like lights – and every millimeter of seating occupied by an anxious crowd listed at 66,350. A.D. Bump Elliott, meanwhile, had the privilege of trying to figure out where to put the huge number of sports reporters, some of whom had detoured up from Kansas City for game 1 of the I–70 World Series between St. Louis and the Royals, which was to begin that evening. Elliott claimed he accounted for every last square inch of press box, finally giving his last spot available to a grumpy, nationally–known journalist from New York who did little except complain about everything, right down to the sandwiches which Elliott spent halftime passing out to everybody. Once the game got underway, both teams exercised their game plans to perfection. Iowa had studied Michigan well and had an excellent offensive game-plan that balanced the run and pass to perfection. At its point was the nation’s best QB, Chuck Long, who went 26–39 passing for 297 yards. RB Ronnie Harmon totaled almost 200 yards of offense himself, rushing 32 times for 120 yards and catching six passes for another 72 yards. Iowa controlled the ball all day, out-gaining Michigan by a whopping 422 yards to just 182 for Michigan, and keeping the ball for over 38 minutes compared to less than 22 minutes for the Wolverines. UM, who had been held to 56 plays in a stunning 9–7 loss at the Big House four years earlier, was held to just 41 plays in this game – compared to 84 for the Hawks. But Michigan, believe it or not, was also in full execution mode. They believed that by keeping Iowa from “hitting home runs” (executing big yardage plays), they could eventually force Iowa into making mistakes. And with the help of poor officiating on what ended up being Iowa’s first FG, they were correct. Long’s 18–yard TD pass to Scott Helverson in the back of the end zone was mistakenly ruled incomplete. Long also threw his only interception to kill a promising 3rd–qtr. drive, and fumbled on a key 3rd down early in the 4th qtr. that made Iowa settle for another field goal. Offensively, Michigan QB Jim Harbaugh used a new “crowd noise” rule to keep pulling out from under center in a key moment late in the 2nd qtr. before flipping a 6–yard TD pass to his fullback, Gerald White, for the only touchdown of the game, giving the Wolverines (at that time) a 7–3 lead. Iowa didn’t regain the lead until early in the 4th qtr. and then lost that lead almost as quickly – until… Now if a game is going to be – and play out as between a true #1 and #2, then the superstars are going to have to shine. And Iowa’s All–American linebacker, Larry Station, ended up making the game’s best defensive play, stopping UM running back Jamie Morris for a 2–yard–loss on a 3rd–and–2 with just under six minutes to play, and giving Iowa the ball back at their own 22. In the next 5½ minutes, despite almost turning the ball over to a dropped interception, Iowa drove the ball 66 yards to the Michigan 12–yard–line. Hayden Fry waited almost too long, finally calling a time–out with :02 left in the game, and turning the game over to FG kicker Rob Houghtlin, Iowa’s first–year kicker. It was the 2nd time in four years where Fry leaned on a player in his first year as kicker for the Hawks to do yeoman’s duty against one of the top teams in the conference – and nation’s – history. Freshman Tom Nichol kicked three up in Ann Arbor for the stunning 9–7 win four years earlier. And even though Houghtlin had, not long before this, missed from 44 yards away, he had also made three, and was asked to kick a 29–yarder from the right hash to win the game for Iowa. Automatic this kick was not. Houghtlin had strained a muscle in his leg from all the kicking he did in the Iowa State game with a wet football. He had not practiced during the week in the previous three weeks, trying to rest his aching leg. And for the guy who would eventually become “Mr. Clutch”, winning game after game on the last play, for now, this was still a former walk–on who had come from Miami (OH) the year before, and had gotten cut. After winning an intramural kicking contest in the Spring, and with Iowa having few if any alternatives after the graduation of Tom Nichol, they brought Houghtlin back and eventually put him on scholarship. Naturally, Michigan used their final time–out to try to ice the kicker. But this young man from Ohio, between the time he spent in prayer before this (and each) kick, and the gesture he gave the Michigan sideline after they called their time–out, was not going to miss – and he didn’t, splitting the uprights from 29 yards away to give the #1 Hawkeyes a hard-fought 12-10 win. The resulting roar released more emotional energy in Kinnick Stadium that, if it could have been harnessed, would have kept the entire Midwest alight for months – maybe years. Some cheered senseless – many, including a number of players and coaches – were brought to tears. Coach Fry himself let out a huge Texas whoop after the win. For a state that had been brought to its knees by the farm crisis that year, the Hawkeyes gave the state exactly what it needed – hope. In the next two weeks, Hayden would unveil a new decal, the now famous “ANF” that completed a connection between what had been a Texas coach and an Iowa population. And Iowa, who had been #1 for three weeks previously, now spent those next two weeks as the UNANIMOUS #1 in both polls, a perch not seen since, and something that seems utterly amazing, given all the “legacy” programs out there. EVERYONE was looking up to Iowa during this time, and Hawk fans were introduced to feelings and pride and joy many had never come close to experiencing, and honestly never thought possible. Obviously, the dance ended, and with the Rose Bowl, ended sadly. But still, for one Fall, this tiny state, that at the time, only produced a handful of DI-ready football players amongst its relatively small population, sat at the very pinnacle of the college FB world, and made us realize that no goal is too big, no accomplishment beyond achieving. The highlights are here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMGk5QKBmXo . And the game is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9V5nGjXNJOc . THANKS SO MUCH FOR LETTING ME SHARE THESE! ..