IOWA CITY –
Hell of a football game…
The Iowa Hawkeyes allowed 31 points and 580 yards of total offense. They may have coughed up their No. 1 national ranking. Were they downcast after a hard-earned 35-31 win over unheralded Michigan State Saturday afternoon? No.
They were euphoric.
Chuck Long’s two-yard touchdown run with 27 seconds left gave Iowa a 35-31 win over the Spartans before 66,044 screaming fans at Kinnick Stadium. A national television audience saw more twists and turns than in 40 miles of bad road, but the final twist turned a very possible Hawkeye loss into victory.
Iowa had a third-and-one at the MSU two-yard line with 31 seconds left in the game and the Spartans ahead, 31-28. Long faked a handoff to Ronnie Harmon, and almost everyone in Johnson County bought the fake as Harmon tried to leap through the line.
But Long still had the ball.
He sprinted around the right end with absolutely no one breathing down his neck, danced into the right corner of the end zone, and hugged a teammate or two.
“That might have been the greatest fake of all time in college football,” Iowa Coach Hayden Fry said. “I believe I could have scored on that one, and I’m really slow.
“Chuck’s not all that fast,” Fry said. “I noticed he hoisted the ball over his head at the three or four-yard line, and I was about to have a heart attack.”
Had Long not scored on the play, Iowa would have been confronted with a fourth down and no timeouts remaining.
“I probably shouldn’t say this,” Fry said, “but we had already called the next play. We were going to put our field goal players on the field and fake it instead of going for the tie. Thank gosh we didn’t have to.
“We were going for it all the way. I didn’t want a tie in our first game in the Big Ten.”
“It was a gutsy call by Coach Fry because I either had to get in (the end zone) or get out-of-bounds,” Long said.
But that’s neither here nor there. Iowa is 4-0 and in a five-way tie for the Big Ten lead with a 1-0 mark. Michigan State is 2-2.
“I think today our team learned a lesson about life,” Fry said. “If you keep the faith, hang in there and keep executing, you’ll be real successful. It’s something you can’t learn in a textbook.”
Iowa’s win was a bit of a payback for the Spartans’ 17-16 win at Kinnick last fall that virtually knocked the Hawks out of the Rose Bowl.
“Certainly we hand’t forgot about that,” said Fry.
Long’s touchdown run capped a 12-play, 79-yard drive that began with 4:01 left. He completed six of seven passes to get the Hawks to the MSU 11. Harmon then ran seven yards off tackle to the 4. Harmon ran around the end for two more, but couldn’t get out of bounds, so Iowa spent its last timeout. Then Long scored.
Michigan State returned Marv Cook’s kickoff to its 38 with 20 seconds left. Two plays gained 23 yards. But on the finale, Iowa safety Devon Mitchell tipped a Bobby McAllister pass away from flanker Mark Ingram in the end zone, and the deed was done.
Iowa’s offense didn’t wait for the game’s close to make hay. Long completed 30 of 39 passes for four touchdowns and 380 yards. The 30 completions improved his school record by one. He was 29-of-39 against Texas in last December’s Freedom Bowl.
Hawkeye receiver Scott Helverson grabbed nine of Long’s throws for 102 yards. Tight end Mike Flagg and Robert Smith caught two touchdown balls apiece.
The individual glory was shared by the two teams. MSU sophomore tailback Lorenzo White was brilliant. White didn’t carry the ball in the game’s last nine minutes, but still managed 39 rushes for 226 yards and two touchdowns.
White left the field with an ankle injury after a 16-yard run to start the fourth quarter. He came back for one more rush on MSU’s last possession, then yielded to freshman Craig Johnson.
Johnson was no day at the beach for a weary Iowa defense. He toted the ball eight times on that final drive, including a 25-yard touchdown run that put the Spartans ahead. Johnson had 89 yards in 10 attempts.
If Michigan State’s 305 yards of rushing weren’t enough, how about almost the same in passing?
Spartan quarterback McAllister, a red-shirt freshman, wasn’t supposed to do harm with his arm. In two previous starts in place of injured Dave Yarema, McAllister completed only 10 of 32 passes for 99 yards. MSU beat Western Michigan the week before by the measly score of 7-3.
Saturday, McAllister was 18 of 27 for 275 yards and no interceptions. He ran the Michigan State offense masterfully.
“We felt coming into the game that we could run,” MSU Coach George Perles said. “Bobby did a better job, and that allowed our running game to work so well.” Iowa’s defense opened the day leading the nation in total defense (154.3 yards a game) and rushing defense (17.7 yards).
Kiss those babies goodbye.
Michigan State had 25 plays in which they gained 10 or more yards. Nine of those were carries by White, 11 were McAllister completions.
“Obviously, our defense didn’t play too well,” Fry said. “They (the Spartans) all did a great job. They hadn’t shown hardly any of those things they did out there, and we had to adjust during the game. They did some things we hadn’t prepared for. They had a great game plan and executed extremely well.
“And obviously some of our players didn’t tackle too well.”
“They were mentally prepared for us,” Iowa defensive tackle Jon Vrieze said. “It seemed like they knew the defense we were in before they ever snapped the ball.
“Lorenzo is such a good back,” said Vrieze. “I can’t say enough about him.”
The game had they early appearance of a fourth consecutive Iowa romp. Long fired a 60-yard touchdown strike down the right sideline to a streaking Smith for a 7-0 lead five minutes into the game.
Flagg carried half the MSU defense into the end zone with him on a 17-yard reception that made it 13-0.