Today is the first Iowa-Minnesota football game I’m missing in many moons.
Maybe it’s my imagination, but these games didn’t seem to be quite as important in, say, 1994. Or maybe some games were just flat-out wacky.
The goofiest Hawkeyes-Gophers battle for Floyd of Rosedale that I ever saw wasn’t 2002, when Iowa clinched a share of the Big Ten title and its fans tore down one set of Metrodome goal posts and unsuccessfully tried to march them out of the Dome.
Although, that was wacky-wack.
The topper was 1994, when Iowa beat the Gophs in the Dome, 49-42. Here’s my account:
MINNEAPOLIS – “It was crazy,” said Iowa’s Matt Sherman. “That was crazy.”
What was so crazy about Iowa’s 49-42 football win over Minnesota Saturday night in the Metrodome?
Was it crazy that Sherman, the freshman quarterback, scored on a pass thrown by Tim Dwight, the freshman running back?
Was it nutty that Dwight, the kamikaze kickoff teams player, gave Iowa the first of this game’s 12 touchdowns by blasting the ball loose from a Gopher return man and into the arms of teammate Demo Odems, a wide receiver?
Was it cuckoo that Iowa scored another touchdown the same way in the second half with Mick Mulherin and Bo Porter assuming the roles of Dwight and Odems?
Was it wacky that the Hawkeyes sealed a win in a WAC-like game with a defensive stand on Minnesota’s final possession?
“It’s a crazy place up here,” said Iowa senior tackle Parker Wildeman, whose sack of dangerous quarterback Tim Schade helped muffle that last Gopher gasp.
Crazy? The Metrodome? Saturday night?
How crazy is it when Iowa defensive backs coach Bob Elliott can say “We knew if we held them under 50 that we had a chance to win,” and keep a semi-straight face?
How goofy is it when Iowa seemingly gets away with Sedrick Shaw tiptoeing out of bounds on his way to a 46-yard TD reception, but things are evened out later in the first half when Hawk receiver Anthony Dean is ruled out of play on what appeared to be a clean catch in the end zone?
You want more peculiarities? Minnesota’s tight end falls down while in motion and doesn’t screw up his team’s play. Iowa kicker Brion Hurley has an extra-point kick blocked, but it still flutters over the goal post. Minnesota’s Mike Chalberg bangs a field goal off the right crossbar, but it caroms through for three points.
How crazy was this night? Some young guy wearing a cape with Hawkeye colors and a headless gorilla suit stormed the field late in the game. He didn’t seem the slightest bit unhappy over being escorted to a trip to the city lockup.
And if all that wasn’t enough, something truly bizarre happened after the game. Three Iowa players, led by Hausia Fuahala, doused a statue of a pig with a large tub of water.
Why would those brutes do such a thing to Floyd of Rosedale ?
“We were welcoming him back home,” Fuahala said with a devilish grin.
And then various Hawkeyes took their turns carting Floyd around the field before packing him up for another year in Iowa City. Offensive lineman Matt Purdy tried to carry the big pig by himself, but he was understandably tired after mowing down Gopher defenders all night. One of his linemates, Fritz Fequiere, helped Purdy lug the swine to the Iowa dressing room.
“I saw Purdy struggling,” said Fequiere. “I tried to lift that thing by myself while it was at our complex, and it’s plenty heavy.”
Fequiere, Purdy and their fellow O-linemen were smoking stogies after the game, yet another thing you simply don’t see in college football.
“Coach (Frank) Verducci promised us he’d give us cigars if we won,” Fequiere said.
And why not? At 5-5-1, Iowa came up a half-win short of being bowl-eligible. But unlike last year’s 37-3 Alamo Bowl/Alamodome fiasco of a loss to California, the Hawks finished this season with a dome doozy. Illinois and Indiana can go to their little bowls with 6-5 marks. Iowa’s guys had no inferiority complexes Saturday evening, even though the team the defense they had just mugged had more leaks than the LAPD in the O.J. Simpson case.
“See how much heart we got!” a wild Wildeman said on the way through a tunnel toward the locker room.
“We never quit! Hawks never quit!”
In a cooler moment 15 minutes later, Wildeman said, “We can take this win and run with it. I think we proved to everybody around the Big Ten and the state that we’re a team to be reckoned with.
“I really think we’re a bowl team, and anybody that argues with that is crazy.”
There’s that word again. Wins over Michigan State, Northwestern and Minnesota and a tie with Purdue do not a powerhouse make, but you can’t deny Iowa did a splendid job in the season’s last month. It’s easy to cave in when you’re 2-5. To go unbeaten the rest of the way isn’t chopped liver.
“We lost to the two Rose Bowl teams, and Michigan’s a perennial Rose Bowl team,” Wildeman added. “I’m not making excuses. But this isn’t a mediocre team.
“We had a mediocre season, but this isn’t a mediocre team.”
The Metrodome muckety-mucks put a picture of Floyd on the stadium Jumbotron television screens when Minnesota assumed a 32-28 lead six minutes into the second half. It was wishful thinking, because that not-so-little piggy was headed for a southbound plane before night’s end.
“In my five years at the University of Iowa,” Fequiere said, ” Floyd hasn’t stayed in the same place twice.”
He has now. And Fuahala and his merry pranksters were happy about it. As happy, in fact, as pigs in slop.