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Iowa’s 20th-best football win of the past 50 years

[ 0 ] August 10, 2014 |
Dave Strobel and Iowa were Rose Bowl-bound after a win over Michigan State in 1981. (Register file photo)

Dave Strobel and Iowa were Rose Bowl-bound after a win over Michigan State in 1981. (Register file photo)

Iowa coach Hayden Fry said it best.

“Doing something like this was beyond our wildest dreams,” Fry said after Iowa took the final step to an unlikely Rose Bowl berth with a 36-7 thrashing of Michigan State on Nov. 21, 1981 at Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes had started the year with a string of 19 straight non-winning seasons. They ended up in Pasadena.

In the final week of the regular season, Iowa had to beat Michigan State and Ohio State had to win at Michigan. The stadium erupted when public address announcer Rev. Robert Holzhhammer passed on this final: Ohio State 14, Michigan 9.

Iowa was leading the Spartans 16-0 when the announcement was made with just over 6 minutes remaining in the first half. Michigan State cut the deficit to 16-7 at halftime. But Iowa rode the legs of Phil Blatcher, who had started the season the No. 3 tailback, to victory. Blatcher finished the game with 247 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

As the final minutes melted off the Kinnick Stadium clock, there was a chant of “Rose Bowl, Rose Bowl.” The Iowa band belted out “California, Here I Come,” and fans tore down the goalposts. Iowa’s first Rose Bowl since Jan. 1, 1959, was the reward for winning a share of the Big Ten title with Ohio State and an 8-4 regular-season record.

The Hawkeyes were shut out 28-0 by Washington in Pasadena. But the streak of 19 straight non-winning seasons was buried for good.

 

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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