The # 1 vs. # 2 in the nation match-up dominated the voting among our panel of experts for this category of our Hall of Fame. Iowa's 81-80 victory over Georgetown in 1980, sending the Hawks to the Final Four, finished a distant second. The nominations for the Hawkeye Nation.com Hall of Fame were submitted by Hawkeye Nation.com readers.
Here are my thoughts and some of the comments made by voters regarding the greatest game in Hawkeye history:
Iowa came into that late afternoon game in Iowa City ranked # 1 in the nation, led by a big-time Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Chuck Long. The Hawks' all-star lineup also included the likes of Ronnie Harmon, Larry Station, Billy Happel, Scott Helverson, Hap Peterson, Mike Flagg, Robert Smith, Rob Houghtlin and many more.
Hayden Fry coached an aggressive style of play and Bill Snyder masterminded a wide-open offensive attack. These guys were just so much fun to watch.
This game had so many big plays…
- Station's third-down, freight-train tackle prior to Iowa's game-winning drive.
- Helverson caught a sure TD pass in the back of the end zone, but the official on the spot was the only person in America who didn't see that #87 was in bounds. The blown call cost Iowa four points.
- Mike Flagg caught a pair of HUUUGE third-down passes on Iowa's final drive, giving the Hawkeyes two first downs and keeping hope alive.
- David Hudson—a freshman at the time—carried the ball on a third-down play in Michigan territory and picked up seven yards to ensure that Houghtlin would be kicking well within his range.
And then, of course…
With two seconds left, Houghtlin nailed a 29-yard field goal (his fourth of the day) to give the Hawkeyes the victory.
The moment that Houghtlin's kick sailed through the uprights on that late afternoon in 1985 was probably the single-greatest moment for Hawkeye football fans in the last 40 years. Perhaps the greatest ever.
And it came at a time when the state's farmers were mired in a depression…and everyone in Iowa needed something to get excited about.
The Hawkeyes certainly didn't disappoint anyone in their classic #1 vs. #2 match up at Kinnick Stadium.
Comments from other voters:
"How can this not be #1? Well, a slippery question. But when you have #1 vs. #2 and it comes down to a last-second field goal…and Iowa wins the game…that has to take the cake."
"Unless Iowa wins its first football or basketball national championship sometime in the next 50 years, this will still probably be the biggest and most memorable win in the history of Iowa athletics. Recently, it was named the 62nd greatest game in history by CollegeFootballNews.com."
"By defeating the #2 team in the country in front of Brent Musburger, Ara Parsegian and a national television audience, the Hawkeyes cemented and legitimized their spot as the #1-ranked team in the land. When Rob Houghtlin split the uprights from 29 yards out as time expired and the Kinnick Stadium bleachers emptied, it was the pinnacle moment of the Hayden Fry era at Iowa."
"Name one Hawk fan over the age of 18 who did not either watch it, read about it, revel in it or tell someone else about it. Can't do it…didn't think so."
"The most epic Big Ten football game of the current age, with the unstoppable force (Iowa's offense) meeting the immovable object (Michigan's defense). Add to that two Hall of Fame coaches in Bo Schembechler and Hayden Fry, an overcast October sky, and the nation watching the #1 and #2 teams in the rankings doing battle to the final seconds."
Breakdown of the voting…
Each member of the panel voted for three games (1st gets 3 points, 2nd gets 2 points, 3rd gets 1 point). The panel includes some very knowledgeable sports personalities, including…
- Jon Miller … Publisher of Hawkeye Nation.com web site and "Hawkeye Nation" magazine.
- Gary Dolphin … Play-by-play radio personality for the Hawkeyes.
- Marc Hansen … Columnist for the Des Moines Register and one of Iowa's all-time best sports writers.
- Ron Maly … Voted Iowa's sportswriter of the year four times.
- Larry Cotlar … Weekday morning host on KXNO 1460-AM.
- Bob Helmers … Producer/Director for ESPN and ESPN+Plus.
- Jamie DeMoney … Writer for Hawkeye Nation.com web site and "Hawkeye Nation" magazine.
- Steve Deace … Popular radio personality on KXNO 1460-AM.
- Marty Gallagher … Me.
- The 12-10 victory over Michigan in football in 1985 (29)
- 81-80 victory over Georgetown that put the Hawks into the 1980 Final Four (16)
- The victory at Ohio State in 1987 when Marv Cook caught the TD pass from Chuck Hartlieb on the final play (6)
- Beating Michigan 9-7 in the fall of 1981 (5)
- Drilling Michigan in the Big House in 2002 (4)
- Beating Nebraska 10-7 in the fall of 1981 (3)
- The comeback victory at Michigan State in the first game following Chris Street's tragic death (3)
- Defeating California 38-12 in the 1958 Rose Bowl (3)
- The 13-9 victory over Minnesota in 1939 that likely clinched the Heisman Trophy for Nile Kinnick (2)
- Iowa's last-minute football victory over Purdue in 2002 (1)
Look for the Hawkeye Nation.com Hall of Fame inductees in other categories—Athletes and At-Large Bids—in the next couple of weeks. Feel free to e-mail your comments and feedback to me at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.
(Marty Gallagher founded the popular web site IowaSportsOpinions.com and now publishes IowaPrepsToday.com. E-mail him at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.)