Iowa Rose Bowl History

This year’s Iowa Hawkeyes consistently rewarded their fans by coming up big in pressure situations. In other words, they did everything they failed to do in each of their last three Rose Bowl berths.

Iowa and its armada of supporters will arrive in Pasadena with hopes of exorcising the demons of three painful defeats between 1982 and 1991. Despite being favored in two of the three contests, the Hawkeyes were sent sulking back to the Heartland on each occasion. Head coach Hayden Fry, who used his master’s degree in psychology to transform Iowa football from laughingstock into Big Ten power, just couldn’t catch a break.

On a side note, how large was the gap between Stanford and the top of the conference during these years? The teams who vanquished Iowa in these Rose Bowls beat the Cardinal by a combined 128-56.

Jan. 1, 1982: No. 12 Washington 28, No. 13 Iowa 0
Point spread: Iowa by 2 ½
The buildup: Both sides win photo-finish conference races. Iowa (8-3, 6-2) celebrates a Big Ten title only after Ohio State upsets favored Michigan. Across the country, needing both a win over Washington State and a UCLA loss to USC to earn a Pac-10 crown, the stars align for the Huskies (9-2, 6-2) on the season’s final day. Fry allows his team, the first Hawkeye group in 20 years to earn a winning season, to let loose in its stay in SoCal.
The gory details: The first Big 10 squad not named Michigan or Ohio State to earn a Rose Bowl berth in 14 years becomes yet another Midwestern casualty in Pasadena. Jacque Robinson carries 20 times for 142 and earns MVP honors. (Not bad for a freshman, whose best sports in high school were baseball and basketball.) The game turns late in the first half, when Washington drives 60 yards for a touchdown and a 13-0 lead after stopping Iowa on a fourth and one. The Huskies maul a defense that arrived having allowed only 86.9 rushing yards per-game. Standout efforts by Reggie Roby and Andre Tippett can’t prevent the 11th Big Ten loss here in 13 years.
Best Haydren Fry postgame quote: “You have just witnessed an old-fashioned rump-kicking in every phase of the game.”

Jan. 1, 1986: No. 13 UCLA 45, No. 4 Iowa 28
Point spread: Iowa by 4 ½
The buildup: It’s a dream season in Iowa City. Quarterback Chuck Long pilots the Hawks to a No. 1 ranking in October. He’ll finish second to Bo Jackson in what at the time was the closest Heisman vote in history. Iowa (10-1, 7-1) is expected by most to handle a talented UCLA squad (8-2-1, 6-2) who owns losses to unranked USC and Washington. Unlike last time, Fry keeps his team away from Disneyland and any other Rose Bowl-related social activities.
The gory details: Neither side punts until the third quarter. Long is brilliant early but UCLA sacks him four times total. Iowa falls behind 24-10 at the break after becoming its own worst enemy, as tailback Ronnie Harmon loses four fumbles in the first half. Trailing 24-17 in the third, Iowa appears to have worked its way back. That’s when UCLA throws things into another gear and the Hawkeyes get trucked by another freshman tailback. Eric Ball, pressed into action because Gaston Green leaves in the second with a hamstring injury, tallies 227 yards on just 22 carries. He ties a modern Rose Bowl record with four touchdowns. (sprints of 30, 40, 6 and 32 yards).
Best Haydren Fry postgame quote: “Do you realize what the score would have been if they'd had fun here and been out honky-tonking?”

Jan. 1, 1991: No. 8 Washington 46, No. 17 Iowa 34
Point spread: Washington by 9 ½
The buildup: The Huskies (9-2) sit as the country’s best two-loss team. Only a late-season loss to unranked UCLA keeps Washington from completing an unbeaten conference season and playing for a share of the national title. Something has to give when Don James’ gang (who leads the country in rush defense) faces the Hawkeyes’ bruising tailback duo of Nick Bell and Tony Stewart. Iowa (8-3, 6-2) hits No. 6 in the polls before losing two of its last three and finishing in a four-way tie for first in the Big Ten.
The gory details: James’ previous Rose Bowl teams owned a knack for rising to the occasion. This group lacks any flaws in racing to a 33-7 halftime lead. Mark Brunell runs for a touchdown and throws two more to Mario Bailey. Washington’s team speed flusters the Hawkeyes, who total only 173 yards from scrimmage and trail 39-14 entering the final quarter. That’s when Iowa fights back against the Washington second-stringers to make the final score more respectable. Garbage time aside, there’s no stopping the Huskies from giving Iowa a preview of a national title-winning season to follow.
Best Haydren Fry postgame quote: “Cuz it’s a hell of a long walk to Iowa,” the head coach says, asked why his team played so well in the fourth quarter.


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