THE MEMORY STADIUM: IOWA VS. OHIO STATE, 1983

By Adam Jacobi on November 3, 2017 at 8:05 am
A party for the ages in the end zone.
CBS/YouTube (TheHawkeyeHistorian)
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As with all 2017 opponents, this isn't the first Iowa's played Ohio State, and it wouldn't be the first time we've beaten them. Here's a look back as we turn yesterday's victories into today's lessons.

On the list of great Iowa seasons of the Fry and Ferentz eras, 1983 won't show up on many lists — but maybe it should. The Hawkeyes won nine regular season games, one of only nine such seasons since the expansion to 11 games, set a then-Big Ten record for offense by dropping 713 yards on Northwestern in a 61-21 victory, went to Penn State and came out with a win* (and a still-standing record for most points scored by an opponent at Beaver Stadium), spent a few weeks in the Top 10 and finished the year ranked No. 14. 

*Experts maintain this victory sparked an almost maniacal hunger for Happy Valley blood and tears in young offensive line coach Kirk Ferentz, a feast he has satisfied four times and counting.

Oh, and there was a game against an Ohio State team the Hawkeyes hadn't beaten in 21 years. The Buckeyes were on a 9-game winning streak dating back to the past season, had just marched into Oklahoma and won by 10 points, and featured future NFL veteran Mike Tomczak at quarterback. In head coach Earle Bruce's last three games against the Hawkeyes (dating back to his previous tenure at Iowa State), his teams had outscored Iowa 106-14. A 17th straight victory for Brutus and company seemed inevitable.

When the smoke cleared, Iowa was welcoming itself to the Top 5 for the first time since Forest Evashevski was stalking the sidelines.

Some keys to victory:

Tendencies are made to be broken. One of Iowa's leading receivers on the day was tight end Mike Hufford, which likely came as a bit of a surprise to Buckeye defenders considering Iowa had ignored its tight ends during the first two games of the season. The ruse worked as planned, Hubbard opened up the Iowa passing game working down the middle, the voracious Buckeye defenders were on their heels, and Hufford finished with five catches for 74 yards and the Hawkeyes' first touchdown of the game.

A quarterback's only as good as the day he's having. Tomczak came into the game as the top-rated passer in college football (yes, after two games, but still). Iowa's rapidly improving secondary and relentless pass rush flummoxed the junior into perhaps his worst game in the scarlet and gray; he finished just 13-for-34 for 125 yards and three interceptions. With Keith Byars dinged up after a great first half, Iowa's great linebacker Larry Station helped take care of the Buckeye rushing attack, and there would be no Buckeye answer until the game was effectively over. 

Get your playmakers involved creatively. Given how much backs Norm Granger and Owen Gill meant to the 1983 Hawkeyes, Ronnie Harmon had to find a way onto the field, and he did so as sort of a hybrid running back and receiver (he had 22 rushes and 29 catches on the year). Even in the opening minutes, we see a middle screen for Harmon (who had been split out wide) and a gorgeous 17-yard counter where Harmon had lined up as an upright tight end. He later catches a juggling 27-yard catch in the third quarter, and he finished with four catches for 61 yards.

The patient hunter brings home dinner. With the Hawkeyes clutching a precarious 13-7 lead late in the fourth quarter and facing a pivotal 3rd and 7 deep in their own territory, Fry noticed the Buckeyes' tightening press coverage and went big. With Harmon double-covered and DB Garcia Lane coming on a blitz, Long had wideout Dave Moritz matched up 1-on-1 with Shaun Gayle, and the big-armed sophomore dropped a deep pass right in his receiver's hands, dead in stride and with enough to let Moritz scamper the rest of the way for a clinching 74-yard score. The party was on at Kinnick Stadium, and Reverend Bob probably should have read the goalposts their last rites over the PA — if anybody could hear over the crowd's roar, one might as well have lasted forever, and that aches to be woken up again under the lights.


NOTE: the title of this feature, uh, "borrows heavily" from The Memory Palace, a truly world-expanding podcast by Nate DiMeo. Add it to your podcasts and to your life, if you haven't already; you'll be better for it. We imitate because we admire, and because it's not plagiarism if you link to it.

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