Given all the anticipation surrounding Iowa’s upcoming Orange Bowl appearance vs. Georgia Tech, this is the perfect time for a quick stroll down memory lane to revisit the all-time great Hawkeye bowl performances.
The Hawkeyes have had their fair share of success in the postseason under a number of different coaches, including Forest Evashevski in the 1950s, Hayden Fry in the '80s and '90s, and now Kirk Ferentz in this decade.
Iowa’s overall bowl record coming into the 2010 Orange Bowl stands at a respectable 12-10-1. Here is a look at the top historical performances.
No. 5: Iowa 55, Texas 17, Freedom Bowl, Dec. 26, 1984
Led by flashy junior quarterback Chuck Long, the Hawkeyes put up 31 points against the Longhorns in the third quarter to blow the game wide open. Long finished the game 29-for-39 with 461 passing yards and six touchdowns, all school records.
This historic victory was most satisfying for a certain Texas native and Iowa head coach. Hayden Fry indicated after the game that, “This definitely was the biggest win of my career. Being from Texas, you don’t get the chance to beat the U of T very often. I have never had a victory more meaningful to me.”
This game served as the springboard for Iowa’s historic 1985 season.
No. 4: Iowa 37, Florida 17, Outback Bowl, Jan. 1, 2004
Coming off the 38-17 drubbing at the Orange Bowl the year prior, Iowa made its second trip to the sunshine state in as many years a memorable one.
The 2003 Hawkeyes were a senior laden team led by quarterback Nathan Chandler, offensive linemen Robert Gallery, place-kicker Nate Kaeding, safety Bob Sanders, and running back Fred Russell.
It was Russell who shined brightest on this day, as he garnered game MVP honors after rushing for 150 yards on 21 carries. His 34-yard touchdown run to daylight late in the third quarter would put the Hawkeyes up 34-10, demoralizing the Gators and essentially putting the game on ice.
No. 3: Iowa 39, San Diego St. 38, Holiday Bowl, Dec. 30, 1986
The Holiday Bowl has been known for exhilarating contests throughout its history. Iowa played a major role in establishing that reputation, with two visits to San Diego for this game in the 1980s.
Iowa’s first Holiday Bowl in 1986 was a seesaw affair against the hometown favorites, San Diego State. Things looked good for the Aztecs as they grabbed a 35-21 lead early in the fourth quarter.
But a Mark Vlasic 29-yard touchdown pass to tight end Marv Cook and a fake extra point that lead to two more points pulled Iowa to 35-29 with just over eight minutes left. Another Vlasic touchdown pass to his other tight end, Mike Flagg, gave Iowa a 36-35 advantage with precious few minutes left on the clock.
San Diego St. wasn’t finished as the Aztecs marched deep into Iowa territory late in the fourth quarter and grabbed a 38-36 lead with just 47 seconds left.
The Hawks would have yet another answer as Kevin Harmon returned the kickoff 48 yards to the San Diego St. 37-yard line. The game would come down to the final play of the game, as money place-kicker Rob Houghtlin would nail a 41-yard field goal on the game’s final play.
No. 2: Iowa 30, LSU 25, Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1, 2005
This is the game that gave Hawkeye fans everywhere the play affectionately referred to simply as “The Catch.”
LSU had just taken a 25-24 lead on a brilliant drive lead by freshman quarterback JaMarcus Russell. There were just over 10 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter as quarterback Drew Tate took the snap from his own 44-yard line and dropped back to pass. The clock had started following an Iowa penalty on the prior play, but neither Tate, nor the Iowa bench realized it. If they had, surely a timeout would have been called.
As it turned out, not calling the timeout probably benefited Iowa, as there appeared to be some confusion in the LSU secondary. The LSU defensive back let wide receiver Warren Holloway streak past him, likely thinking he had safety help deep. He didn’t.
The Iowa offensive line was able to hold off an LSU blitz just long enough and Tate heaved the ball deep downfield. Holloway was able to run under it in stride at the 15-yard line and keep his balance as he came down with the ball. He got a good chip block from Ed Hinkel that allowed him to shed the tackle of LSU’s Travis Daniels. Holloway crossed the goal line as time expired.
Officially, it would go down as a 56-yard touchdown pass. Almost equally as stunning was that it was Holloway’s first touchdown as a Hawkeye. What a way to go out.
Incidentally, this play happens to be very highly ranked in my new book titled The 50 Greatest Plays in Iowa Hawkeyes Football History published by Triumph Books. Check out this book for the complete story on all the greatest plays in the rich history of Iowa Football. Both Gary Dolphin and Kirk Ferentz wrote forewords for the book.
No. 1: Iowa 38, California 12, Rose Bowl, Jan. 1, 1959
The 1958 Iowa team, coached by the late Forest Evashevski, was perhaps the greatest in Iowa history. The Rose Bowl win and 8-1-1 campaign was enough to earn a mythical national football title. Iowa was awarded the Grantland Rice Trophy, presented by the Football Writers Association of America to the nation’s No. 1 football team.
The 1958 team was lead by All-American quarterback Randy Duncan. Iowa took a high-octane offense into its second Rose Bowl game in three years and dominated the Pacific Coast champion Cal Bears with a punishing rushing attack the likes of which the Rose Bowl had never seen before.
In the single greatest running play in a day filled with great running plays for Iowa, senior Bob Jeter racked up an 81-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to put a game that was already one-sided in Iowa’s favor permanently out of reach for California.
Altogether, the Iowa offense set the following Rose Bowl records: most rushing yards by a team (429), most total yards (516), most rushing yards by an individual (194) by Jeter, and longest run, 81 yards by Jeter.
Best of the Rest
Here are a few other bowl games that just barely missed the cut, but are worth a brief mention:
1957 Rose Bowl: Iowa 35, Oregon St. 19
1987 Holiday Bowl: Iowa 20, Wyoming 19
2009 Outback Bowl: Iowa 31, South Carolina 10