Playing Through the Pain
Last Friday the Iowa football team was in Columbus for its game the next day with Ohio State when it heard the horrible news from Iowa City. Gang Lu, a former Iowa graduate student in physics who was angry because his dissertation had been passed over for an academic honor, had opened fire in two campus buildings, killing four people before also killing himself; another wounded victim died on Saturday. According to Iowa athletic director Bob Bowlsby, the game would have been canceled had it been in Iowa City, but "because the official travel party was already in Columbus at the time of the incident, it seems appropriate to meet our obligation to the Big Ten Conference and Ohio State." So the game was played.
At first it was suggested that the Hawk-eyes wear black mourning patches on their jerseys, but the players decided they would rather play in all-black helmets. So off came the tiger-hawk emblems, the gold stripe, the AMERICA NEEDS FARMERS decal and even the American flag. Then the Hawkeyes went out and beat the Buckeyes 16-9, for only the second win by an Iowa team in Columbus since 1959.
It looked shaky for the Hawkeyes near the end of the third quarter, when quarterback Matt Rodgers, who had passed for one touchdown and run for another, went down with a sprained left knee. That put the pressure on the Iowa defense and on backup quarterback Jim Hartlieb, but both responded beautifully. Hartlieb ran a mistake-free attack, and the defenders turned back two late Buckeye thrusts.
The key stat of the game was that Iowa held Ohio State to a season-low 221 total yards. "Our game plan was to stop the run," said Hawkeye linebacker John Derby, "because Ohio State's passing attack isn't that good." Leroy Smith led the Iowa defense with six sacks.
Before going to the locker room after the game, the Iowa players ran over to salute a group of 4,000 Hawkeye fans sitting in a corner of the stadium. The emotions shared there by Iowa fans and players had little to do with the game, but a lot to do with the sadness back home.
A Bowl for Bowling Green
One of the season's more heartwarming stories is unfolding at Bowling Green, where new coach Gary Blackney has taken a team that was 3-5-2 last season and turned it into the Mid-American Conference champion. The Falcons wrapped up the title by beating Miami of Ohio 17-7 to run their record to 6-0 in the conference and 8-1 overall. The Falcons got an assist from Kent, which upset Toledo to eliminate the only MAC team that still had a chance to catch them.
Blackney, 46, was an assistant for 21 years at Brown, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, UCLA, Syracuse and Ohio State, and had about given up on getting a head coaching job, largely because of demands on his time. His wife, Lauretta, is confined to a wheelchair and has needed 24-hour nursing care since suffering an aneurysm five years ago. Blackney also has four children to look after.
"I wasn't sure anybody would want me as a head coach, and I was resigned to being the best assistant I could be," said Blackney. But Jack Gregory, the athletic director at Bowling Green, gave him a chance, and for that, said Blackney, "I'll always be grateful to him."
Blackney already has gone a long way toward repaying Gregory. Bowling Green had gone 20-31-3 in the previous five seasons under Moe Ankney, but Blackney has changed the team's attitude. The Falcons gained confidence early in the year with a solid performance in a 24-17 loss to West Virginia, followed by a win over Cincinnati. "They came to realize no matter what the circumstances, they had what it takes to win," said Blackney.
Now that the Falcons have locked up the MAC's automatic berth in the Dec. 14 California Raisin Bowl, Blackney at least can relax and begin to make his travel plans. "I'm going to have to figure out how to get my daughter married on November 30 and still get to the Raisin Bowl," he said. He sounded as if it was a dilemma he didn't mind a bit.
The nation's longest winning streak reached 22 games last Saturday when Allegheny College of Meadville, Pa., defeated Ohio Wesleyan 24-7 in Delaware, Ohio. The victory also clinched Allegheny's second consecutive North Coast Athletic Conference crown and virtually guaranteed the Gators, the defending NCAA Division III national champions, a spot in this year's playoffs.
The Gators handled Ohio Wesleyan without much help from Stanley Drayton, the 5'9", 180-pound tailback known as the Bottle Rocket, who went into the game averaging 148.8 yards a game. The Rocket was bottled up by a Wesleyan defense built around 6'4", 340-pound nose-guard Keith Rucker, who recently became the first Division III player ever invited to play in the Hula Bowl. But in holding Drayton to 62 yards on 23 carries with no touchdowns (his 26 TDs this season tie a Division III record), the defense opened up other options for quarterback Ben Cammarano, who threw for one TD and ran for another.
"They tried to isolate the run," said Drayton, who attended junior high in Cleveland with Michigan's Desmond Howard and once ran against the real Rocket, Raghib Ismail, in an NCAA track meet. "That was a mistake. Teams have to worry about all 11 players on the other side of the football."
Allegheny closes its regular season this Saturday at Duquesne, a team it beat 51-0 last season. Gator coach Ken O'Keefe now has a 22-0-1 record in his first two seasons at Allegheny, the only blemish being a 30-30 tie with Juniata of Huntingdon, Pa., in last season's opener.
Hmmmmm. Certain struggling Division I teams in need of a new coach might file that away for future reference.
Central Michigan's 14-14 tie with Eastern Michigan was the Chippewas' fourth tie in a weird 5-1-4 season. That, of course, tied the NCAA record set by Temple in 1937 and, well, tied by UCLA in 1939....
Trailing Weber State 49-14 early in the third quarter, Nevada scored 41 unanswered points in the final 27 minutes and 16 seconds for a 55-49 victory and the biggest comeback in NCAA history....
After Utah State coach Chuck Shelton announced his resignation last week, effective at the end of the season, his 2-6 Aggies defeated previously unbeaten Fresno State 20-19....
Before Navy's game with Notre Dame, Middie coach George Chaump said he had "the best 0-7 team in the country." Presumably, after Notre Dame's 38-0 win, Navy now is the best 0-8 team in the country. This week the Midshipmen play 0-9 Tulane.
LeRoy Smith wasn't the only Falcon who flew high in the MAC-clinching win over Miami.
Ohio Wesleyan came uncorked trying to bottle up Drayton and his unbeaten Allegheny team.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
California's Russell White, a junior running back, carried 23 times for 229 yards, including TD runs of one, five and 72 yards, and returned two kicks for a total of 99 yards in a 52-30 win over Southern Cal.
Stacy Harrison, Alabama's senior strong safety, intercepted two passes in a 13-7 win over Mississippi State, returning one 64 yards for a TD and, with the other, ending a Bulldog drive at the three with 1:29 left.
Eric Grey, a junior tailback for Hamilton in Division III, rushed 32 times for 259 yards, scoring on runs of 23, 25, 45 and 61 yards, as the Continentals came back from a 9-0 deficit to beat Tufts 29-15.