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."