University of Iowa Athletics
1981 Iowa Football Squad
Iowa-10, Nebraska-7. The season opener, one of the greatest upsets in school history, offered fans a glimpse of the glory that would follow.
After a disappointing loss to Iowa State, the Hawkeyes gave Hayden his 100th career win, beating UCLA 20-7.
Fry put his faith in the Iowa defense and freshman kicker Tom Nichol, who booted three field goals to beat the Wolverines, 9-7, before a crowd of over 105,000 in Michigan Stadium.
Following two consecutive losses, one sportswriter exclaimed that "Iowa's dizzy rollercoaster ride of a season hit high gear...when it ripped Purdue every which way but loose in winning 33-7."
After the final gun, Coach Fry appeared before the media, wearing a shiny visor complete with flashing red lights on the brim. "Waaaaaa-Hooooo!" he yelled. "Twenty cotton-pickin' years, and we finally did it. We had a little victory cake, a little sody pop, and I got a victory hat on. Hang in there, Hawks!"
Not only did Iowa snap Purdue's 20 straight series wins, but also assured fans that, for the first time since 1961, the Hawkeyes would have a winning season.
ROSE BOWL BOUND
Good defense and the outstanding running of Iowa tailback Phil Blatcher (he gained 247 yards on 27 carries and ran all afternoon "like he was shot out of a cannon") helped the Hawkeyes defeat the Michigan State Spartans, 36-7.
But the hoopla began even before halftime, when fans heard through their radio earphones that Ohio State had defeated Michigan to give Iowa a chance at the Rose Bowl. "With two minutes left, a few [fans] put a serious list to the south goalpost by grabbing the crossbar," Gus Schrader wrote.
"As the final minute ticked away, first the south goalpost was bent asunder, and then the north one. With 12 seconds left, a horde of loyalists charged out onto the field, engulfing the players. The officials looked nervously at the final seconds on the clock, then wisely tucked their caps under their arms and hustled to their dressing room."
Fry abandoned his three-year policy by letting reporters interview players in a dressing room that Schrader said "looked like a gangster's funeral." The place was full of roses. "Somebody bought 'em by the gross."
"The Texan who brought Iowa from football's outhouse to the penthouse in just three years was holding a rose petal in one hand and had a rose decal stuck to his forehead," Register writer Ron Maly told sports fans in the paper the next day.
There were many moments to remember, but Hawkeye fans had plans to make!
About 40,000 Iowa fans wore their pride all the way to Pasadena. Officials at the posh Century Plaza Hotel thought they were ready for the Iowa invasion expected to attend the Alumni Association's "All-Iowa Bash," but they were wrong.
Instead of a crowd of 4,000, perhaps as many as 20,000 Iowa fans showed up! The liquor was gone before the festivities were scheduled to begin and escalators had to be turned off because of overcrowding. As Al Grady described the scene, "It was a madhouse!"