There were only two seconds left in the game when Iowa kicker Rob Houghtlin trotted out onto the turf at Kinnick Stadium and set a deep, agonizing quiet over the largest crowd ever to gather here.
It seemed not one of the 66,350 moved beneath the all-weather ponchos and slicker suits as Houghtlin lined up to kick his fourth field goal of the day -- the one that would move No. 1 Iowa to a victory over No. 2 Michigan, 12-10, and boost the Hawkeyes on their way to Big Ten and national championships.
It was a good dream, and real. And wouldn't you know they'd tear the goal posts down in the end? They laughed at the rain and the cold and at every old injury known to humankind. Houghtlin made the 29-yard field goal as time expired in what will stand as one of the proudest moments in Iowa football history. The Hawkeyes did it as they never had before, and hung on to their unbeaten record and top ranking.
"Was this the biggest win ever at Iowa?" Hawkeyes Coach Hayden Fry asked rhetorically when it was over. "There's no doubt it was. I'm even gonna vote us No. 1 tomorrow."
Iowa now stands at 6-0, Michigan 5-1. Before today, only one Big Ten school, Ohio State, had ever defeated Michigan in consecutive seasons since Bo Schembech-ler took over as coach 17 years ago.
Said Fry, "I told Coach Schembechler before the game and repeated it after, 'It's too bad that one team had to lose this one.' I told him he had a great team, and he said, 'But you have the greatest.' That was quite a compliment coming from Coach Schembechler. He even gave me a pack of chewing gum."
"The real thing to remember about the game," Schembechler said, "is Iowa's offense. With (quarterback Chuck) Long and (running back Ronnie) Harmon on the same team, it makes it extremely difficult to shut them down. We can and did keep 'em out of the end zone, but we couldn't shut 'em down."
The final drive started at the Iowa 22. Trailing by 10-9, Long, who completed 26 of 39 passes for 297 yards, quickly went to work and played as he had most of the afternoon: as if there was no other place in the whole world he'd rather be than facing the nation's toughest defense, a defense that had given up an average of only 4.2 points a game in its first five outings.
Big passes to tight end Mike Flagg and fullback Fred Bush, and quick hits off tackle by Harmon, who gained 120 yards on 32 attempts, put the Hawkeyes in position for their final, triumphant score.
"Coach Fry asked me if we were close enough for me to kick it," Houghtlin said. "And I said we were . . . I don't remember (the kick), to be perfectly honest. But I knew when I hit it that it was good."
The Hawkeyes might not have needed that final field goal had the officials not apparently missed on an important call earlier in the game. Long threw to wide receivers Scott Helverson and Bill Happel to move as close as the Michigan 14 before finding out just what it feels like to run smack into the flexed muscle of a defense that had given up only one touchdown all year long.
After Harmon was dropped for a four-yard loss, Long went to pass on third and 12 from the 18, but was forced from the pocket by the hard rush of linebacker Jeff Akers. While still in flight, Long threw to Helverson racing across the back of the end zone, not six inches from the end line. Helverson made the catch directly in front of the close coverage of Brad Cochran, but the officials ruled he was out of bounds. A television replay indicated Helverson had his left foot in bounds before falling out of the end zone.
"I was definitely in," he said.
On the next play, Houghtlin made his first field goal, a 35-yarder, with 9:05 left in the first period. Iowa led, 3-0.
But Michigan was quick to answer. Jamie Morris set up the day's only touchdown with a brilliant, 60-yard kickoff return to the Iowa 31. From that point, Wolverines quarterback Jim Harbaugh handed off to tailback Thomas Wilcher and let him do most of the dirty work. Wilcher gained seven, then four yards. The Wolverines' cause was helped a little further when Harbaugh passed complete to split end Paul Jokisch, and the Hawkeyes were penalized half the distance to the goal for pulling Jokisch's face mask.
That put the ball on the Iowa six. Harbaugh, under great pressure, rolled left and shoveled a pass to running back Gerald White, who pulled a pair of defenders into the end zone with him. There was a little more than six minutes left in the first half and Michigan led, 7-3.
To start the other Iowa scoring drive of the half, Long passed 25 yards to Harmon to put the ball on the Michigan 20. Two plays later he threw nine yards to Helverson and it appeared the Hawkeyes would score a touchdown.
That, however, was not to be. Harmon, meeting an implacable front line, was shoved back for losses of three and five yards. His five-yard pass reception from Long only made the Hawkeyes' distance from the goal line seem that much longer. That's when Fry called on Houghtlin to kick his second field goal, a 27-yarder with four seconds to go in the half. Iowa trailed, 7-6.
Long attemped his 1,000th pass as a college quarterback during Iowa's next scoring drive, though that seemed only a minor accomplishment on this day of major ones. He once again moved his offense deep into Michigan territory but fell short of pushing his bunch into the end zone. There came Houghtlin, trotting onto the field with all the care and worry of a man swatting flies on his front porch. This field goal, coming with 14:20 left in the final period, went for 36 yards and gave the Hawkeyes a 9-7 edge.
After the game, Schembechler complained that his offense failed all afternoon to get good field position. It failed, all right, and against a defense that was playing nine first-year starters. The Wolverines used a 17-yard run by fullback Bob Perryman and a 24-yard one by Morris to move down to the Iowa 17. But that's as close as they got. After being penalized five yards for illegal procedure, Harbaugh shovel-dumped the ball to Morris for another five-yard loss. Harbaugh gained four around right end and then came Mike Gillette to kick a 40-yard field goal, giving Michigan a 10-9 lead with 10:55 to play.
A few minutes later, Houghtlin missed a 44-yard try, kicking it short and wide right. As if afraid the action would somehow be different if they sat down, the 66,350 stood frantic in the misty rain the rest of the day, until magic fell upon the stadium and the climactic end came. How did Fry prepare Long and Houghtlin for the final drive?
"The greatest thing I could do was grab Chuck and Rob by the shirt and tell them to do their thing, to be comfortable with it and to do it just like in practice. I told Chuck to go with what he was most comfortable with and keep his poise. And that's exactly what he did." Michigan 0 7 0 3 10 Iowa 0 6 0 6 12
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