IOWA CITY, OCT. 31 -- They're playing hot potato with the Big Ten title out here in the flatlands. Eventually, some team will have to win it because the rules say so, and because somebody has to lose to the Pac-10 in the Rose Bowl.
Indiana could have put itself in fine position today with a victory against Iowa in the rain. But the 11th-ranked Hoosiers, previously undefeated in conference play, couldn't hold on to a fourth-quarter lead. A touchdown and two late interceptions allowed unranked Iowa to win, 29-21, and further confuse things.
Junior quarterback Chuck Hartlieb guided Iowa on an 84-yard fourth-quarter touchdown drive that finished with fullback David Hudson's one-yard dive for the game-winning points. Iowa defensive backs Dwight Sistrunk and Kerry Burt had critical fourth-quarter interceptions to end scoring threats.
Indiana (4-1 in the Big Ten) was removed from the conference lead when Michigan State (4-0-1) beat Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio.
Today's game was a capsule of everything the Big Ten has stood for this season. The Hawkeyes led, 13-0 -- which could have been double that -- then looked on mortified as Indiana came back behind substitute quarterback Dave Kramme to take a 21-20 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Only in a conference where quarterbacks traditionally have meant nothing to some coaches, would the top-ranked passer in the league and the fourth-ranked passer in the nation be benched because his team was behind, 20-7, at halftime.
"He wasn't handling the pressure well, he wasn't poised," Indiana Coach Bill Mallory said afterward. At the end of the first quarter when Iowa was cruising, 13-0, Dave Schnell -- the league's best through the first half of this season -- had no completions in five attempts and the Hoosiers (6-2, 4-1) had a grand total of five yards total offense to Iowa's 182.
So, after halftime, in came Kramme, a starter earlier in his career. It proved to be an ingenious decision. Ernie Jones, perhaps the best unknown receiver in the nation, started getting open and started getting the ball (six receptions, 116 yards, two touchdowns). Anthony Thompson, a standout sophomore running back, started breaking tackles. And it looked as if the Hoosiers had moved a step closer to going to the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 1967 team gave Indiana a New Year's Day present.
Thompson, who has never rushed for fewer than 77 yards in a game in two seasons of Big Ten play, ran two yards for the touchdown that got the Hoosiers within 20-13 late in the third quarter. That completed a 94-yard drive.
Kramme then began a run of 10 straight completions. The eighth went to Jones for 32 yards and put Indiana on top, 21-20, early in the final quarter.
"The first half was as poor a half as we've played, with one exception," Mallory said. "But I felt good in the fourth quarter with the kind of momentum we had going."
He had every reason to feel that way. The Hawkeyes (6-3, 3-2) were self-destructing, punting on every series of the half, and about to go down before the home crowd of 67,700.
But Iowa had something left: an 86-yard drive that would end in Hudson's one-yard touchdown run that got the home team back on top with 10:29 to play. Hartlieb was putting together a pretty good game himself: 19 completions in 27 attempts, no interceptions, no sacks, 271 yards and a touchdown.
A couple of third-down plays enabled Iowa to score, then hold off Indiana. Both were off Hartlieb's resourcefulness. On the last drive, Hartlieb was faced with third and 16, but he hit receiver Travis Watkins for 19 yards to keep the drive alive.
Kramme didn't cool off a bit, but his receivers did. The Hoosiers had moved down to the Iowa 35, but Ken Allen dropped what would have been a 15-yard gain, and on third down the sure-handed Jones dropped another 15-yarder. Punt.
Iowa got the ball with just six minutes to play, and immediately faced third and six, which is when the Hawkeyes did their best work of the day. Hartlieb fired sidearm to his tight end, Marv Cook, who took the four-yard toss and turned it into a 60-yard gain, Iowa's longest play of the year.
Indiana's Kramme threw a couple of desperation passes as the clock ran out and both were intercepted, leaving the Big Ten title up for grabs.
The Big Ten rarely has had stranger seasons than this one. Ohio State came in the favotite, but found it had no offense to match the powerful defense.
Michigan could have been better, but has injuries and car accidents destroyed its defense. And like every team in the league, its quarterback isn't very good.
Minnesota opened some eyes by winning its first five games, but those were against Cal, Central Michigan, Northern Iowa, Purdue and Northwestern.
In nonconference games, the league is 15-12-3. And if Michigan State or Indiana (who play each other in two weeks) can hold on and win, it will be the fifth team to represent the Big Ten at the Rose Bowl in this decade. "I'm tellin' y'all, a dogfight," Mallory said. Indiana 0 7 7 7 21 Iowa 13 7 0 9 29
Iowa -- Early 35 pass from Hartlieb (Houghtlin kick)
Iowa -- FG Houghtlin 23
Iowa -- FG Houghtlin 37
Ind -- E. Jones 41 pass from Schnell (Stoyanovich kick)
Iowa -- Bass 3 run (Houghtlin kick)
Ind -- Thompson 1 run (Stoyanovich kick)
Ind -- E. Jones 32 pass from Kramme (Stoyanovich kick)
Iowa -- Hudson 1 run (pass failed)
Iowa -- Houghtlin FG 28
A -- 67,700
Indiana Iowa First downs 16 23 Rushes-yards 31-68 46-163 Passing yards 237 282 Return yards 18 41 Passing 15-33-3 20-28-0 Punts-average 7-33 4-43 Fumbles-lost 2-0 3-2 Penalties-yards 8-91 8-72 Tim
RUSHING -- Indiana: Thompson 16-35, Powell 6-13, Kramme 6-15. Iowa: Hudson 18-60, Stewart 99-51, Harmon 13-
PASSING -- Indiana: Kramme 11-20-2, 157 yards, Schnell 4-13-1, 77. Iowa: Hartlieb 19-27-0, 271, Poholsky 1-
RECEIVING -- Indiana: E. Jones 6-116, Jorden 5-58. Iowa: Cook 4-94, Harberts 3-52, Flagg 3-57.