Everything about Iowa's bowl matchup against Tennessee rekindles memories — and unique perspective — from Chuck Long.
Regarding Iowa's first trip back to the Gator Bowl since 1983, Iowa's all-time leading passer and 1985 Heisman Trophy runner-up joked that he's glad they changed the name to the TaxSlayer Bowl.
"One of my worst games as a Hawkeye," Long said, recalling his four-interception performance in Iowa's 14-6 loss to Florida amid unseasonable sub-freezing wind chills in Jacksonville, Fla.
"It was bone-chilling cold, and what I like to remember more than the Gator Bowl is the opponent. I had a much better game against Tennessee the year before."
Absolutely he did. And it was a program-changing performance.
In the 1982 Peach Bowl, Long threw for 306 yards and three touchdowns as Iowa defeated Tennessee — a Johnny Majors-coached squad with future NFL stars Willie Gault and Reggie White — 28-22 in Atlanta, Ga.
Grizzled Hawkeye fans probably recall Long's second TD pass, one of the game's signature moments. On third-and-4 from Tennessee's 18 in a 7-7 game, Long scrambled right and heaved the football toward the back of the end zone. Ronnie Harmon, then a freshman, snatched the ball in double coverage and kept one foot in bounds for a touchdown.
Perfect execution? Not quite.
"I was trying to throw the ball away," Long said. "I did not see Ronnie at all. … I was throwing off my back foot with pressure trying to get the ball out of bounds."
Long's arm strength would improve over the next several years, as would the perception of the Iowa program.
What Hawkeye fans probably forget about that Tennessee game was that Iowa was still a program looking for validation under fourth-year coach Hayden Fry. Sure, Iowa had gotten to the Rose Bowl the year before — but that team lost four games, including by a 28-0 score to Washington in Pasadena, Calif.
Playing and beating a talented team from the Southeastern Conference was what effectively put Hawkeye football on the national map.
"The bowl victory against Tennessee," Long said, "really started to validate the Hayden Fry regime.
"It proved we belonged with the big boys. We weren't sure of that after the Rose Bowl loss the year before."
Thirty-two years later, the Iowa program finds itself in a new era but a similar position. After five consecutive lukewarm seasons under 16th-year coach Kirk Ferentz — Iowa has gone 34-29 since the 2009 team garnered the program's only BCS bowl victory (the Orange) since the 1959 Rose — there is curiosity about the state of Hawkeye football.
Long, now a Big Ten Network analyst, understands that there are a lot of unsettled Hawkeye fans after this year's team assembled a 7-5 record against a schedule that included just one top-20 opponent (Wisconsin).
Even though Tennessee brings a 6-6 record and a very young roster (24 true freshmen have played this season) to Jacksonville, Iowa comes into the game as a 3.5-point underdog.
In other words, the perception of Iowa football needs a jolt, especially among those who buy the tickets. While Tennessee quickly sold out its 8,000-ticket allotment for the TaxSlayer Bowl, Iowa was struggling a week later to reach 4,000.
"They have a chance to excite the fan base again," Long said. "It's a game they need to do that. I think that's key for that staff and just to get back (momentum). And there's nothing like a bowl victory to do that."
Another thing beating Tennessee would accomplish is to square Iowa's Gator/TaxSlayer record to 1-1.
That importance is not lost on the most decorated quarterback in Hawkeye history.
"It's a memory I like to forget," Long said, "Hopefully they can correct it. Which is a beautiful thing."
Here's what Hawkeye reporter Chad Leistikow and columnist Rick Brown are looking for leading up to Iowa's Jan. 2 TaxSlayer Bowl game against Tennessee.
IOWA'S BOWL HISTORY
Overall record: 14-12-1
1957 ROSE: Iowa 35, Oregon State 19. Kenny Ploen was the game's MVP.
1959 ROSE: Iowa 38, California 12. Bob Jeter's 194 rushing yards were part of Iowa's bowl-record 516 yards.
1982 ROSE: Washington 28, Iowa 0. The Hawkeyes committed five turnovers.
1982 PEACH: Iowa 28, Tennessee 22. Iowa's first bowl win under Hayden Fry.
1983 GATOR: Florida 14, Iowa 6. Tom Nichol's fumbled punt snap on a cold night resulted in a Gator touchdown.
1984 FREEDOM: Iowa 55, Texas 17. Chuck Long completed 29-of-39 passes for 461 yards and six touchdowns.
1986 ROSE: UCLA 45, Iowa 28. Hawkeye Ronnie Harmon lost four fumbles.
1986 HOLIDAY: Iowa 39, San Diego State 38. Rob Houghtlin kicked a 41-yard field goal on the game's final play.
1987 HOLIDAY: Iowa 20, Wyoming 19. Merton Hanks blocked a 52-yard field goal try with 46 seconds left.
1988 PEACH: North Carolina State 28, Iowa 23. Chuck Hartlieb threw for 428 yards but Iowa committed seven turnovers.
1991 ROSE: Washington 46, Iowa 34. The Huskies scored two defensive TDs to put Iowa in a 33-7 halftime hole.
1991 HOLIDAY: Iowa 13, Brigham Young 13. Carlos James preserved the tie by intercepting 1990 Heisman winner Ty Detmer's pass at the goal line.
1993 ALAMO: California 37, Iowa 3. The Hawkeyes lost Fry's first return to his native Texas as Iowa coach.
1995 SUN: Iowa 38, Washington 18. Sedrick Shaw rushed for 135 yards and Tavian Banks added 122.
1996 ALAMO: Iowa 27, Texas Tech 0. Iowa limited Doak Walker Award winner Byron Hanspard to 64 yards on 18 carries.
1997 SUN: Arizona State 17, Iowa 7. ASU limited Banks, the nation's No. 4 rusher, to 52 yards on 14 carries.
2001 ALAMO: Iowa 19, Texas Tech 16. Nate Kaeding's 47-yard field goal with 44 seconds left gave Kirk Ferentz his first bowl win.
2003 ORANGE: Southern California 38, Iowa 17. Heisman-winning QB Carson Palmer helped USC score 31 straight points after Iowa led 10-7.
2004 OUTBACK: Iowa 37, Florida 17. Iowa's Fred Russell ran for 150 yards; Florida rushed for 57.
2005 CAPITAL ONE: Iowa 30, LSU 25. Drew Tate threw a 56-yard TD pass to Warren Holloway as time expired.
2006 OUTBACK: Florida 31, Iowa 24. The Gators' first two TDs came on a blocked punt return and 60-yard interception return.
2006 ALAMO: Texas 26, Iowa 24. Longhorns QB Colt McCoy was the game's offensive MVP.
2009 OUTBACK: Iowa 31, South Carolina 10. Doak Walker winner Shonn Greene rushed for three TDs; Iowa forced five turnovers.
2010 ORANGE: Iowa 24, Georgia Tech 14. Iowa gave up 155 yards, including 12 through the air, for Ferentz's only BCS bowl win.
2010 INSIGHT: Iowa 27, Missouri 24. Freshman Marcus Coker ran for 219 yards and Micah Hyde's 72-yard interception return provided the winning points.
2011 INSIGHT: Oklahoma 31, Iowa 14. The Hawkeyes held the nation's No. 4 offense to 275 yards but didn't score until the fourth quarter.
2014 OUTBACK: LSU 21, Iowa 14. The Hawkeyes' two touchdown drives were 1 yard and 4 yards.