Editor’s note: This story by Register sports writer Maury White originally ran on Sept. 18, 1977, the day after the Cy-Hawk series was rekindled after a 43-year hiatus.
“A helluva game. It lived up to expectations. I wondered if it could, with all the build-up.”
— Gov. Robert E. Ray, entering the Iowa locker room, Sept. 17, 1977
IOWA CITY, Ia. – The scoreboard in Kinnick Stadium showed Iowa had pulled out a tense 12-10 victory over Iowa State Saturday in their first meeting in 43 years, but the real winner was the entire state.
Forget about Moo U. vs. Herky the Turkey or the Big Eight against the Big Ten. When native son went against native son, each aided by some talented imports, the great game so long awaited unfolded in exciting spurts.
The hitting was so fierce that the sounds of collision might well have reached West Branch and the roars of an enthusiastic, well-behaved crowd of 59,725 could have been audible for a few more miles down the road.
Players, fans tense
The scoring was crammed into a span of 7 ½ minutes in the middle of the first half. The players were tense at the start, so were the fans. It took two bolts from the blue to really get the screaming going.
Tom Buck, a Cyclone sophomore, grabbed a punt and fled 63 yards, first behind a wall of blockers, then sprung by a block by Mike Clemons, to put Iowa State ahead. It was 7-0 when Scott Kollman converted.
‘We were in a state of shock. It was a courageous play. Most players wouldn’t have tried a return, but he made a big play in a big game,” said Iowa coach Bob Commings.
FROM THE VAULT:
Fans were not even decently settled again – on 38 seconds had elapsed – when sophomore tailback Dennis Mosley of the home forces came reversing on what was supposed to be a sweep of right end.
“It’s designated for outside, but I happened to hit the seam at the right time,” said Mosley, who tippy-toed through the crowd, led Doug Dunham get the safety, then turned it on to finish a 77-yard romp.
On Thursday, Iowa placekicker Scott Schilling was lost via a freak accident on Finkbine golf course. That seemed important when his replacement, punter Dave Holsclaw, missed a chip shot for the extra point.
It didn’t turn out to be vital. Almost not time later, Hawkeyes Jim Molini and Joe Hufford soundly whacked quarterback Terry Rubley and the ball popped loose to be recovered by tackle Joe Willis on the 19.
Joe Lazar, a husky junior fullback from Tama who once was the center of a furious recruiting struggle between these schools, rammed over the middle. He did it so well, in fact, that Iowa came back with the same play.
Shooting through ground cleared by guards Mike Mayer, Doug Benschoter and center Jim Hilgenberg, Lazar made nine yards the first try, then slashed for 10 and the touchdown on the second.
Hoping to get back to par on extra points, Commings elected to have his quarterback, son Bob, jr., try for a two-point play. Cyclone Tom Boskey loused up that plan in a hurry.
Again, in the long run, it didn’t matter, for the superb Iowa defense that limited Iowa State to 41 yards in 43 rushes didn’t allow another touchdown, although Kollman kicked a 42-yard field goal into a stiff wind after Boskey recovered a fumble to put his team in scoring position.
The scoring was done after 3 ½ minutes of the second quarter, but the defenses were just getting warmed up for the kind of smashing tackling that must have made Vince Lombardi and those other fellows in Valhalla smile happily, since the game was on regional television.
Iowa’s third straight
It was the first time since the first three games of the 1964 season Iowa has won three straight, but no one even had time to think about that in the happy mob scene in the dressing room.
Funny thing, or perhaps it wasn’t because competitors obviously played in this ball game, it was easy to hear words of praise for the other side in the dressing room.
Commings, jr., or The Kid as he is going to be known if he keeps on winning football games for the Old Man, is a freshman who came into the season hoping to play just a little.
Now, he’s playing a lot – and playing well. Saturday morning, he awoke with a sore throat and a cold and could barely croak. During the second half, the Hawkeyes often had to ask that signals be repeated.
“That’s when we were down by the Iowa State fans. I tried to get them to quiet down,” said The Kid, with the sly humor the Old Man sometimes features, “but they wouldn’t cooperate.”
It is unusual to have one major-college team being in the hands of a rookie quarterback in the second game of the season. Most of this game was played with two such.
After Rubley coughed up the ball that led to the winning touchdown, Coach Earle Bruce elected to put in freshman John Quinn, who quarterbacked Dowling of West Des Moines last year.
Considering the tensions and pressures in this game that has been so eagerly awaited, both were marvelous. And both were good for rookies in any circumstances.
Both teams thought they had strong defenses, and both do. Aside from Mosley’s long run, neither showed great style offensively, although both have potential for more than happened.
“We pulled in our horns in the second half. We went for it on fourth down a couple of times earlier – I have so much confidence in the defense – but later we didn’t want to give anything away,” said Coach Commings.
The final half was a constant flow of punt exchanges, because neither offense could crack the defense. It was getting tense and one of the keys concerned the wind.
Iowa had its choice starting the third quarter and elected to head into the 15-mile-per-hour wind, so as to have it for the fourth period. That became important.
With slightly less than four minutes remaining, Kollman tried a 44-yard field goal into the mini-gale. It was short and to the right. With that threat over, the Hawkeyes had it if they could keep it.
Holsclaw comes through
They could. Iowa couldn’t move the ball – a situation that prevailed most of the second half. But Holsclaw, doing what is his regular job, got off a 48-yard punt.
“When he had to do it, he did it,” said Coach Commings. “I think that last punt of his was the single biggest play of the game. It was thrilling, thrilling, thrilling.”
Bruce might disagree. Fact is, he almost certainly would opt for Mosley’s run. Whatever, with the Cyclones pinned back on their 24, another of those things occurred that made this meeting of in-state rivals so exciting.
Quinn took the snap and promptly encountered Willis and John Harty, a 6-6, 260-pound freshman who played tackle for Heelan of Sioux City last year.
“I saw the ball pop out and went after it,” said Harty, in the midst of jumping up and down on the field as Hawkeye fans destroyed the north goal post.
“Hey,” he said, with a big smile, “it’s great to be a Hawkeye.”
Harty, you will recall, signed his letter of intent in the governor’s office, thereby causing all sorts of commotion in recruiting circles.
It had to be great to be a Hawkeye, and being a Cyclone wasn’t all that bad. Sure, Iowa State lost, but it lost a game in which the defense played with distinction and a lot of people cared.
Tom Rusk, one of the Iowa linebackers, was ecstatic.
“They ran formations we didn’t practice a lot against. Coach (Larry) Coyer told us what to do and we just went out and played football."
Right on! Coach Commings credited Coyer with an exceptional job of preparing “the best defense I’ve been associated with as a player or coach.”
And what did Coyer have to say?
“I don’t want to hear that Big Eight bleep anymore,” he said, in the flush of the victory celebration.
That oughta start the waters rolling for 1978.