BYU, Iowa Test Positive for Courage : Football: Cougars, Hawkeyes dealt with ordeals and adversity to win Holiday Bowl berths.
Brigham Young and Iowa took divergent paths to today’s Holiday Bowl, but each passed a test of faith to get here.
For BYU (8-3-1), it came in the fourth game.
The Cougars were 0-3, injured and written off when they faced Air Force in their Western Athletic Conference opener. The Falcons already were 3-0 in the WAC and 4-0 overall, poised to run away with the conference title.
Instead, BYU controlled the game, taking a 21-0 lead into the fourth quarter and winning, 21-7.
“The whole key to our season was the game against Air Force,” BYU Coach LaVell Edwards said. “They were 3-0 in the WAC. We got it all pulled together, we beat them and I thought we really controlled that game. Then we went on from there.
“One of the real highlights of my coaching career has been the attitude the team has kept. . . . That group of guys kept everything together.”
For Iowa (10-1), its crucible might have come in Columbus, Ohio, somewhat later in the season.
Having lost decisively to Michigan four weeks earlier, the Hawkeyes went to Ohio State on Nov. 1 trying to stay in the Big Ten race.
While the Iowa team was preparing for the game that Friday, a gunman went on a rampage on the Iowa campus, killing five people before turning the gun on himself.
The team heard the news, but details--and the names of victims--were sketchy until the next morning.
Somehow, the Hawkeyes still went out and won, 16-9, holding the Buckeyes scoreless for all but the second quarter. All-conference quarterback Matt Rodgers went down in the third quarter with a sprained knee, but backup Jim Hartlieb filled in capably. Lineman Leroy Smith set a school record with five sacks.
“For our young men to keep their focus was truly incredible,” Iowa Coach Hayden Fry said. “The players had girlfriends, two of the coaches had wives on campus and we didn’t know who was dead until the next morning. I think our victory helped relieve Iowa a little from the tragedy.”
Fry said both teams have this similarity: “Both have made as much progress as any teams in the nation.”
Now two warhorses--Fry is 62 and Edwards 61--and their teams that have grown and matured will try to pass another test: winning a bowl game. The seniors on BYU have lost the last two, virtually the only achievement (short of a national championship) that has eluded quarterback Ty Detmer.
Likewise, none of the key players on Iowa was around the last time the Hawkeyes won a postseason game in the 1987 Holiday Bowl.
The seventh-ranked Hawkeyes also have another goal. “Our motivation right now is to win 11 games and be the winningest team in the history of Iowa football,” Fry said.
The big worry for Iowa is to keep Detmer in check, and the Hawkeyes figure they need their offense to do that. The formula is simple: Keep the ball, eat up the clock and try to keep Detmer off the field.
“We haven’t really played a team that throws the ball so much, except Illinois,” Iowa All-American defensive end Leroy Smith said. “Our offense is gonna be the key--keep the ball away.”
Said all-conference linebacker John Derby, “I think our offense will do a great job of holding the ball. They’re gonna have to. After (BYU’s 52-52 tie with San Diego State) I said, ‘We all better go on diets ‘cause we’re all gonna be running like that.’
“We’re not gonna be able to stop (Detmer); you hope to control him, keep him from big plays. I think (the Cougars) do frustrate (defenses). I’ll let you know Monday if they frustrate us.”
The key for BYU might be its ability to run the ball enough to keep Iowa’s staunch defense guessing. Senior Peter Tuipulotu and freshmen Jamal Willis and Mark Atuaia combined for 1,500 yards rushing and more than five yards per carry. Tuipulotu is also a dangerous receiver when he slips underneath coverages.
“They have that great wide-open offense that Ty runs, but they have a great running game, which people don’t realize,” Derby said.
Fry said, “We don’t think their running game gets near enough recognition.”
The Hawkeyes have been known as a second-half team that has worn down opponents, but Fry wouldn’t mind making some big plays and getting off to a quick start today.
They have the capability, with a well-rounded offense featuring all-conference players in quarterback Matt Rodgers, running back Mike Saunders and receiver Danan Hughes. “I kinda think our offense is being overlooked,” Fry said.