Iowa, BYU Followed Paths of Difficulty : Holiday Bowl: The Hawkeyes were burdened by uncertainty of campus tragedy. The Cougars lost their first three games.
Brigham Young and Iowa took different paths to today’s Holiday Bowl, but each passed a test of faith to get here.
For Brigham Young (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 were already 3-0 in the conference and 4-0 overall, poised to run away with the league title.
Instead, Brigham Young 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,” Coach LaVell Edwards said. “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), the key came at Columbus, Ohio.
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 preparing for the game that Friday, a gunman went on a rampage on the Iowa campus, killing five before turning the gun on himself.
The team heard the news but details--and the names of victims--were sketchy until the next morning.
The Hawkeyes won, 16-9, holding the Buckeyes scoreless for all but the second quarter. During the third quarter, all-conference quarterback Matt Rodgers suffered 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 Iowa and Brigham Young have this similarity: “Both have made as much progress as any teams in the nation.”
Brigham Young’s seniors have lost their last two bowl games. Iowa’s last postseason victory came 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 quarterback Ty Detmer in check.
“We haven’t really played a team that throws the ball so much, except Illinois,” Iowa’s Leroy Smith said. “Our offense is going to be the key--keep the ball away (from Brigham Young).”
Said all-conference linebacker John Derby: “I think our offense will do a great job of holding the ball. They’re going to have to. After (Brigham Young 52-52 tie with San Diego State) I said, ‘We all better go on diets, because we’re all going to be running like that.’
“We’re not going to 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.”
But Brigham Young has more than Detmer. 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.
“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.”
Edwards said of Iowa: “The big concern for me is they run the ball so well. I’ve always felt you like to take the run away first, but they’re so balanced you have to play very balanced (defense) all along.”
Unlike Iowa, which had only one major defensive lapse--during the second half of its 43-24 loss to Michigan--the Brigham Young defense has been inconsistent.
Tony Crutchfield, Brigham Young’s all-conference cornerback, said the Cougar defense will earn respect today: “We know we can go in there and play with them. We know they’re going to run the play-action pass, try to catch us on our heels. We’ll be ready.”