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Great Moments in Iowa-Michigan History, #1: Iowa 12, Michigan 10 (1985)

Iowa-Michigan week is upon us, and in celebration we're hopping in the way-back machine to check out some of Iowa's most glorious moments in their long history with the Wolverines.


What, like it could really be any other game?  It's the only 1 versus 2 game Iowa's ever been involved in, it's one of Iowa's biggest wins over Michigan, and it's arguably the most exciting finish in the history of the Iowa-Michigan series. Suffice to say, it was a pretty damn big deal.  Unlike many of the seasons profiled in this series, 1985 didn't come out of nowhere -- quite the opposite, actually.  It was one of the most highly anticipated seasons in Iowa history; Iowa started the season in the top five and Chuck Long was a Heisman contender from the moment he decided to return for his senior season.  The season began with Iowa living up to their lofty ranking and recording lopsided blowouts over Drake, Northern Illinois, and Iowa State.  After a thrilling win over Michigan State and a more comfortable win over Wisconsin, Iowa headed into the epic clash with Michigan, 6-0 and #1 in the nation.

The game itself lived up to the hype, with both teams trading punches and exchanging the lead several times throughout the game.  Iowa was controversially denied a touchdown early in the game when Scott Helverson was ruled to have stepped out of bounds on a touchdown catch; they had to settle for the first of four Rob Houghtlin field goals.  On the ensuing kickoff, Michigan's Tom Wilcher returned the ball sixty yards to set up Michigan's lone touchdown of the game.  That touchdown wasn't without controversy, either

Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh several times asked for and received permission from Referee Jerry Hendrickson to walk away from his center and halt the 25-second count because of “excessive crowd noise.”

FUN FACT: one of the lesser-known translations for "Harbaugh" is "total fucking pussy."  Michigan held that lead until early in the fourth quarter, when Houghtlin's third field goal gave Iowa a 9-7 lead.  Once again, the lead was short-lived.  Michigan again used a good kickoff return to set up a scoring drive and a few plays later, Michigan kicked a field goal and took a 10-9 lead with five minutes and change remaining -- plenty of time for Chuck Long & Co. to put together a game-winning drive, which is precisely what they did.  They covered over sixty yards, converted a few tough third downs, and set up Houghtlin for a potential game-winning kick with just two seconds remaining. You know what happened from there.

That the game came down to a last-second field goal for Iowa was slightly remarkable, given how thoroughly they dominated the offensive stat categories in the game

Get this: Iowa ran 84 rushing and passing plays to Michigan’s 41. The Hawkeyes won the yardage battle, 422-182. And they had ball possession 38 minutes and 5 seconds to Michigan’s 21:55.

That is domination -- although it's worth damn little if you can't convert all those advantages into actual, you know, points.  Which Iowa couldn't do, aside from Houghtlin's clutch field goals.  Still when you're the #1 team in the land and you're playing the #2 team in the land, it doesn't really matter how you do it -- just winning is the thing.  And Iowa did just that and delirious, joyful pandemonium reigned in Kinnick Stadium and throughout Iowa City.  

Unfortunately, that moment of glory was as good as it got for Iowa fans during the '85 season; two weeks later, the undefeated season, the number-one ranking, and the realistic shot at a national championship went swirling down the drain after a loss to -- who else? -- Ohio fucking State.  Iowa rebounded from that loss to pound the holy hell out of Illinois (59-0), escape West Lafayette with a tight win over Purdue (27-24), and wrap up a Rose Bowl bid with a lopsided win over Minnesota (31-9).  Sadly, the Rose Bowl was once again the turd in the punch bowl of Iowa's season as Iowa self-destructed and lost to UCLA, 45-28.  Still, while the end of the season was disappointing, the #1 vs. #2 game against Michigan was pretty damn special and Houghtlin's kick is immortal -- and for this week, at least, that's more than enough.