You know the feeling; your eyes open and you think, “Was it a dream?” Well, when I awoke late this morning at the Country Inn and Suites near the Cedar Rapids Airport, the Hawks were still 8 and 0. The team charter landed at about 1 AM last night, and a tired beat-up football team loaded the buses for the trip down to Iowa City. I headed to the hotel to try to get some sleep before heading back to Colorado.
Now that it is Sunday morning, I have finally settled down and I have a chance to examine the Hawks amazing come from behind victory. Coaches preach the importance of a team effort to produce a victory; this was the perfect example. A defensive effort that kept the game close when the offense couldn't gain any momentum, special teams play that produced three field goals and forced MSU to start drives from inside their 20 four times, three times in the second half, and the offense which drove 70 yards with 1:32 left to score six to win. This effort brought victory even though the defense couldn't produce a turnover or the offense couldn't produce a touchdown until the last drive. The Hawks won because of great effort, not great execution. That’s the trait of a winning team. Winning teams become great teams.
The hitting was fierce and both teams suffered player injuries. Greenwood and Sandeman appeared the most serious, as the lay motionless because of concussions. The reaction of the MSU fans to the helmet to helmet hit on Sandeman was unacceptable. I can understand the booing following the assessment of the 15 yard penalty, but the booing while Sandeman is being helped from the field was the most outrageous conduct I think I've ever witnessed in a college stadium.
But in the end, the Spartan fans would be the ones to suffer. The ending was surreal. With two seconds left and the Hawks with one play left, the noise was deafening. It would soon be so quiet that only the few thousand Hawkeye faithful could be heard. Marvin McNutt standing in the end zone holding the ball is frozen in my mind. It happened so quickly, and all I could scream was TOUCHHHDOWNNNN!!!! It took Gary Dolphin a few seconds to quiet me down so he could describe to the fans what happened. But it was really more than a touchdown; it was history being made, the Hawks have gone 8-0 for the first time.
A seven yard slant pass to Marvin McNutt from Rickie Stanzi was the winner. But why the slant pass and not the fade pattern? Most coaches will agree that those are the two best chances you have to score in one play from the seven. I remember Coach Fry and then offensive coordinator Bill Snyder discussing the benefits of each back in the 80's. Coach Fry favored the fade to your tallest receiver. Coach Snyder liked the slant. Coach Fry's position was that the slant pass could be knocked down and never reach the receiver. Coach Snyder argued that the slant was easier to throw and would not end up being a jump ball between the receiver and the defensive back. We'll never know what would have happened had the fade been called. Today we love the fact that Ken O’Keefe called the slant.