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Looking back: Register’s front-page story after Iowa’s 1981 victory against Nebraska

[ 5 ] November 20, 2011 |

Editor’s note: Iowa and Nebraska will renew their football rivalry on Friday in Lincoln, Neb. The Hawkeyes notched a memorable victory on Sept. 12, 1981 in Iowa City, beating the No. 7 Cornhuskers 10-7. The following is the story that appeared on Page 1 of the Des Moines Sunday Register on Sept. 13, 1981.

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Iowa 10, Nebraska 7! Hawk fans scent roses

By John Carlson, Jerald Heth and Vicki Shannon

IOWA CITY, IA. – Hawkeye fans have their noses in the air. At long last, some say they can smell roses.

“Pasadena, Pasadena, Rose Bowl, Rose Bowl,” yelled the young barefoot man weaving through the crowd outside Kinnick Stadium after Iowa’s stunning 10-7 win Saturday over Nebraska, a team ranked among the nation’s top 10. An ABC television sportscaster called the victory a “major upset.”

Iowa fans haven’t seen a winning season since 1961. It may be premature for them to make New Year’s Eve airline reservations to California, but Dick Blanche of Eldridge and his friends were wondering how they were going to get their old black-and-gold painted bus called the “Hawkeye Express” to Pasadena. “We might have to put it on a train to get it there,” said Blanche.

Blanche, like other Hawkeye fans, searched for superlatives to describe his feelings of victory. “It was super. Iowa’s got a helluva defense and they sure came to play,” he said as he partied after the game.

Some among the record crowd of 61,160 tore down goalposts, to the parties outside the stadium where $15-a-bottle scotch was going down like water, to Joe’s Place downtown where a river of beer flowed from the kegs.

Jubilant fans were lined almost to the street from Joe’s and the airliner bar waiting to celebrate what many thought was the biggest Iowa win since the last Hawkeye Rose Bowl victory more than 20 years ago.

“I can’t remember any game that was more thrilling than this one,” said Iowa Gov. Robert Ray, who attended a post-game tailgate party. “Coach Fry and his team deserve great credit.”

Ray watched the contest from the pressbox, sometimes in the company of Nebraska Gov. Charles Thone. “I was hesitant to say anything until the game was over,” Ray said. “Governor Thone is a gracious loser.”

Thone said, “It was an exciting game, but I didn’t like the way it turned out. We knew we were in for a tough game because Iowa has a good defense.”

There was no friendly wager between the two governors. “I just told your governor that he was not all that hospitable,” joked Thone.

Nebraska “Big Red” shirts were few and far between downtown, and Iowa fans, remembering last year’s 57-0 loss at Lincoln, were eager to rub it in.

But Nebraska fan Al McPherson, who with his wife, Winnie, hasn’t missed a Nebraska game in 10 years took the loss philosophically.

“What are you gonna do about it? We got beat,” he said.

“We can’t win every game, you know,” Winnie said. “I mean if we won every game every year that wouldn’t be right. Life has its adversities and losing a football game is one of them,” she said, near tears.

And then there was Judy Spaustat, a University of Nebraska (Omaha) student. She was dodging ice and beer being thrown from the upper reaches of a U of I Hospital parking ramp. Her t-shirt read: “If you lead a good life, say your prayers, and go to church, when you die you will go to NEBRASKA.”

“I’m afraid if they can read what this shirt says they’re really going to let us have it,” Spaustat said. “Boy, I wish I had been in Lincoln last year when we let them have it.”

Although most Iowa fans were gracious in victory, devout fans were looking ahead next week for the trip to Ames when their heroes take on the Iowa State Cyclones.

“I wonder how we can get tickets for nexdt week,” said one man leaving the stadium.

Hawkeye fans who couldn’t be on the scene for the game did some celebrating of their own across the state. In Carroll, about 40 bar patrons listened to the play-by-play at Don’s Place.

Owner Don Grute said the volume was “turned way up” so everyone could hear. “Most of us were for Iowa,” he said. “It’s quite a deal, isn’t it, since Nebraska had the rankings?”

More than a dozen people had their ears tuned to the radio broadcast at the Satdium Club in Tama, while their eyes watched the Stanford-Purdue game on television.

“Most of them were going for Nebraska,” said assistant bar manager Jeff Bly. “We’ve got a lot of Big Red fans around here.”

Bly rooted for the Hawkeyes. “It’s great. You don’t get to hear about Nebraska losing too often.”

Just a few people stayed tuned for the game at Doc’s Café in Carroll, but bartender Jerry Scholten said quite a few Iowa fans came in after the game to celebrate.

“They’re all pretty happy about it. There’s one guy for Nebraska who isn’t having such a good time, though,” he said.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

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