A trip down memory lane
UCLA at Iowa
September 21, 1974
You can't go home again. So wrote Thomas Wolfe in his novel of the same name.
So why would Bob Commings try and disprove Wolfe's notion?
Well, you don't start at guard for Forest Evashevski's 1956 Big Ten champion Hawkeyes if you are afraid of a challenge. Starting guards on Rose Bowl champion teams don't usually lack for confidence.
Oh, yeah, I forgot. You're only 5'9" and weigh 174 pounds. Imagine someone Fred Russell's size at guard. To compete at that level, at that position, at that weight…well that takes balls.
So Bob Commings, with no experience as a college head coach was not afraid to stick his resume in the hat when Iowa went looking for a football coach after firing Frank Lauterbur following the 1973 season. Actually Commings did more than stick his resume in the hat, he actively campaigned for the job.
This was a daunting rebuilding job. Hayden Fry, and to some extent, Kirk Ferentz, get respect for resurrecting Iowa's football fortunes, but Hayden and Kirk never followed anything like the mess FXL left at Iowa. Three season. Four wins. Winless in 1973. Outscored 401-140.
Commings was coming to Iowa from an Ohio football hotbed, Massillon. He was 94-21-5 in his high school coaching career. His 1970 Massillon team won the state title and Commings was coach of the year.
Coming to Iowa, he inherited a decent offensive team that included a line of future NFL stalwarts, Rod Walters and Joe Devlin, as well as a firebrand from Iowa City named McCarney.
In the opening game of the Commings' era, Iowa opened on the road at Michigan. The Hawks played a respectable game, but still lost 24-7. They returned home for the Kinnick Stadium debut of the Bob Commings' show. The catch is the opponent was Dick Vermeil's #12 UCLA Bruins. The same Bruins that had clocked Iowa 55-18 the previous season.
The Bruins were led by junior QB, John Sciarra, and a pair of future 49ers in sophomore running back Wendell Tyler and guard Randy Cross.
Sciarra had led the Bruins to a tie with Tennessee in their opener, racking up close to 400 yards in total offense.
Iowa gave UCLA great field position in the first quarter. After bobbling a kick return, Iowa started at its own four and lost three yards in three plays. A wobbly punt gave UCLA the ball on the Iowa 35. The Bruins drove down to the four yard line but were turned away. They did manage a 21 yard field goal by Brett White. The first quarter would end with UCLA up 3-0.
Quarterback Rob Fick got Iowa on the board in the second quarter when he hit reserve TE Dave Jackson for a 38 yard TD pass. Nick Quataro added the extra point and Iowa led 7-3.
Iowa struck again shortly thereafter when Andre Jackson forced a UCLA fumble at the Bruin 30 yard line. On the next play Commings called for a screen play which caught the Bruins off guard. Mark Fetters took the pass from Fick and rumbled for the score. Iowa led the mighty Bruins at halftime, 14-3!
The teams battled to a scoreless third quarter, but not without some drama. UCLA drove to within the Iowa 10 yard line before Iowa forced a Sciarra fumble that Shanty Burks recovered.
When UCLA got the ball back Sciarra led them down the field again, and the fourth period began with Sciarra scoring from a yard out. So the fourth quarter begins with Iowa clinging to a slim 14-10 lead.
The teams went back and forth, neither able to gain much ground until late in the fourth quarter when Iowa put together a fourteen play, six minute drive behind Walters, Devlin, McCarney and company. Fourteen plays and each one a run against a ranked opponent. Mark Fetters scored his second TD of the game, this one a run from the four with ninety seconds to go. The Hawks had upset the Bruins 21-10.
The defense held Sciarra to a measly 113 yards of totals offense and the line kept Fick untouched all day. Not one sack and over 230 yards rushing for the Hawks.
For this then 17 year old, it was a great day. My friends and I were talking about the Rose Bowl. The possibility seemed realistic at the time. When the euphoria wore off, we realized our expectations were oversized. A team that was 0-11 the previous year was not going to win the Big Ten, but that's what winning can do for you. It can make you dream.
Iowa players of note:
There were more than a few sons and dads on this Iowa team.
Doug Reichardt, reserve QB from Des Moines was, if I recall correctly, the son of former Hawkeye and famed Des Moines businessman, Bill Reichardt.
Bob Elliott - son of Bump.
Bill Schultz - son of BB coach Dick Schultz.
Rod Wellington - nephew of Ozzie Simmons.
Dan LaFleur - father of future DL Jon LaFleur.
Jim Hilgenberg - duh.
Bruce Davis - father of Calvin Davis, uncle to Alonzo Cunningham.
Iowa Two deeps vs. UCLA:
TE - Yocum 6-2, 226, D. Jackson 6-4, 194
LT - Walter 6-4, 240, Ladick 6-2, 251
LG - Devlin 6-5, 266, Davis 6-2, 237
C - Myers 5-11, 231, Hilgenberg 6-2, 201
RG - McCarney 6-3, 229, Butler 6-3, 249
RT - Michelosen 6-2, 231, Klimczak 6-3, 243
SE - Schultz 5-11, 187, Mattingly 6-1, 194
QB - Fick 6-2, 191, Reichardt 5-11, 190 or Ousley 6-1, 190
FB - Fetter 6-0, 202, Holmes 6-1, 225
LH - Jensen 6-4, 227. Donovan 6-1, 182
RH - Wellington 6-1, 214, Donovan
SE - Heil 6-6, 22, Phillips 6-5, 219
LT - Washington 6-3, 236, Wojan 6-5, 244
NG - Bush 6-0, 222, Bryant 6-0, 219
RT - Lopos 5-9, 227, Dye 6-5, 246
QE - Wagner 6-2, 209, Ambrose 6-3, 211
LLB - A. Jackson 6-1, 227, LaFleur 6-1, 215
RLB - Armington 6-2, 219, LaFleur
LC - Douthitt 6-2, 1878, Salter 6-1, 165
SS - Elliott 5-10, 177, Stech 6-1, 182
FS - Caldwell 5-11, 182, Elliott
RC - Burks 6-0, 181, W. Walker 6-0, 189