The Daily Iowan Sports front pages from 1987, 1991, and 2004. (Daily Iowan archives)

Three in 30: Iowa’s wins over Ohio State since 1987


The Iowa football team has not had very good luck against Ohio State. Over the past 30 years, the Hawkeyes have taken the Buckeyes down in just three historic games.

By Courtney Baumann

It is no secret Ohio State is one of the best teams in the college-football landscape.

Ranked No. 3 in the nation (AP; No. 6 college playoff rankings), the Buckeyes have proven to be a force, not just this year but throughout history. From 1987-2016, Ohio State put together a 290-82-5 record with 10 Big Ten titles, along with five more Big Ten East titles.

Not many teams have had much luck taking down the football giant in recent history, especially Iowa.

Over the past 30 years, the Hawkeyes have beaten Ohio State just three times. They are historic games that stick out in the minds of those who were there and those who played in them.

(Courtney Baumann/The Daily Iowan)

Nov. 14, 1987: Iowa 29, Ohio State 27

It wasn’t “The Catch,” but the game ended with A Catch.

Marv Cook

Chuck Hartlieb connected with Marv Cook with six seconds left in the game on fourth and 23 to launch Iowa to a 29-27 victory and give Hayden Fry his first win in Columbus, Ohio.

The Hawkeyes got the ball with 2:45 left in the game and ate up all the time on the clock while they trooped 64 yards down the field in 10 plays.

It wasn’t an easy trip into the end zone, though. Hartlieb and the Hawkeyes were faced with fourth down not once but twice. The first was a short fourth and 3 with just over a minute left. Hartlieb found Cook for an 8-yard gain to keep the drive alive. The second fourth down was a bit more of a task, though.

After getting sacked for 8 yards on first down, losing another 5 yards on second, and an incomplete pass on third and 23, the Hawkeyes were left with 6 seconds and 28 yards to score.

With one last chance to make something happen, Fry left the play call in the hands of Hartlieb.

Chuck Hartlieb

“He asked what my favorite play in the situation was, and that was the call that I came up with, because I knew I wanted to get the ball to Marv Cook,” Hartlieb said. “He always knew that players will execute and perform their best when they have confidence in what they’re doing. By asking me that question, he knew that I had confidence and could execute.”

A psychology major, Fry figured it best to leave the decision up to his quarterback — he wanted Hartlieb to walk out of the huddle confident that he could make the play, and if Fry had made the call, that might not have been the case.

Needless to say, it worked.

“You went from a moment where you couldn’t hear yourself talk, to a being able to hear a pin drop,” Hartlieb said.

“As I ran down the field to hug everyone, I couldn’t feel my feet hit the ground. it was complete jubilation. Coach Fry wasn’t a touchy-feely guy. As soon as that clock went to zero, he searched me out and gave me the biggest hug. It was the only one I got from him.”

Iowa quarterback Chuck Hartlieb and Iowa coach Hayden Fry embrace after the Hawkeyes’ victory over Ohio State on Saturday Nov.14, 1987. (Daily Iowan archives)

Nov. 2, 1991: Iowa 16, Ohio State 9

The Hawkeyes traveled to Columbus on a Friday, a day before the 2:30 p.m. kickoff time at Ohio Stadium.

It was supposed to be an exciting game, the matchup was between two of the top teams in the country in front of nearly 100,000 fans — Iowa ranked No. 11, and Ohio State was No. 13.

It wasn’t exactly a fun trip for the Hawkeyes.

About 24 hours prior to kickoff, Gang Lu, a 28-year-old doctoral student, took to the Iowa campus with a gun and killed five people, then shot himself. Already on the way to Ohio, the Hawkeyes did not find out about the tragedy until they got to the hotel.

RELATED: Covering a tragedy: the UI’s 1991 shooting

Phil Haddy

“One of our administrators got a call from the university saying exactly what happened,” former football Sports Information Director Phil Haddy said. “A number of people died in Iowa City in a mass shooting, and that was all we knew. We didn’t have any details.”

Questions surrounded the team: Would they play the game or postpone it?

Team officials contemplated their choices — they could put the team right back on a plane and get to Iowa City, or they could play. That’s when they got the directive from Athletics Director Bob Bowlsby, who with UI President Hunter Rawlings III decided that because the team was already in Columbus, the game would go on.

The team wanted to do anything they could to remember those back home, and for the first time in Iowa’s history, Fry had the equipment managers take all the decals off the team’s helmets, leaving them a single black color to show support and solidarity.

Iowa’s victory wasn’t easy in Columbus. Starting quarterback Matt Rodgers left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury, and backup Jim Hartlieb had to come in to try to put the game away.

Hayden Fry

He did it, and the Iowa defense held the Buckeyes to zero points in the second half for the Hawkeyes’ seventh win of the season.

After the game, 26 years ago this week, Fry believed one thing for certain — that his guys put in just a little more work for the people back home.

“That tragedy back in Iowa City was so sad and so bad that I know it had a big part to do with us winning, because I think our guys just gave that 20 percent extra effort,” Iowa coach Hayden Fry said after the game. “Just to try to bring a little happiness to all the people back in Iowa—to the students, the faculty and the families …

“That’s why this victory has special meaning. No way can we substitute for the people that are gone. Our guys played their hearts out for the university family.”

(University of Iowa Special Collections)

Oct. 16, 2004: Iowa 33, Ohio State 7

When describing the Ohio State team the Hawkeyes saw in 2004, many say the team was “down.” However, the Buckeyes still came into Iowa City ranked No. 25 at the time with a 4-2 record.

Technically the underdog, the Hawkeyes knew they could take advantage of Ohio State, which had lost its two previous games before facing Iowa.

The game was one of the very few in which Iowa seemed to win relatively easily. With Iowa ahead the whole game, Ohio State ran only six plays in Hawkeye territory through the first three quarters. One of those ended with an interception.

Drew Tate

Quarterback Drew Tate admitted that although the feeling of beating Ohio State was one he’ll always remember, he was more focused on what he and his teammates would do after the game.

“I was wondering what bar we were going to and all that good stuff,” Tate said. “I think I probably started thinking about the bar in about the third quarter, I’ve got to be honest … Any time you get to play a team like Ohio State at home and get to interact with the fans after the game, that’s what college football is all about.”

Down to its sixth- and seventh-string running backs, Iowa relied heavily on the play of Tate, who did not disappoint fans.

Tate, a sophomore at the time, passed for 26-of-39 for 331 yards and 3 touchdowns. He added another score on the ground along with 24 more yards.

Though the Hawkeyes’ running game was depleted, Sam Brownlee, also a sophomore, stepped in for just the second time that season to lead the team with 35 rushing yards and created the most memorable moment of the game.

Kirk Ferentz

“I remember … Sam Brownlee actually made one of their better players miss, and Sam was not known for his running skills, necessarily,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. The 2004 game was the only time Ferentz has beaten Ohio State as a head coach. “I think it was like a 17-yard gain on a third down, and it was a really good play against a good player.”

It wasn’t quite 17 yards — it was 10 — and the player Brownlee beat was A.J. Hawk, the fifth pick in the 2006 NFL Draft who played 11 seasons in the pros.

Tate has the same favorite memory as Ferentz. When he found out they both remembered the same thing, he laughed.

The 33-7 victory was the largest margin for the Hawkeyes against the Buckeyes — dating all the way back to 1922 — and was only the second time ever that they put up more than 28 points on the Buckeyes.

Nov. 4, 2017: TBD

The game has yet to be played, but Iowa faces a tall task. The Buckeyes, ranked No. 3 and coming off a huge win over Penn State, head into Kinnick with one of the best quarterbacks and defensive lines in the country.

In order to put the Ohio State away, Hawkeye alumni and players alike pointed to one thing — containing the Buckeyes’ speed on the edges.

“Ohio State is built on speed and big plays,” Chuck Hartlieb said. “We’ve got to find a way to neutralize their speed and make strength win out.”

RELATED: Iowa to take on No. 3 Ohio State, try to become bowl eligible 

Tate had some advice of his own for Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley.

“Start by dinking and dunking, moving chains,” Tate said. “Take one play at a time. You know what, screw it. Don’t worry about the plays, you just go sling it.”

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