Friday, July 8, 2011

Big Ten Memories - Minnesota

It would be easy to write about so many obvious moments that happened against the Gophers. Only playing one year in the new TCF Bank Stadium, all of my good memories of our rivalry with Minnesota occurred in the Metrodome--or as we like to refer to it as, "Kinnick North."

All Iowa fans remember being called for Unsportsmanlike Conduct for creating too much noise while Minnesota was on offense in 1990. That may have been a first, and only time in NCAA football history.

Of course who could forget Iowa fans tearing down the goal posts in 2002 after the Hawkeyes ran the table in the Big Ten and won a share of the conference title with Ohio State. The sounds emanating from the Metrodome sound system sounded like whales, but that didn't deter the Iowa crowd from taking the posts into the stands and attempting to take them through revolving doors. Iowa Equipment Truck owner and driver, Mike Riggan said afterwards he regretted he didn't open up the back of his semi for the fans to load the goal posts into the back.

2004 was one of the tighter contests that had Chad Greenway making a big stop on defense, and quite possible giving the Gophers a tougher attempt for the game-winning field goal--which was no good. And in 2008, the final game for the Gophers in the Metrodome, the Hawkeyes went double nickel on their rivals to the north. An enjoyable way to close out this era of the Battle for Floyd of Rosedale.

But other memories I have come from the moments leading up to game time. 1990 was the first time I accompanied the team North. A Hawkeye win or Wolverine loss meant the Hawkeyes would be Big Ten Champions as well as the conference representative in the Rose Bowl. These were the days before the television contracts we know of today. The game wasn't televised, and it was a 1pm start. Arriving hours before kick-off with the equipment staff, a few of us decided to play catch on the field. I was still learning the faces of the travelling party. Some I knew, some looked familiar, and there was some that I didn't know.

As we played catch I noticed a gentleman walking out from one of the tunnels that led to the field.  I ran a route which had me catch a pass in the end zone. After catching a pass, this gentleman raised his hands signifying, "Touchdown." He looked familiar, but I couldn't place him on the travel party. A few minutes later he vanished back into a tunnel that led to the third base dugout and then a manager came over asking me how cool it was to see Tom Kelly, the manager of the Minnesota Twins. I knew he had looked familiar, but did not think baseball on this day we would win the Big Ten Football Championship.

Occasionally, playing there on the last Saturday of the season, some fans would stay around to watch the Vikings the next day. I believe it was 1998, and the next day the Vikings hosted the Packers. It was a key battle in the NFC Central. The battle was so big that the NFL on Fox crew moved their studio to the sidelines of the Metrodome. They needed to get a practice in, and the best time was prior to the Hawkeye - Gopher game, Saturday morning. There was Howie, Bradshaw and Collinsworth going over the camera locations, the lighting and sound. Following their prep Howie wanted to play a little catch with his sons. The Gopher equipment staff wasn't around and they looked to ours for a ball. We hadn't got ours to the sideline yet, but the managers sprinted up the corridors to the locker room where all they could find was a roughed up, old kickers ball. What else could we do? Had to get something to the Fox crew, and boy did Howie give them a hard time for the lack of quality equipment. Most likely it was Howie's son Chris which went on to a playing career at Virginia and the third overall pick of the St. Louis Rams.

No comments: