By Don Lund
The last couple of years I’ve been doing a flashback to talk about the Hawkeye football season plus basketball, wrestling and what was going on in the world at that time.
This time we’re going back to the year 1977.
Once again I have to thank the late Al Grady for getting most of my information on the Hawkeye football team. I used the book Al wrote, “25 Years with the Fighting Hawkeyes,” and I still enjoy reading it today.
Bob Commings was head coach for the Hawkeye football team, Lute Olsen was the head man for basketball and Dan Gable led the wrestlers.
Jimmy Carter was president and a US postage stamp cost 13 cents. For the first time in 43 years, Iowa State would play Iowa in football and I was going to school at Wayne State in Nebraska after spending 1974-75 at Iowa as a football manager for the Hawkeyes.
The Oakland Raiders beat the Minnesota Vikings 32-14 to win Super Bowl XI. Portland won the NBA championship in six games over Philadelphia, led by Dr. J, and the Yankees took down the L.A. Dodgers 4-2 to win the World Series. Reggie Jackson hit three straight home runs in the final game, an 8-4 New York victory. Billy Martin was the winning manager… his only World Series title as a manager.
Marquette knocked off North Carolina to win the NCAA basketball championship. They were led by Al McGuire, who coached in his last game.
In the entertainment world we lost four of the all-time greats as Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby, Charlie Chaplin and Groucho Marx passed away.
The top movies were “Star Wars,” “Saturday Night Fever” and “Annie Hall.”
The top record was “This Masquerade” by George Benson and the top album was Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life”.
Back in Hawkeye-land Tom McLaughlin was the No. 1 quarterback going into the first game. Jon Lazar, Dennis Mosley and Ernie Sheeler were the top runners.
Jim Hilgenberg, Sam Palladino an Barry Tomasetti anchored the offensive line.
Jim Swift was the tight end with Mike Brady, Brad Reid and Jesse Cook the wide receivers.
The defense was anchored by linebackers Tom Rusk, who led the team in tackles three years in a row, with Dean Moore and Mike Jackson.
The D-line included Joe Hufford, Joe Willis, John Hardy and Steve Vasquez.
Defensive backs were Roger Stech, Dave Becker, Rod Sears, Cedric Shaw and Chuck Danzy.
I got a chance to reconnect with Tom McLaughlin last fall. Tom found one of my stories from the North Liberty Leader on the internet and we have been keeping in touch. He gave me some good insight about the 1977 season, his senior year.
The Hawks opened the season at home against Northwestern.
Iowa’s top two quarterbacks, McLaughlin and Doug Piro, were injured early on and Bobby Commings Jr., the coach’s son, took over.
Jim Arkeilpane scored first on a 1-yard run, Bobby threw touchdown passes to John Lazar and Mike Brady in the second half and the Hawks won 24-0.
It was the first time in nine years that Iowa won a home opener and the first time in 77 games that the Hawks shut out an opponent. The last time had been against Illinois in 1969, with the final score 40-0.
Up next, the Iowa State Cyclones. It had been 43 years since the Hawks and ‘Clones played football. Some say it was because there was some bad blood between the two schools on and off the field.
Whatever the case, the game was big enough to be on TV, something that rarely happened back then and the Hawks were playing at home.
The game wasn’t real exciting but Iowa won 12-10 as Dennis Mosley busted a 77-yard run in the first quarter and it was officially a Hawkeye state. John Lazar also scored on a 10-yard run and Iowa missed both extra points.
All the scoring was done in the first quarter.
Bobby Commings Jr. started at quarterback and believe it or not, the Hawks won its first two game for the first time since 1964!
The bottom fell out the following week at Kinnick Stadium as Arizona came to town and smoked Iowa 41-7.
To make matters worse, Iowa lost running back Ernie Sheeler with a shoulder separation and second-team running back Dennis Mosley, who fractured his elbow, was out for six weeks.
Rod Morton scored the only touchdown for Iowa, a 7-yard run in the fourth quarter. Dave Holsclaw kicked the extra point.
Behind the scenes Tommy Mac was getting healthy but wasn’t working with the first team.
“I go in to talk to Coach Commings and he he-haws, not giving me a straight answer,” said Tom. “Finally he says since Bobby has had two good games it will be hard to pull him out. That’s when I exploded and said an injury shouldn’t be the reason to lose your position.”
The Hawkeyes traveled to California to play UCLA the following week and Bobby was still the starting quarterback.
Iowa fell behind 20-3 in the first half, Tommy Mac came in to replace Bobby in the second half and the Hawks lost 34-16.
Rod Morton scored on a 6-yard run and Tom threw a 26-yard pass to Mike Brady in the fourth quarter as Iowa lost its third straight.
Some time later UCLA was forced to forfeit several victories, including against Iowa, because an ineligible player was used.
Minnesota came to town the next week and Tommy Mac was back as starting quarterback.
The Hawks rolled up 401 yards of total offense and Rod Morton, the third-string running back, had 115 yards rushing.
Dave Holsclaw kicked a school record four field goals and Tom passed a 27-yard touchdown to Jesse Cook as Iowa rolled 18-6.
That was the first time in 14 years that the Hawks had beaten the Gophers in Iowa City. It was also the first time Iowa had won two in a row against Minnesota since the glory days under Forrest Evashevski in 1958-59.
The Hawkeyes were sitting at 3-2 (actually 4-1 because UCLA had to forfeit later on).
Next week I’ll look at the other six games; Ohio State, Purdue, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan State.
Also, I’ll talk about the Iowa basketball and wrestling teams.