Hawks solve Purdue: Purdue out quick, but it's Iowa dancing after 35-17 victory

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(Published 11/02/1997)

IOWA CITY -

Hayden Fry won't roll up his trousers and just dance at the drop of a hat. He has standards, you know.

He usually saves the hokey-pokey — his old victory dance — for bowl wins, or triumphs over Michigan and Ohio State, or a verdict that clinches a Big Ten title.

Fry enjoyed Saturday's 35-17 verdict over Purdue, but he hadn't laced up those dancing shoes when he lumbered into the locker room at Kinnick Stadium after the game.

"I didn't know if that merited the hokey-pokey, but some of the other coaches said it did," he reported.

Fry quickly analyzed the situation in the locker room, then started humming that old tune: You put your right foot in, you put your left foot in, you shake it all about ...

"I guess it was a hokey-pokey win," he concluded with a big, happy smile.

And why not? The 18th-ranked Boilermakers, tied for the Big Ten lead, danced into Kinnick with the zaniest offense this side of the Rockies and they drove the 15th-ranked Hawkeyes crazy for a while.

Four wide receivers, five wide receivers, shotgun handoffs to the

only tailback in sight, quarterback draws. It wasn't a pretty sight for the home team on Parents Day.

The first 17 minutes were pure mayhem as Purdue amassed 247 yards

and grabbed a 17-7 lead. "It was really scary," defensive

tackle Jon LaFleur admitted.

The Hawkeyes practiced against Purdue's version of  "basketball on grass" all week, but reality was a poke in the eye.

"That's kind of a funky offense," defensive end Jason House said later. "I think we finally just got a feel for what they were doing."

Bob Elliott, the defensive coordinator, pushed the right button and got things under control, switching from man-to-man pass coverage to a zone. Once that happened, the Hawkeyes put on a marvelous defensive display.

Purdue got only 77 yards and no points - the rest of the long, gray afternoon. Quarterback Billy Dicken, on target early, got rattled and finished 14 of 35 with two interceptions, both by Eric Thigpen.

Dicken and Brian Alford, his favorite target, terrorized Iowa in the first half. Alford finished with five catches for 147 yards and a 77-yard score but vanished in the second half.

"It looked to me like they had prepared all week long for us to play man-to-man," Elliott explained. "When we started playing zone, they weren't ready for that, is what it looked like to me."

Up to then, Dicken had been picking the Hawks apart. Then it stopped cold.

"I think Dicken had a hard time trying to figure out what we going to do, frankly," Elliott said.

"I made some poor throws," said Dicken, the Big Ten's leading passer.

Meanwhile, Iowa's offense got untracked behind daredevil quarterback Randy Reiners and a versatile athlete from Iowa City High School. No, not Tim Dwight. Rob Thein.

Thein caught a pair of touchdown passes from Reiners and ran for another, stealing the backfield spotlight from Tavian Banks, and Reiners sliced through the Boilermakers with a series of option runs.

Fry has used the option over the years but never to this extent.

Reiners carried the ball 20 times for 50 yards, but that's misleading. Subtract four sacks and the Fort Dodge Flash actually had 16 carries for 79 yards.

"That's how many times? Geez," Reiners said. "It was all right. It was fun. If that's what we've got to do to win, then I've got to do it."

Fry kept calling his number, and Reiners kept sticking his nose in the Boilers. "Man, what a competitor, and tough," Fry said. "He's just about as tough as Timmy Dwight."

Iowa trailed, 17-7, in the second quarter when the Hawkeyes dusted off their option attack. Reiners ran four times for 33 yards and finished the drive with a 9-yard TD pitch to Thein. That pulled Iowa within 17-14.

The third quarter began with a debatable decision by the Boilermakers. They elected to kick off and give Iowa the benefit of a stiff wind, wanting the breeze for themselves in the fourth quarter.

The Hawkeyes exploded for three touchdowns in the third quarter. By the time Purdue got the wind, it trailed 35-17.

"We used that as a selling point to our players," Fry said. "Hey, these guys are going to give us the ball and the wind, too. They think we can't move it. I tried to challenge everybody on the sideline once we saw what had happened."

The Hawkeyes owned the second half. They got the ball eight times, and six of those possessions began on Purdue's side of the 50. Here are the second-half stats: 283 yards, 21 points and 14 first downs for Iowa, compared to 52 yards, zero points and three first downs for Purdue, which led the Big Ten in total offense.

The Hawks marched 62 yards and Banks scored on a 16-yard run, vaulting into the end zone for a 21-17 lead to begin the third quarter.

They marched 43 yards and grabbed a 28-17 margin on Michael Burger's 1-yard plunge, and then went 48 yards and made it 35-17 on Thein's 5-yard burst.

Purdue Coach Joe Tiller liked most of the first half, hated the second. "I thought we started the game the way we wanted to," he said. "Iowa did a very good job of taking us out of our rhythm. After that, the worm turned."

Iowa snapped Purdue's six-game winning streak in style.

"A lot of folks thought they were going to beat us, including Purdue," Fry said.

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