PASADENA, Calif. — University of Iowa graduate student Tiffany Tierney had an inkling it was going to be a rough game when the Stanford Cardinal scored a touchdown on the first play off the line of scrimmage.
When Stanford scored three touchdowns and became the first team in Rose Bowl history to score 21 points in the first quarter, Tierney, 26. and her friends Lindsey Jankowski, 32, and Becky Bahls, 33, knew it would be more than a hunch.
“But this was totally unexpected,” Jankowski said.
Like many of the tens of thousands of Hawkeye fans who peppered the historic stadium Friday, the group decided to stick it out.
“They need our support till the end,” Tierney said.
Still, with Iowa down 35-0 at halftime, some UI fans couldn’t stand any more pain — even though many of them had endured almost unimaginable travel snarls and spent hundreds if not thousands on being there to see their team in the granddaddy of bowl games.
“It’s embarrassing,” said UI senior Alyssa Marie, 22. “It sucks for everyone who paid all this money to come all this way.”
UI alumnus Brian Herther, 24, of Des Moines, wasn’t as upset. “It was too big of a stage for us,” he said.
UI graduate Jeff Hanson, 43, agreed. “The Hawks were not mentally tough enough,” he said.
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Despite the lopsided final score, Iowa fans seemed to outnumber those supporting Stanford — dominating the happier pregame festivities around the stadium and appearing to account for well over half of those inside.
And they took every chance they could get to cheer, nearly bringing down the house with singing, high-fives and confetti at the first field goal in the third quarter.
Tiffani Conrey, 40, of Cedar Rapids, and her sister, Courtney Siders, 38, both of whom graduated from the UI, said they “bleed black and gold” no matter what.
“But I honestly thought they would win,” Conrey said.
“I did too,” Siders said. “But for me, after the third touchdown, it was O-V-E-R.”
The women said they still had a good time, recounting the moment the Hawkeye players ran onto the field, holding hands, following the Iowa spirit squad.
“It was worth it,” Siders said. “Even if the team goes up in smoke.”
The fans got several shout outs from the sidelines, with commentators mentioning the great crowd, and actor and Iowa native Tom Arnold trying to rally the base.
“We never quit,” Arnold said to raucous cheers. “We’re Iowa Hawkeyes.”
Many in attendance, both those supporting Iowa and Stanford, said Iowa won in the stands if not on the field.
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Iowa fans appeared to lose their cool only during the halftime show, when the Stanford band poked fun at the state — re-enacting cow-tipping and corn mazes and making farmer references.
“It was terrible,” said Dan Phelps, 56, who is from Muscatine and lives in Sacramento, Calif. “Really low-class.
The Stanford band has a history of controversial behavior both on and off the field.
In 2004, for example, the band joked about polygamy during a game against Brigham Young University. And the band in 2009 criticized University of Southern California and Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis during a performance at USC.
So, when the band poked fun at Iowa during the halftime show, Kim Keuter, 62, of Dubuque, said he wasn’t surprised.
“They’re irreverent by nature,” his son, Kurt Keuter, 29, said. “That’s what they do.”
But Kwin Keuter, 27, said Iowans are thicker skinned and can take a joke.
“We expected no less,” he said. “But we can handle it some good-natured ribbing. We don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
Despite the Stanford half-time performance and the disappointing outcome, Patricia Osborn, also from Muscatine, said she enjoyed being in the nostalgic atmosphere of her Iowa roots.
“I haven’t been able to go to an Iowa game since 1974,” she said. “So I’m having a great time.”