Just as the new song predicted, when the New Year was greeted here Friday night, "Iowa was waltzin' and Tennessee was singin' the blues."
Iowa's unsung offense waltzed plenty in the first three quarters, rolling up a 28-19 lead on the passing arm of Chuck Long and the sticky fingers of Dave Moritz. But again it was the old reliable defense that made Tennessee sing the blues with some savage play in the final minutes that preserved a 28-22 victory.
Although the 15th annual Peach Bowl had been listed as a virtual sellout, only 50,134 showed up on a cold, windy day that turned into New Year's Eve in a hurry. Most of the enthralled spectators were still on hand at 6:15 p.m. Eastern time when senior and Straun Joseph sacked Tennessee's brilliant quarterback, Alan Cockrell, the final time.
"It was just a super game," breathed Iowa Coach Hayden Fry. "I have never seen a defense rise up on the goal line and sack the quarterback like that. We were very tough when we had to be."
Fry was overjoyed at "redeeming ourselves for the 28-0 embarrassment in the Rose Bowl." The Hawkeyes scored their first touchdowns in a bowl game since Jan. 1, 1959. Indeed, they didn't even cross Washington's 29-yard line in last year's game at Pasadena, but they quickly atoned for that omission.
Singin' the blues? Well, not Johnny Majors, the former Iowa State coach who had directed the Volunteers to a 6-4-1 record coming here. He gave Iowa full credit, and even admitted the Hawkeyes surprised him on a few things.
"Iowa did a heck of a job," said Majors. "They executed very well, especially in the first half. Sure, we made mistakes, but Iowa is very strong. I'm not surprised Iowa passed on us that much, but their quarterback did a good job of throwing, especially on that deep one for their first touchdown."
You see, Iowa came into this contest with the reputation of being a run-oriented, pass-when-you-gotta type of team that would stick to the ground as much as General William Tecumseh Sherman's armies did in the battle of Atlanta in 1864.
Sherman didn't have an air arm to match that of Long's. The Hawkeye sophomore completed his first 11 passes to break his own school record of nine in a row set against Northwestern earlier in 1982. He wound up with 19 of 26 for a Peach Bowl-record 304 yards and three touchdown strikes — a 57-yard thing of beauty to Moritz and two to freshman Ronnie Harmon of 18 and 8 yards.
That gave Iowa a 21-7 halftime lead. After Tennessee pulled up to a 21-13 deficit, the Hawkeyes got their only land-based score. Eddie Phillips, who returned to action after recovering from a knee injury, scored what proved the clincher on a two-yard burst with 8:29 to go in the third quarter. Phillips gained 34 yards in 10 carries, finishing second to starter Owen Gill, who had 70 yards in 16 trips. Gill also caught three passes for 39 yards to expand his offensive role.
Iowa's Fry admitted he had been worried about the speed of this Volunteer team, especially their wide receivers, headed by "the world's fastest football player," Willie Gault.
It would be wrong to say Gault was a goat, but those thousands of Tennessee fans waving orange pompons couldn't understand why whizzing Willie caught only one pass all afternoon — the 19-yarder for his team's final touchdown. He did return four kickoffs, but the swarming Hawkeyes limited him to a total of 60 yards on them. His longest was a mere 23 yards.
And Reggie Roby, who lost the punting duel to Tennessee's Jimmy Colquitt, saw to it that Willie didn't get to run back a single punt. True, it cost Roby some precious yardage, but he kicked out of bounds for the team's sake. He showed what he could do on the final one, and Tennessee's Majors admitted it may have been the key to the game. Roby sailed the ball 52 yards and it went out of bounds on the Tennessee 35 with 1:56 to play.
Tennessee struck first after Iowa frittered away two possessions on the Volunteers' 31 and 34-yard lines. It seemed like the Rose Bowl revisited at that stage, especially when Gill fumbled away the ball on first down at the 50. Tennessee move, going 36 yards on Chuck Coleman's stunning reverse. Cockrell then sped the final six yards on a quarterback option, a play that was to backfire late in the fourth quarter.
The Hawkeyes got the next three touchdowns on Long's passing. Coleman whittled the gap to 21-13 on a 10-yard run, but then Iowa's Nate Creer came through with an unexpected play. Fuad Reveiz, who had kicked 20 straight extra points this season, got a low snap from center, and Creer rushed in to block it.
Gault's touchdown left Iowa's lead at 28-19, and this time Cockrell's pass for two points went over the end zone.
Reveiz, one of the nation's most feared field goal kickers, finally got his chance with 10:05 left in the final quarter. He kicked a 27-yarder: 28-22, and you could hear the 20,000 Iowans sucking in their breath and figuring what another Volunteer TD would do.
Then the old defense took over for the Hawkeyes. Tennessee got the ball twice more, and the finish was one of the most exciting in Peach Bowl history.
Cockrell, who broke the Peach Bowl record with 22 completions, led his team to Iowa's six-yard line. It was fourth down and a yard. Everyone expected to see fullback Doug Furnas high-diving for the first down, as he had done on three previous occasions in the second half.
Tennessee's strategy board may have outsmarted itself. Cockrell was told to work the quarterback option instead. Iowa's James Erb came shooting into the gap, grabbed Cockrell by the shirt and threw him down at least a yard short. The clock showed 3:29 at that point, and Iowa couldn't gain. Even after Roby's splendid punt, Tennessee had one last gasp. But Mount Vernon's Paul Hufford belted Cockrell loose from the ball on third down, leaving Tennessee with a fourth-and-25 situation. This time it was Joseph, senior from Newton, who came storming in to sack Cockrell the final time.
The Peach Bowl people were still adding up records tied or broken in the darkness of the stadium press box, and at last count they reached a figure of 18.Meanwhile, the horde of happy Hawkeye fans moved from the stadium parking lots to downtown Atlanta to greet the new year in hilarious style. Even General Sherman's soldiers never felt this good.