Sep 3, 2016; Iowa City, IA, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz looks on during the first quarter against the Miami (Oh) Redhawks at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
The last 20 Cy-Hawk games have been split, 10 wins for Iowa State, 10 wins for Iowa. The last five meetings have gone down right to the wire, being decided on the final play in three of those contests. This rivalry has been as competitive over the last 20 years as any in the country.
Those in high school and college only know this game as a legit competition. But it didn’t used to be that way. Growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90’s, this game was less than enjoyable as an Iowa State fan. From 1983-1997, Iowa won every single game. And they didn’t just squeak out victories, these were decisive, no need-to-watch the fourth quarter type beatings. Iowa won by 25 or more points during the streak EIGHT times.
As an Iowa State fan born in 1984, teenage me honestly wondered if Iowa State would ever defeat Iowa. I had never seen it happen. I had witnessed Iowa State defeat Nebraska and Oklahoma, but never Hayden Fry and the Hawks. That guy was invincible. Watching the Iowa-Iowa State game seriously felt like attending a Harlem Globetrotters game.
The 1997 game was a pretty good summary of what life was like as a Cyclone. Iowa’s Tavian Banks rumbled for 82 yards on the second play of the game and the Hawks poured it on in front of the 50,000 in Ames (almost half of whom were in black and gold). When the Cyclones finally got on the board late in the 2nd quarter, Iowa led 35-0. After Iowa State’s touchdown, the Cyclones missed the extra point. Iowa ran up a 63-21 win.
When the 1998 game rolled around, the coronation for another Iowa victory was well underway. Iowa had just destroyed Central Michigan 38-0 and the Cyclones limped to Kinnick having just lost to TCU (a team that didn’t win a game the previous year.) That Cyclone team was destined to be another number on the Iowa win streak. Iowa was a 28-point favorite and Des Moines Register sports columnist Nancy Clark had a column run that Saturday morning with the headline, “15 Reasons why Iowa State won’t beat Iowa and Never Will.”
Yes, this actually was printed and seemed somewhat logical!
But on this beautiful Saturday morning in 1998, something flipped. This group of Cyclones led by Dan McCarney changed the perception of college football in the state of Iowa for the next two decades.
Midway through the first quarter, Iowa State blocked their first punt in three years. Three plays later, Darren Davis found pay-dirt, 7-0 Cyclones. Minutes later, the Cyclones punted to Iowa’s Kahlil Hill, Iowa’s next media hyped sensation. He fumbled and Iowa State’s Jawan Anderson hopped on it. A Jamie Kohl field goal made it 10-0. The Cyclones tacked on a Joe Parmentier one-yard plunge to extend the lead to 17-3 at halftime.
This was absolutely unthinkable. I can only assume those that watched the first moon landing experienced a similar reaction. Iowa State was not only winning, but they were owning the line of scrimmage. Yet in the back of every Iowa State fan’s mind, they were convinced something awful would transpire in the second half. Not on this day.
Another Joe Parmentier run early in the third gave Iowa State a 27-3 cushion. The 70,000 folks in Kinnick were silent. Darren Davis with help from his big fellas up front (including a young Ben Bruns) pummeled the Iowa defense for 244 yards on the ground. The maligned Iowa State defense sacked Kyle McCann six times and the Cyclones cruised to an easy 27-9 victory. It was Iowa State’s first road win in EIGHT years.
After the game, Cyclone quarterback Todd Bandhauer summed up what every Iowa State fan was feeling, “I know that McCarney’s always talking about how great Hayden Fry is,” Bandhauer said, “but Hayden Fry — we kicked your ass!”
McCarney added, “It feels good to smile again,” he said. “It’s been a long time.”
The 1998 Cyclones would finish the season with only three wins, but they put Iowa State on a path to relevancy within the state. The Cy-Hawk game has been a battle ever since. In the last 17 Cy-Hawk games, 11 have been decided by a touchdown or less.
Fast forward 18 years and once more the feeling of Iowa’s supremacy looms as Iowa State makes the bi-annual trek east. Few, if any, prognosticators give the Cyclones a chance. Iowa is favored by 16 points; the most points they have been favored at Kinnick in the series since….1998.
As that 1998 squad of Cyclones proved, in this series, there is no longer a sure thing.