By Craig Sanders
Arizona Daily Wildcat September 9, 1996
IOWA CITY, Iowa - With turnovers aplenty, both Arizona and Iowa rode their defenses through most of Saturday's 21-20 Hawkeye victory. But in the last seven minutes, it was Iowa's offense that was in the driver's seat and Arizona's defense that ran out of gas.
"It was a matter of executing all game," Arizona head coach Dick Tomey said. "We've got a lot of fight in us, but we're not a good football team yet. We have a chance to be one, but we're not one yet."
Both defenses came into the game with a reputation for hard hitting, which became apparent early and often as the teams combined for seven turnovers in front of 68,267 at Kinnick Stadium. Iowa's offense, which struggled to find a consistent rhythm, converted three of Arizona's turnovers into 21 points. But it was Iowa's running game that really doomed the Wildcats.
After clawing their way back to a one-point deficit, the Wildcats (1-1 overall, 0-0 in the Pacific 10 Conference) couldn't stop Iowa's rushing attack when it counted the most. Iowa (1-0 overall, 0-0 in the Big Ten Conference) received the ball with 7:39 remaining in the fourth quarter. After an initial five-yard pass, the Hawkeyes ran the ball 13 times, chewing up 63 yards and all but 18 seconds of the remaining time.
Iowa running backs Tavian Banks and Heisman Trophy candidate Sedrick Shaw powered and slashed through the Arizona defense, something they hadn't been able to do with consistency all game.
"It didn't appear they could do that going into the final drive," Tomey said. "But they did and they executed. The sign of a good team is being able to execute at crunch time."
Shaw finished with 115 yards rushing on 23 carries, while Banks had 45 yards on 12 carries. Both backs had mixed success earlier in the game, but were at their best in the end. Earlier, Banks was running into an Arizona defensive wall - on the last drive he was running over it. Shaw, who would be stuffed on one play and then find his way outside for a big run, proved he could run for the tough yards as well.
"They just executed well. It really wasn't a matter of fatigue," senior defensive lineman Joe Salave'a said. "They came out and ran well when they had to. By the time we stopped them it was too late."
"Both Tavian Banks and Sedrick Shaw ran the ball really hard inside," Iowa head coach Hayden Fry said. "Our defense played a lot better than I thought they would."
Arizona's backs had a tough time keeping up with Iowa's. Junior Kevin Schmidke had 24 yards on 11 carries, senior Gary Taylor had 23 yards on nine carries and Keith Smith ran from the quarterback position for 22 yards on seven carries.
"I think Iowa has a good defense," Tomey said. "They did a good job of shutting down our running game."
The Wildcats however, did have a 7-0 lead through the first quarter before the wheels came off. The turning point came in the second quarter, when the Wildcats were pinned by a punt to their own 2-yard line. UA fullback Scooter Sprotte got the call, but mishandled the ball in the end zone, where Iowa's Vernon Rollins fell on it for the score.
On Arizona's next offensive play things just got worse. Senior quarterback Brady Batten was hit and lost the ball at Arizona's 18-yard line. Two plays later, Hawkeye quarterback Matt Sherman hit junior wideout Damon Gibson on a crossing route that led to another Iowa touchdown.
"Turnovers killed us," Batten said. "It's very disappointing knowing we should have won that game."
Yet, the momentum shifts caused by the turnovers did not completely shut down the Wildcats. Iowa scored again at the beginning of the third quarter when Smith was intercepted by Iowa cornerback Tom Knight, who returned the ball to the Arizona 33. The Hawkeyes went on to punch the the ball in for the touchdown.
But Arizona showed it could come back. With the score 21-7, Smith found a passing groove. He drove the Wildcats 53 yards in 11 plays to set up Matt Peyton's 53-yard field goal.
Iowa went three-and-out on its next possesion as Arizona's defense continued to be stingy. A 22-yard punt return by junior Rodney Williams gave Arizona good field position at the Iowa 20. Smith then dropped back in the shotgun and ran through the Iowa defense to make it 21-17.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter the Wildcats struck again with a 39-yard field goal by Peyton. It turned out to be a little too late, however, as the Hawkeyes chewed up the remainder of the clock. But the Wildcats' comeback did show the team had some life in it. Smith played the entire second half for Arizona, showing he could put some points on the board. The play calling in the second half opened up beyond what Arizona has done in the past and wide reciever Richard Dice was utilized a bit more (four receptions for 41 yards). The offensive line, while shaky at first, settled down and pass protected better, and the special teams was solid throughout.
"We have some positives and we have a lot of negatives," Tomey said. "We have to improve on everything at this point."