After a long stretch of mediocrity, and sometimes worse, it may be difficult to imagine Indiana football in the midst of national rankings and 8 win seasons. Today we look back to just such a time.
It was October 29, 1988. On a crisp and sunny late October southern Indiana day before a sellout crowd at Memorial Stadium, The 5-1-1 Indiana Hoosiers hosted the 4-2-2 Iowa Hawkeyes. Indiana was coming off its first loss of the season at Michigan and was looking for a bounce back game before a national television audience.
Indiana got off to an inauspicious start, as its budding superstar running Anthony Thompson lost a fumble in IU territory on the first drive of the game. Indiana’s defense had his back however, as it made an impressive stop on 4th down to give the ball back to the Hoosiers.
IU quarterback Dave Schnell had a back injury coming into game and his playmaking ability was in question. Schnell quickly cast aside the doubters with a 38 yard TD pass to Rob Turner to start off the scoring. It was one of several plays on the day where Turner, the cousin of former IU basketball player Landon Turner, would look like a superior athlete on the playing field.
After an Iowa field goal the game started to snowball in the Hoosiers’ favor. First, Indiana put together a long drive that resulted in a classic Anthony Thompson dive over the top and into the end zone, making the score 14 – 3 Hoosiers at the end of the 1st quarter.
Next, after an Iowa fumble, Indiana worked with a short field and scored on a Dave Schnell TD run. 21-3 IU, early in the 2nd quarter. Yet another Iowa fumble on the next drive resulted in yet another short field and another IU TD, this time on a Schnell touchdown pass to Cal Miller. 28-3, Indiana.
Finally, a bad Iowa punt and a nice return by Tony Buford gave IU great field position yet again. Thompson finished things off with a touchdown run, giving the Hoosiers a seemingly insurmountable 35-3 lead as the 2nd quarter drew to a close.
But there was still more than a half to play, and this was a good Iowa team. And this was still Indiana, who even back in this era of greater success still had a knack for making things interesting. On the final drive of the first half, Iowa quarterback Chuck Hartlieb would go over 200 yards passing for the game. That drive culminated with a Hartlieb touchdown pass, and foretold what was to come. Iowa successfully completed the 2 point conversion to make the score 35-11 at halftime.
Hartlieb’s gaudy first half yardage total was just the beginning. The future NFL draft choice would engineer back to back scoring drives as Iowa cut the lead to 35-26 at the end of three quarters. Readers today probably recognize the uncomfortable feeling taking shape in Bloomington. But a fake punt by the Hoosiers would break Iowa’s momentum and lead to Anthony Thompson’s 3rd touchdown of the day and a 42-26 IU lead.
The Hawkeyes would keep fighting and cut the lead to 42-34 behind the continuing Hartlieb aerial attack.
Finally, legendary Hoosier kicker and NFL great Pete Stoyanovich set the final margin with a field goal. Indiana won the game, 45-34.
The game would be noteworthy for two eye catching statistical records. Hartlieb set the all time Iowa passing yards in a game record at 558. That mark still stands. Anthony Thompson would set the IU rushing attempt record at 47, although he would break that mark the following season with the current record of 52.
Indiana would go on to have an 8-3-1 season that culminated with a Liberty Bowl victory over South Carolina.
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