Friday, November 23, 2018

I Should've Turned Down the Sound

The second-worst thing that happened in tonight’s Iowa State-Arizona basketball game in the Maui Invitational was the fact that Bill Walton was the analyst on the ESPNU telecast.
The worst thing was that Arizona rallied to somehow defeat the Cyclones 71-66 after just about everyone, including me, thought Iowa State would win.
Having to put up with the Cyclones blowing a 10-point lead and listening to Walton’s obnoxious commentary throughout the game did me in.
At least the large number of Iowa State fans in the arena on Maui had one advantage over TV viewers on the mainland.
Folks in the arena didn’t have to listen to Walton, who played basketball at UCLA and in the NBA so long ago that I wrote lots of newspaper stories about him.
Walton talked virtually non-stop during the telecast, turning the poor play-by-play guy into an afterthought.
Walton even took the time to talk about perhaps riding RAGBRAI sometime in the future.
“Can you ride a bicycle?” the play-by-play guy asked.
Walton said he could indeed ride a two-wheeler, but added that he’d need to decide “whether I want to leave San Diego and go to Iowa in July.”
Getting back to the basketball game, things went sour in a hurry for Iowa State.
The Cyclones appeared to be fully in control throughout most of the game, but then collapsed in the final minutes.
I thought Iowa State had enough to overcome its injury and suspension problems.
Shows you what I knew.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Gene Raffensperger's Journal

In one of the many conversations I had with Gene Raffensperger over the years, he told me about a personal writing project he began during his working years.
He said he wrote something every day in a journal.
It could have been about something he did, something that had been done to him, something he wished he’d have done, something he wished he hadn’t done. Maybe something else.
He told me people had asked if he planned to publish what he wrote.
“I told them no, I don’t have any plans to publish what I write,” Raff told me. “I just want my family to read it sometime.”
Raff, who was a wonderful writer and had an outstanding newspaper career, died last Tuesday in Cedar Falls at the age of 89.
Hopefully, Raff’s family now has the journal and is enjoying what he wrote.

Not a Pretty Picture

It didn’t look any prettier to me tonight on the Longhorn TV Network than it did to Matt Campbell inside 100,119-seat Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium at Austin, TX.
I’m not Iowa State’s football coach. Campbell is.
I didn’t have an explanation. Campbell did.
“They were the more physical football team,” Campbell told reporters after Texas’ 24-10 victory.
“We struggled to tackle, struggled to win at the line of scrimmage.”
The Longhorns took a big step toward the Big 12 Conference championship game with the victory .
Iowa State has hoped to remain in the league championship conversation, but didn’t.
Texas [8-3 for the season, 6-2 in the Big 12] can reach the league’s title game by winning at Kansas next week.
“People thought we forgot how to play defense,” Texas coach Tom Herman, a former Iowa State offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, told reporters.
“We’re overachieving right now. We’re winning on toughness. We’re winning on grit.”
Iowa State’s records fell to 6-4 and 5-3 in a game that saw the Cyclones play the first half without suspended running back David Montgomery.
Texas sacked Cyclone quarterback Brock Purdy 5 times and limited him to 10 pass completions in 23 attempts for 130 yards.
Purdy went into the game with a 5-0 record since becoming Iowa State’s starter.
It was a difficult time and place for the streak to end.


Balance. It’s spelled b-a-l-a-n-c-e. And that’s precisely what Drake’s basketball team had today while beating Texas State 75-69 in front of 2,968 fans at the Knapp Center.
All 5 starters scored in double figures. Nick McGlynn [pictured] had quite a day, scoring 16 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
Nick Norton scored 15 points, Brady Ellingson 13, Tremell Murphy 10 and D. J. Wilkins 10.
“To close the game out, I thought we made some incredibly tough plays and, from a program standpoint, you build off those toughness-type plays,” said Drake coach Darian DeVries, whose team has a 2-1 record.
By the way, the crowd of 2;968 [the 7,152-seat Knapp Center was less than half-full] wasn’t bad considering Drake was playing at the same time the nation’s TVs were full of collegiate football games.
Another “by the way.” Drake’s football team ended its season with a 43-6 victory today over Morehead State at Morehead, Ky.
The Bulldogs closed with a 7-3
record for the season, 6-2 in the Pioneer Football League.

The Worst I've Ever Seen

I’ve been around a while and I’ve seen plenty of bad Big Ten football teams.
Don’t forget, I got a lot of experience watching losers when Iowa went 19 consecutive seasons—spread over 3 decades in the previous century—without having a winning record.
But the Illinois team the Hawkeyes crushed 63-0 today is the worst I have ever seen, and Lovie Smith of the Fighting Illini is the worst coach.
Lovie [whose salary is $4 million a year] makes Frank Lauterbur, who won 4 games in 3 seasons at Iowa in the 1970s, look like the legendary Amos Alonzo Stagg.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Dynasty

The dynasty continues.
Dowling Catholic of West Des Moines is the class 4A State High School football champion again.
That’s a stunning 6 straight championships for the Maroons.
This time they stormed back from a 13-point deficit and defeated previously-unbeaten Cedar Falls, 22-16, at the UNI-Dome.
Tonight’s victory climaxed a season that included a couple of losses during the regular season.
Dowling finished with an 11-2 record. Cedar Falls wound up 12-1.

Agreed: It's Early

It’s early, sure.
We all know that.
It’s still November.
But this 2018-2019 Iowa basketball team is starting to look a whole lot better than last season’s 14-19 outfit.
The Hawkeyes improved their record to 4-0 tonight for the first time in 5 seasons with a surprisingly-easy 91-72 victory over Connecticut in the championship game of the four-team 2K Empire Classic tournament in New York City.
It was the first time the Hawkeyes have won a tournament out of the state of Iowa since 1998.
Tyler Cook scored 26 points, Luka Garza 22 and Connor McCaffery 19 for Iowa. Garza was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
As they did in their tournament opener against Oregon, the Hawkeyes played strong defense.
All in all, the trip to the famous Madison Square Garden could pay huge dividends for Iowa.
“You’re right, it’s early,” a Hawkeye fan texted me after the game.
“Everything could go haywire for Iowa, but it is fun for a while to be excited about the future. At least cautiously excited.
“The last 20 years of Iowa basketball, with the exception of a few brief moments, have been mediocre at best.”
UConn coach Dan Hurley didn’t have to watch the final 1 minute 44 seconds of tonight’s game.
He was ejected after drawing his second technical foul.
“I did not like the job I did getting my team ready to play this game,” Hurley told reporters.

Raff, I'll Miss You

Gene Raffensperger and I always had a lot to talk about.
He and I worked in the same newspaper office for 30 years or so, and we had many of the interests.
Indeed, I had countless conversations with Raff about the news business, such sports as football, basketball and baseball and the men and women who played those sports.
Raff and his wife Mary moved from West Des Moines to Cedar Falls a few years ago, so afterward he and I didn’t get the opportunity to visit as much as we would’ve liked.
However, I thought of Raff 2 or 3 days ago, and intended to contact him by phone one of these days.
Sadly, I won’t be able to do that now. Raff died Tuesday at 89 years of age.
So my conversations with him about the Hawkeyes, Cyclones, Bulldogs, Panthers, Lefty Mills, Walt Shotwell, overpaid baseball players, underpaid newspaper people, Otto Knauth, Gordon Gammack and other interesting subjects and people will have to wait for another time.
Raff had a lot of jobs in his 36 years at the paper, and one of those was sports editor.
He was the sports editor for just a few years—from the time Leighton Housh retired until the bosses wanted to promote Dave Westphal to the job so he’d be ready to be the next managing editor.
I was certain Raff didn’t like being an editor as much as he enjoyed running the paper’s one-man Eastern Iowa News Bureau for a long time.
He knew more about the goings-on in Keokuk, Burlington, Davenport and Dubuque than the mayors of those cities.
Raff came from a family that was directly involved with sports or had a keen interest in them.
His dad Leonard coached Iowa’s football teams in 1950 and 1951 after having powerhouse squads at East Waterloo High School.
Len Raffensperger was the man who coached the Hawkeyes between 2 guys who were regarded as gridiron giants nationally—Eddie Anderson and Forest Evashevski.
Evashevski’s teams won 2 Rose Bowl games, and he was the best football coach Iowa has ever had.
Anderson coached Nile Kinnick, this state’s only Heisman Troohy winner and the famous team he played on—the 1939 Ironmen.
Len Raffensperger’s teams twice tied Notre Dame, but his 1950 Hawkeyes lost to Ohio State, 83-21.
His 2-season record at Iowa was 5 victories, 10 losses and 3 ties.
Gene and I didn’t talk much about Iowa’s 1950 and 1951 football seasons.
Raff, I’ll miss you.

Huskers At The Coop

It’s a Nebraska football Saturday for Polly, Danielle and the rest of the Husker Gang at the Chicken Coop in West Des Moines. Nebraska’s fans left the restaurant with full stomachs and a lot of points on the scoreboard at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. The Huskers clobbered Illinois, 54-35.

Complete Domination

Pardon me for a few seconds.
I’m searching for all the superlatives I’ve had stashed away for a while.
The Iowa basketball team that so many people have been criticizing for so long went on the big stage tonight, outplayed and outhustled the nation’s 13th-ranked team and rather easily won a game it wasn’t supposed to win.
Yes, sir, the Hawkeyes completely dominated Oregon, 77-69, at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Not even the presence of 7-2 Oregon player Bol Bol, the son of 7-7 Manute Bol, a former NBA standout, could affect this aroused Iowa squad.
This was a Hawkeye team that was among the nation’s worst at playing defense while struggling to a 14-19 record last season
But a very strong defense was something that contributed mightily to tonight’s upset in something called the 2K Empire Classic.
The Hawkeyes will need that same tenacity Friday night when they play Connecticut for the championship of the four-team event.
UConn shot the lights out while jolting No. 15 Syracuse, 83-76, in tonight’s opening game.
Jordan Bohannon’s 16 points led Iowa, which improved its record to 3-0.


Hey, this is impressive. A crowd of 5,511 at the 7,152-seat Knapp Center watched Drake’s women’s basketball team open its home schedule with a 76-64 victory tonight over South Dakota. It was Dollar Night, meaning general admission tickets cost $1 and hot dogs were also $1. Of course, beer to wash the hot dogs down with was available, too. I’m 100 percent certain the beer was NOT $1.

Numbers & No-Shows

A guy who attends our coffee-and-pie sessions] has an interest in attendance at sports events
He said he’s had trouble finding out how many people have been showing up at Iowa’s men’s basketball games.
“There haven’t been any attendance numbers in the paper or on the Internet,” he said. “But it has sounded kind of quiet at 15,500-seat Carver-Hawkeye Arena on the radio and TV.”
Well, I told the guy the listed attendance figures at the first two home games have been 9,317 and 10,597.
I added that those numbers probably included season ticketholders who were no-shows at the games.
“The numbers aren’t bad,” the guy said. “Maybe those people just didn’t want to make noise.”
I told the guy he might be right.
My pie was French Silk


I heard the score. I hoped it was wrong.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t.
I heard that Drake’s basketball team lost tonight’s game at Colorado.
Well, the Bulldogs didn’t just lose. They were steamrolled, 100-71.
I told someone I was going to write a sentence or two about the game on Facebook.
“It ain’t going to be pretty,” I said. “But neither was the game.
“This is what I’m wondering. Why did Drake even put a road game against a Pac-12 team like Colorado on its schedule in Darian DeVries’ first season as the coach?
“Who needs to get crushed by 29 points?”
Maybe some of those guys who are close to Drake’s program will have the answers at tomorrow’s coffee-and-free-pie session.

It Should Be a Heck Of a Game

It’s a cold, gray November day, so I’m indoors and spending a few minutes watching the Longhorn Network [channel 677 on DirecTV].
Texas football coach Tom Herman is holding his press conference] and heaping praise on Iowa State, which will be the Longhorns’ opponent at 7 p.m. Saturday in Austin, TX.
Herman is a former assistant coach at Iowa State [he was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2009-2011 when Paul Rhoads was his boss], so he knows the territory.
He is making Cyclone coach Matt Campbell seem like the already-legendary Nick Saban and he has Iowa State disguised as the 1972 Miami Dolphins, who had a 17-0 record and won the Super Bowl.
Herman says Iowa State is one of the best teams in the country, and he raved about Cyclone offensive stalwarts Brock Purdy and Hakeem Butler.
In fact, I saw and heard Herman speak in so many superlatives about Iowa State that I’m almost ready to put on the pads and suit up for Saturday’s game.
Just kidding, of course.
Now that I know I can get the Longhorn Network on my TV I’ll be keeping track of the running, passing, blocking and tackling that way.
It figures to be a heck of a game.

Suds In the Seats

Drake University will sell beer to basketball fans of drinking age at men’s and women’s games this season.
However, some seating sections at the Knapp Center, including those where students and the pep band sit, will remain alcohol-free.
Obviously, Drake hopes beer sales will help attract more fans to the Knapp Center in Darian DeVries’ first season as the men’s coach.
Officials said added security will be provided in the basketball arena this season.

Emotion At Kinnick

It will be an emotion-filled day Saturday at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.
The University of Iowa will honor all military veterans and pay a special tribute to the memory of Kinnick, the university’s 1939 Heisman Trophy winner.
Kinnick was born 100 years ago in Adel, IA. He died 75 years ago while serving in the military.
Kinnick’s No. 24 will appear in the helmet Iowa’s players will wear in the 2:42 p.m. game against Northwestern.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

No Longer a (News)paper

Tuesday, of course, was election day.
At the pie-and-coffee session they were talking about how there were no election results in Wednesday’s  Des Moines Register.
Several people said they couldn’t believe it.
I looked at the paper and believed it.
Executive editor Carol Hunter wrote on the front page that if you wanted to read any election news you’d have to read it online—-meaning your computer, tablet or phone.
That was a first. Another example of how the paper is no longer a [news]paper.
This sad situation reminds of how, in a ridiculous move, the paper this fall waited until Sunday to publish the results of high school football games that were played Friday night.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Beer & Basketball At Drake

Drake University will sell beer to basketball fans of drinking age at men’s and women’s games this season.
However, some seating sections at the Knapp Center, including those where students and the pep band sit, will remain alcohol-free.
Obviously, Drake hopes beer sales will help attract more fans to the Knapp Center in Darian DeVries’ first season as the men’s coach.
Officials said added security will be provided in the basketball arena this season.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

When People Were Nice To One Another

When I was a kid, I thought political candidates voted for each other on Election Day.
I guess I thought people were nice to one another then.
That shows you how naive I was.
With youth comes naïveté.
Somehow I don’t think candidates vote for anyone but themselves these days.

Covering the One & Done Scene

I’m just as sick as the next guy of the “One & Done” disease that’s ruining collegiate basketball.
“One & Done”, for the benefit of those of you who have spent the last dozen years on Jupiter and/or Mars, is what multi-talented basketball players who spend one season playing collegiate ball before making millions of dollars thanks to the next NBA draft.

So here I am watching a bunch of “Ones & Dones” from Kansas beating Michigan State’s “Ones & Dones” in the first of many, many big nights on TV during the 2018-2019 season.
It’s obvious that Bill Self has recruited more talented “Ones & Dones” to Kansas than Tom Izzo has brought into Michigan State.
It was a a similar story in the second game of the doubleheader.
Coach K [aka Mike Krzyzewski] sent his “Ones & Dones” from Duke against the latest batch of hotshot “Ones & Dones” recruited by John Calipari of Kentucky.
Just think, in a few months [when the NBA draft is held] tonight’s “One & Dones” will be making more money than the guys who are now coaching them.
Tonight’s scores in the “One & Done Invitational:”
Kansas breaks out to a big early lead, then hangs on to defeat Michigan State, 92-87.
Duke lowers the boom in a huge way on Kentucky, 118-84

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Brock Purdy & Matt the Magician

I'm starting to think Matt Campbell is an absolute magician.

Right up there in the Harry Houdini and David Copperfield class.
I mean, this guy Matt Campbell can do no wrong.
At least in his football office at Iowa State and in stadiums everywhere.
Whenever one of his quarterbacks gets hurt, he reaches into a seemingly endless supply of talented signal-callers to find an even better one.
The newest is true of freshman Brock Purdy, who passed for 263 yards and three touchdowns yesterday in Iowa State's 27-3 rout of Kansas.
It was the Cyclones’ fourth straight victory since Purdy has been the starter.
One or two people think Purdy looks facially like a 15-year-old kid when he’s on the field wearing his helmet and the rest of his Iowa State game gear.
But when he starts rifling one completion after another against the Oklahoma States and West Virginias of the Big 12 Conference, he has the looks of a grown-up Aaron Rodgers.
Actually, Purdy is only 19.
Now Campbell, Purdy and the rest of Iowa State's players are on the threshold of making it to the Big 12 championship game.
At Ames, the magic just keeps happening.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Here Comes Dowling Again. And, Oh, By the Way, Valley Should Be Ashamed Of Itself

We’ve heard this song plenty of times before.
When Dowling Catholic’s football team needs to win, it does just that.
You’d better be ready. You know it’s coming.
And if you’re a Valley fan, you’ve got to be wondering how it could have gone so wrong.
In a battle of two powerhouse high school football teams from West Des Moines, Dowling did everything right in a 31-9 victory over previously-unbeaten Valley in a state class 4A quarterfinal round game tonight at Valley Stadium.
So it’s on to the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls next week for a Dowling team that’s going after it’s sixth consecutive 4A state championship.
Don’t bet against coach Tom Wilson and his talented Maroons.
I’m not.
Valley defeated Dowling, 20-6, in the second game of the season.
Then the Maroons lost yet another game to Ankeny Centennial.
Meanwhile, Valley sailed to a 10-0 record, and looked like it could do no wrong.
Not so fast, my friend.
The Tigers weren’t prepared either physically or emotionally in the second go-around with Dowling.
If Valley’s fans were embarrassed, they had reason to be.
And it was over early. All Valley had to show for this disappointing setback were three field goals.
While the Tigers were kept out of the end zone by an aroused Dowling defense, Jayson Murray was running for three Maroon touchdowns.
The Tigers were whipped at the line of scrimmage, their offense was consistently a step slow against Dowling’s defense and quarterback Beau Lombardi [the younger brother of Michigan State quarterback Rocky Lombardi] wasn’t helped one bit by play-calling from longtime Valley coach Gary Swenson and his staff.
Valley took a solid whipping in the biggest game of the season in its own stadium.
The Tigers should’ve been the team playing with confidence.
Not so.
With a 17-6 halftime lead, Dowling had all the momentum.
The Maroons extended their lead to 24-6 with an 80-yard drive in the third quarter.
After that, it was just a matter of time before Dowling could start filling up the gas tank of the bus for another trip to the UNI-Dome.
For Valley, it was wait until next year.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Joe Namath & His Medicare Commercial

I guess if you hang around long enough, you’ll see everything.
I was watching TV last night when I saw Joe Namath doing a commercial about Medicare.
This is the man who was called “Broadway Joe” when he played professional football.
But Namath is now 75, and I guess he can do as many Medicare commercials as he wants to do.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

It Had To Happen Sometime

Well, you knew it was going to happen sometime.
A Nebraska football victory, I mean.
After some ugly losses and a few finishes that first-year coach Scott Frost said were “unbelievable,” Nebraska steamrolled a very bad Minnesota team, 53-28, today in Lincoln:
The Cornhuskers went into the game after losing their first six under Frost, of whom much is expected.
I made it a point to watch the final few minutes of the game on TV to see reaction in the stadium.
Fans did not storm the field to celebrate:
Good for them. I’m glad they didn’t.
Nebraska’s players celebrated by dumping a huge container of Gatorade on Frost [pictured].
The victory makes me happy for Nebraska’s fans, especially Polly, Mark, Cole and Danielle, Claire, Connie and Tom, their son, daughters and their son and daughters’ kids.


It took far too long, but officials at the University of Maryland have finally regained their sanity.
They fired football coach DJ Durkin today—24 hours after he was reinstated.
One other thing. If you think Maryland is a screwed-up place, you are right

Enough Already

I don’t pay attention to stuff like this the way I once did. I’m trying to figure out how and why Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley is being mentioned in connection with a future National Football League draft. Just because some guy from ESPN said something about it? Stanley maybe even being a first-rounder in the draft? Nobody in his or her right mind should be saying something like that at this stage. Stanley has plenty of collegiate football games left to play. Let the young man enjoy them. Enough already.

I've Got My Answer On Dominique Dafney

I’ve been wondering how Dominique Dafney has been doing, and now I’ve got my answer.
Pretty darned good.
Indeed, Michigan State P quarterback Rocky Lombardi wasn’t the only former football player from Valley High School in West Des Moines to help his team in a Big Ten Conference game this past weekend.
Dafney had quite a Saturday, too.
The Iowa junior blocked a punt for a 2-point safety on Penn State’s first possession in a game the Hawkeyes eventually lost, 30-24.
Dafney is a former two-sport [football and basketball] standout at Valley.
I saw him play many times in both sports. The teams were outstanding, and so was Dafney.
He was a four-year football letterman as a wide receiver, and also lettered four times on Valley’s very good basketball teams.
From Valley, Dafney went to Iowa Western Community College to play football, then to Iowa.
In 2017 as a Hawkeye, he played in all 13 games on special reams and received Academic all-Big Ten recognition. I’m
However, the 6-2, 225-pounder wasn’t listed on the depth chart at wide receiver following spring practice.
So it was good to see him again make his presence known on special teams at State College, PA.
His blocked punt was Iowa’s first since Aaron Mends blocked one against Maryland on Oct. 31, 2015.

Rocky Wasn't Just Impressive. He Was Spectacular

Hey, Rocky Lombardi, that was quite a career major-college debut you had today as a starting quarterback at Michigan State.
It wasn’t just impressive. It wasn’t just outstanding.
It was extraordinary. It was spectacular. It was fantastic.
“I thought Rocky played a tremendous game,” Mark Dantonio, his coach at Michigan State, told reporters.
So did I, and I saw Rocky play many tremendous football games for Valley High School in West Des Moines.
Lombardi was a standout quarterback and wrestler for the Tigers.
Rocky’s younger brother, Beau, is the starting quarterback for the Valley team that has a 10-0 record this season.
Rocky has taken his many talents to the Big Ten Conference. He was on the football team at Michigan State last season, but the plan was for him to practice with the Spartans and save a year of eligibility by not playing in games.
I’ve never regarded Dantonio as one of the geniuses of collegiate football coaching.
But he made the right decision in holding Lombardi out of competition in 2017.
Now Rocky is a redshirt freshman, and he was in the starting lineup today for the first time in his collegiate career.
All he did was complete 26 of 46 passes for 318 yards and two touchdowns in Michigan State’s surprise [to me anyway] 23-13 victory over Purdue.
Don’t forget, it was Purdue that sent a jolt through the collegiate football world a week earlier with a resounding 49-20 victory over Ohio State.
So it wasn’t just some sorry excuse for a Division I team with a bunch of low-caliber schmucks on the roster that Lombardi was going against at East Lansing, Mich.
And Rocky was definitely up for the challenge.
Believe me, 26 pass completions for 318 yards and two touchdowns was Big Ten Player of the Week-type stuff.
“Forty-six attempts is a lot,” Lombardi told reporters after the game. “I’m happy that I got that many attempts and got to show what I did.

Rocky Lombardi and Megan Maly celebrating their graduation from Valley High School in 2017.