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2002/1985 Comparison

2002/1985 Comparison

10/15/2002 by Jon Miller of Hawkeye Nation


In this week’s ‘Inside the Numbers’ installment, we are going to go back to the future, if you will.

Iowa fans are talking Rose Bowl and all-time greatness with the 2002 Iowa Hawkeye football team, so we thought it would be a good idea to go back and look at one of the best, if not the best, Iowa football team of the modern era: the 1985 Iowa Hawkeyes.

Since I have a nice collection of Iowa football media guides from the 1980’s (all of them in fact, and if you are sitting on any media guides from the 1990’s that you would like to sell, you know how to reach me : ) this was a fun effort.

Of course, we will have to pro-rate some of the 2002 Iowa stats to compare them to the 1985 season and we must also keep in mind that the 1985 team and the 2002 team are very different and the era’s in which they played or are playing are different as well.

But what the heck. We have the stats, so let’s have some fun.

Iowa’s 1985 schedule:

W 58-0 v Drake
W 48-20 v Northern Illinois
W 57-3 @ ISU
W 35-31 v MSU
W 23-13 at Wisconsin
W 12-10 v Michigan
W 49-10 @ NW
L 13-22 @OSU
W 59-0 v Illinois
W 27-24 @ Purdue
W 31-9 v Minnesota
L 28-45 v UCLA (Rose Bowl)

In 1985, Iowa averaged 36.7 points per game and allowed 13.9 points per game. Let me stop right there before going any further. Short of winning the national title this year, I think the 1985 team could beat the 2002 Iowa team. The defense in 1985 was very solid on the whole, which is where the difference would be for me.

In 2002, Iowa is averaging 40.3 points per game and allowing 23.9 points per game. The 1985 points per game average is the Iowa record. The 1990 Iowa Hawkeyes check in at #2 with 35.6 points per game (theme warning)…both of those teams made it to Pasadena.

Iowa’s 2002 games against Akron, Miami (OH) and Utah State were at least as difficult as the 1985 wins against Drake, Northern Illinois and ISU (5-6 season for ISU, including a loss to Drake) and the 2002 ISU squad was a very difficult opponent.

The 1985 Hawkeyes played against at least four highly ranked teams when they played them: MSU, Michigan, OSU and UCLA.

Iowa has beaten a ranked PSU team and Michigan will be ranked in two weeks.

Wisconsin could be ranked if they can knock off Ohio State but that is not likely. So you could argue that the 1985 and 2002 schedules will end up being relatively close in a power ranking sort of way.

The 2002 Hawkeyes are averaging 225.7 rushing yards per game compared to 158.0 in 1985. The 1985 Hawkeyes averaged 300.0 passing yards per game compared to 216.1 for the 2002 Hawkeyes.

Iowa averaged 458.9 yards per game in 1985 and the 2002 Hawkeyes are averaging 441.9 yards per game. Iowa’s 2002 average will likely remain above 400 with games against Indiana, Northwestern & Minnesota still on the docket.

Brad Banks has 14 touchdown passes in 2002 and is on pace for 24, compared to a pace for just 5 to 6 interceptions. Chuck Long had 27 touchdown passes in 1985 and 16 interceptions. Iowa attempted 420 passes, or 35 per game compared to just 22.2 attempts per game for Banks. What does this say? Long had more opportunities for TD passes as well as more opportunities for interceptions. Brad Banks is having a highly effective and efficient season by any measure.

Iowa averaged 17.7 yards per kickoff return in 1985 compared to 25.0 per return this year, and the 2002 Hawkeyes are averaging 11.5 yards per punt return compared to the 1985 average of 5.7 yards per return.

So maybe some folks have too quick of a hook for Ed Hinkel, as there are different philosophies for the return game.

Iowa has been flagged 52 times in 2002 for an average of 66.1 penalty yards per game.

The 1985 Hawkeyes were flagged just 60 times all season for an average of 38.6 penalty yards per game. The Hawkeyes will have to shore up that area. Iowa averaged 38.6 yards per punt in 1985 compared to 38.9 through seven games in 2002.

Iowa is converting third downs at a rate of 45% this year compared to 48% in 1985.

Iowa’s third down conversion defense is 32% this year compared to 38.1% in 1985.

On defense, the 1985 team allowed 120.5 yards per game on the ground compared to 56.1 per game this year. Today’s offenses are more pass happy than they were in 1985 and Iowa’s pass defense is also a bit soft. Iowa’s 1985 pass defense yielded just 176.3 yards passing per game compared to 318 yards per game this year.

Iowa had 20 fumbles in 1985 and lost 13 of them compared to nine fumbles and seven lost this year. The 1985 Iowa team intercepted 19 passes and the 2002 Iowa team has 10 picks. Jay Norvell led the ’85 Hawkeyes with seven INT’s and Devon Mitchell had five. Derek Pagel has three INT’s this season.

The Iowa media guide did not show the number of sacks or sacks allowed in 1985 which is a statistic I would love to see, given the 2002 Iowa offensive line is being compared to some of the all-time great Iowa lines.

Rob Houghtlin attempted 27 field goals in 1985 and he made 19 of them. (Houghtlin was 21 of 30 in 1987, Iowa records for FG’s made and attempted in one season). Rob was 12 of 13 from 11 to 39 yards, 5 of 10 from 40-49 and 2 of 4 from 50+. He scored 104 points in 1985.

Nate Kaeding is 14 of 14 in 2002 and has made 17 straight, which is his Iowa record. Nate is 7 of 7 from 40+ and three of three from 50+ (51,51,55). He has scored 74 points this season. The Iowa record is 114 points by Tavian Banks in 1997. Houghtlin scored 105 points in 1985 and 105 points in 1985.

Larry Station led the 1985 Hawkeyes with 129 tackles and 15 for a loss. Jeff Drost also had 15 tackles for loss and Hap Peterson had 13 tackles for loss. Fred Barr leads the 2002 Hawkeyes with 61 tackles, including six tackles for a loss.

Colin Cole has eight tackles for loss and Matt Roth has five. Cole and Roth each have four sacks. Again, the 1985 media guide did not list sacks. In 1985, Iowa threw the ball around to a lot of receivers. The same can be said of the 2002 season.

Ronnie Harmon led the 1985 team with 60 catches out of the backfield and he had 699 receiving yards and one touchdown. (Fred Russell, Jermelle Lewis and Aaron Greving have one reception each through seven games and no other running back has any. Jeremy Allen and Ladell Betts combined for 35 receptions a year ago).

Bill Happell had 56 catches for 901 yards and eight touchdowns, Scott Helverson had 54 catches for 703 yards and five touchdowns, TE Mike Flagg had 28 catches for 245 yards and five touchdowns and speedy Robert Smith had 21 catches for 401 yards and seven touchdowns.

In 2002, Mo Brown leads the way with 25 catches for 501 yards and five TD’s, CJ Jones has 20 catches for 286 yards and six scores, TE Dallas Clark has 18 catches for 320 yards and two TD’s and freshmen Ed Hinkel and Clinton Solomon have 15 and 12 receptions, respectfully.

Ronnie Harmon led the way on the ground for the 1985 Hawkeyes with 1,166 yards, or 97.1 yards per game and nine touchdowns.

Fred Russell has 797 yards rushing through seven games for an averaged of 132.8 and six touchdowns. His average yards per carry is 5.8 compared to 5.2 for Harmon in 1985.

So what does this tell us? Nothing really, as comparing different teams is an effort in tangible futility, but statistically speaking, the 2002 Hawkeyes are pretty good.

I guess we knew that already.

But it’s fun to see the numbers on paper because most of us are familiar with the prowess of the 1985 Big Ten Champion Iowa Hawkeyes, and Pasadena is where the 2002 Iowa Hawkeyes would like to go.

Hawkeye NationHawkeye Nation was founded by Jon Miller, and later acquired by Rivals and Sports Illustrated. You can visit them at

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2002/1985 Comparison - Summary of Iowa football and basketball games