Iowa spent a number of weeks ranked number one….when on October 19, 1985….they defeated the #2 Michigan Wolverines 12–10 in the thirteenth regular season match-up between a #1 and #2 team….when Mike Haight, Chuck Long, and Ronnie Harmon were the stars for the Hawkeyes. They eventually lost one game on November 2, 1985 to Ohio State 13–22….as Iowa came into this Rose Bowl game with a record of 10–1.
After much consideration, Chuck Long delighted Iowa Hawkeye fans by declaring that he would return for his senior season….as he became an instant Heisman Trophy candidate….while Iowa was a pre-season top five team….when they ascended to # 1 after three weeks of the 1985 season.
In Iowa’s first game at #1, the Hawkeyes played Michigan State in a seesaw game that had Michigan State leading, 31–28, in the waning minutes…..when Long drove Iowa the length of the field….where the Hawkeyes faced 4th and goal from the two-yard line with just 27 seconds remaining. Since there was no overtime rule, Iowa needed to go for the touchdown and the win. Chuck Long faked a hand-off to running back Ronnie Harmon….and then ran to his right…when his fake had fooled the Spartan defenders, and Long ran into the endzone, holding the ball high above his head as he crossed the goal line to give Iowa a 35–31 victory. He completed a school record 30 passes on 39 attempts for 380 yards….and scored 5 TD’s, four passing and the game winning score rushing in the game.
Two weeks later, #1 Iowa faced #2 Michigan in Kinnick Stadium….where Iowa trailed 10-9….as the Hawkeyes regained possession of the football at their own 22-yard line with just 5:27 remaining in the game….when Long led Iowa on a 66-yard drive against the nation’s top-ranked defense…while twice converting third-and-eight situations by completing passes to tight end Mike Flagg. Long drove the Iowa team to the 12-yard line with two seconds remaining to set up kicker Rob Houghtlin’s game-winning field goal as time expired. Chuck Long completed 26 of 39 passes for 297 yards in Iowa’s 12–10 win.
A loss to Ohio State cost Iowa their #1 ranking….but the Hawkeyes still won the Big Ten title outright for the first time in 27 years….as Chuck Long won many major national awards as a senior….including the 1985 Maxwell Award…which is given to the nation’s top player….plus the Davey O’Brien Award that is given to the nation’s top quarterback. He was the Big Ten Player of the Year and a consensus first team All-American. Finally, Chuck Long was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy to Bo Jackson of Auburn in what used to be the closest margin in Heisman history, losing by just 45 points.
On the other hand….UCLA defeated defending national champion BYU in Provo by a score of 27 – 24 to start the season….then they tied eventual SEC and Sugar Bowl champion Tennessee….but the Bruins opened the Pac-10 season by losing at Washington, 21–14. They would later get two key wins….the first against Arizona State….and the second at Arizona. For much of the season, the rushing defense was ranked # 2 in the nation behind Oklahoma’s. They won the rest of their games leading up to their cross-town rival game against USC….while needing a win against 4–5 USC….when the Bruins struggled…as star running backs Gaston Green and Mell Farr Jr had fumbles during in the game. UCLA was leading in the fourth quarter 13–10 when Eric Ball fumbled at the USC 1 as he was about to score what would have been the clinching touchdown. Freshman quarterback Rodney Peete led USC on a drive….and after converting a key fourth down along the way….the Trojans again faced a fourth down at UCLA’s 2-yard line….when USC scored to take a 17–13 lead….only to intercept UCLA quarterback David Norrie as he tried to lead a Bruin comeback. The UCLA loss opened the door for Washington to grab the Rose Bowl berth….but they were upset by Washington State on the same day by a score of 21 – 20….when Washington lost the advantage due to the loss in the to Oregon State….which put Arizona State in position to win the conference as they entered their game with Arizona with only one conference loss (40–17 to UCLA). But later that evening, Arizona defeated Arizona State 16–13 to cause a tie between UCLA, Arizona State, and Arizona….as UCLA won the tiebreaker and the Rose Bowl berth by virtue of its wins over Arizona and Arizona State.
UCLA came into the 1986 Rose Bowl game with a record of 8–2–1….as Coach Terry Donahue was named Pac-10 Coach of the year…..as 5 of his Bruin players were first team All Pac-10….including DT Mark Walen, OT Mike Hartmeier, K John Lee, NG Terry Tumey and ILB Tommy Taylor….when Walen was named Pac-10 defensive player of the year. UCLA finished the season ranked # 1 in the nation in rushing defense at 70.3 yards per game.
This 1986 Rose Bowl Game was carried by NBC Sports featuring their legendary broadcast team of Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen….along with Bill Macatee on the sidelines….which makes this video well worth watching by any college football fan.