IOWA CITY, Iowa — Back in the spring of 1952, Lou Matykiewicz was young for the world of college football and his Iowa teammates heard it loud and CLEE-urr when he barked out signals as a quarterback.
Matykiewicz enrolled at Iowa when he was 17 and just turned 18 when Forest Evashevski signed on as coach. As he learned Evashevski’s Wing-T offense, Matykiewicz also experienced a dose of the Hall of Fame coach’s crude humor.
“My voice would crack. Hut-hut,” Matykiewicz said with his voice soaring an octave higher then falling. “It was pretty hard to command a huddle with a voice like that. But after the spring practice was over, Evy called me up and said, ‘You had a pretty nice spring Matykiewicz. I hope when fall comes around, I hope the right one drops.’ ”
For Matykiewicz, that moment was one of his first interactions with the man who turned Iowa football from a laughingstock into a national power. The Chicago native who was recruited by then-Iowa assistant Bump Elliott wasn’t around for the three Big Ten titles and share of the 1958 national championship. But after his final season in 1954, Matykiewicz knew Evashevski would mold the Hawkeyes into champions.
“You could see it coming,” Matykiewicz said. “I think that final banquet we all had a little talk and I was like, ‘Get your season tickets because they’re going to be great.’ ”
Matykiewicz arrived on campus as a linebacker, and there was free substitution until his first eligible season as a sophomore in 1952. Players were required to play both ways, and if one left the field he was required to sit for the rest of the quarter. So Evashevski would substitute the entire squad and everyone needed an offensive position. Matykiewicz told Evashevski he was a quarterback in high school, and that’s what he played on offense.
In 1953, Matykiewicz led Iowa in passing yards with 234. The Hawkeyes finished the season ranked No. 9 in final AP poll with a 5-3-1 record. In the traditional regular-season finale against Notre Dame, the top-ranked Fighting Irish faked injuries to stop the clock late in the first half and in the final seconds of the fourth quarter. The ploy helped them score touchdowns and tie Iowa, 14-14. The game forever is known as the “Fainting Irish.”
“I remember Evy’s famous quote and I’ll keep it clean,” Matykiewicz said. “When the Great Scorer comes to write our name, He won’t write whether we won or lost but whether you got robbed at Notre Dame.”
“They scored with about 10 seconds left in the half and about the same amount of time left in the game. They didn’t really break any rules, the faking Irish. The rule was the official was winding his arm because as soon as a sub came on the field, he was supposed to start the clock. He was winding and they never started the clock until they snapped the ball. So that took 10, 20 seconds. That would have been the game right there.”
After the Hawkeyes arrived in Iowa City after the game in South Bend, Ind., Evashevski staged a victory party at the Iowa Memorial Union and about 3,000 students attended. According to the Daily Iowan, Evashevski told the crowd, “Don’t celebrate a tie tonight; celebrate a victory. I was there and if ever a team won a victory, this one did.”
Renowned sportswriter Grantland Rice called out the Irish and coach Frank Leahy afterward saying, “I consider it a complete violation of the spirit and ethics of the game and was sorry to see Notre Dame, of all teams, using this method. Why in Heaven’s name was it allowed?”
Notre Dame dropped to No. 2 in the final polls.
That wasn’t the only controversial game in which Matykiewicz participated. In 1952, the Hawkeyes played host to Ohio State for the first time in 26 years. The grass grew long and was overly watered at Iowa Stadium to slow down Woody Hayes’ high-powered Buckeyes, who combined for 130 points in the two previous poundings of Iowa. Instead, the 0-4 Hawkeyes pulled a shocking 8-0 upset to hand Evashevski his first Iowa victory. It also kept Ohio State from the Big ten title and a Rose Bowl berth.
Now 83, Matykiewicz lives in the Quad Cities and remains active in the Iowa Football Club. In July, he participated in the Iowa Legends of Football camp in Cedar Rapids. There he mingled with former Hawkeyes of all eras, including current NFL players George Kittle, Jaleel Johnson and Desmond King.
Matykiewicz loves to chat about his past at Iowa and his recall is extraordinary. Evashevski hired a assistant named Jerry Burns — who later replaced him and coached the Minnesota Vikings in the late 1980s — and asked Matykiewicz to let the young coach stay with him.
“They brought Jerry on campus when I was a senior,” Matykiewicz said. “He was 25, 26 years old and Evy said, ‘Can he stay with you until he gets an apartment?’ Burns ended up living with me for about six weeks.
The post Former Iowa QB Lou Matykiewicz dishes on ‘Fainting Irish’ and tie with No. 1 Notre Dame in 1953 appeared first on Land of 10.
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