The night Hawaii arrived
IT was Sept. 3, 1988. I was 17. Jason Elam, just 18. Jim Leahey was 45.
Mark Nua was 378 pounds.
Iowa was ranked No. 9 in the country.
Hawaii wore green and white.
"The biggest victory in the history of University of Hawaii football. The Rainbows never quit. Oh, they bent tonight, they bent. They had the other team ahead. But they came back in the second half. That old scenario has been beaten into the ground, finally. Finally. ... But the pride that was evident in this Hawaii team tonight, the way they played, their performance, will be remembered as long as they are still suiting up players at the University of Hawaii. This is one of those historical, magical moments. And if you want to go a little crazy tonight, go ahead. You deserve it."
-- Jim Leahey
THERE WAS HAYDEN Fry, already a legend. Shades and mustache, so Texas, he was like Buford T. Justice in the flesh. Bob Wagner, so skinny, so young. Brown hair, middle comb.
Iowa, going right down the field, as the game started, the yardage coming in chunks. Chuck Hartlieb would complete his first seven throws.
Before you could blink, they were knocking on the door. But the 'Bows swarmed, and then it was fourth down. Fry never hesitated.
Leahey had the call:
Well, if you're rated in the top 10, you're one of the favorites to go to the Rose Bowl, you've already been picked by one publication to win the national championship, you go for it on fourth down!
A misdirection play. The ti leaves shook. The stadium shook. Kim McCloud made the hit, hung on for dear life.
To the 2! To the 1! And he didn't make it! He did not get in!
Goal-line stand. A goal-line stand. You could feel it starting to build.
IOWA HAD ALL-AMERICAN Dave Haight, the returning Big Ten defensive lineman of the year. Merton Hanks, who would be an All-Pro with the 49ers. Another of the already-famous Stoops brothers.
Iowa's offense had a huge line, two really good running backs, Hartlieb, All-American Marv Cook. But ...
Hudson hit at the line of scrimmage, fumbles the ball! Joe Seumalo can't hold it! Briggs chasing it! Briggs! Recovers, and the Rainbows, let's see, will have it! Inside the 30 ...
On the next play, Heikoti Fakava would follow an avalanche of blockers rumbling over the right side, high-kicked through a tackle, cut back at the sideline to let Stoops slide by, and scored. The place went nuts.
Too easy. Tony Stewart went 67 yards the other way to tie it up. Iowa was the real deal.
IN THE SECOND quarter, Hartlieb was still perfect, the Rainbows tougher against the run, but Stewart scored again on a short toss sweep.
"That offensive line, Jim," Rick Blangiardi said.
But UH was moving, too.
The ball is given to Heikoti Fakava -- big hole! 20, 15, 10, still on his feet -- the 5! The 1-yard line! Ohhhh, what a run!
"All heart," Blangiardi said.
At halftime, Iowa was up 21-14.
THE THIRD QUARTER had been a slugfest. Nobody scored. Hawaii's defense had been brilliant, hitting, swarming. The Rainbow offense had had two decent drives, but walked away with nothing.
The two teams knew they were equals, now.
Warren Jones opened the fourth quarter with a breakaway option run.
Then a long pass to Chris Roscoe, who caught it on the 5. And a banged-up Fakava had sprinted out of the locker room, back into the game. Billy Stephens, his backup, from Kona, who'd fumbled earlier in the game, blocked two people on the Power I, and Fakava walked in, and Aloha Stadium exploded. Leahey, speechless. Blangiardi, silent. Fakava grabbed Stephens and swallowed him in an emotional embrace.
Everyone was jumping. Oh, my goodness. Hawaii, Iowa.
This game is tied ... at 21.
After one third-down stop, David Maeva, drunk on the adrenaline of the moment, started grinning like a small kid, giddily pumping shakas in the night sky. He was waving to his friends.
It was happening. It was happening.
And again we will say, that over the years when the Rainbows played nationally ranked teams, the Rainbows seemed to wilt in the fourth quarter. They have not ... wilted .... yet.
Elam on, a 47-yarder, his first career field goal. Good. Hugging, leaping, running like he'd won the World Cup. 24-21, 9:58 to go.
Iowa tied it with a 44-yard kick.
A late hit on the quarterback to keep a drive alive. A great escape, and a first down just by the nose of the ball. Fakava, 3 yards on third and 2.
The clock running.
"No matter what happens," Blangiardi said, "this has been something else."
Credit the Rainbows here in the fourth quarter. We've said that the scenario that has been played over and over again, year after year is that the Rainbows just don't have enough manpower, they just don't have enough left in the fourth quarter to really challenge the brand-name teams, the Oklahomas, the Nebraskas, the Iowas. Tonight -- that scenario never came about.
Elam lined up. A short one. But for the game. "Hawaii Five-O" was pounding, swinging, rocking the place.
It is ... good. 1:36 left, a minute, 36 away from the first stunning upset of the 1988 season. And a minute, 36 seconds away from perhaps, the biggest victory in the history of University of Hawaii football!
They lifted Elam. They carried him. He was just a kid.
Remember, Iowa has been ranked as high as first by Sport Magazine, ninth by Sports Illustrated. The wire services have them in the top 10 ...
Iowa moving. The fans pleading. Wagner pacing, waving his arms to incite the crowd
And Hartlieb, can he pull it out. He is doing it! Fifty-eight seconds left! Iowa has only one timeout remaining.
Iowa at the 18, 47 seconds left, already in field-goal range. But then Iowa's Bob Kratch, who would play in the NFL for eight years, jumped offside.
Hartlieb, has time, throws for the end zone, it is ... caught! Touchdown, Iowa! What a comeback!
"There's a flag on the field!" Blangiardi yelled.
Oh, yes, there was a call. On the replay of the tape you can see it. Not a takedown, not a tackle, but a right arm way out there, an arm-extended grab.
Thirty-two seconds left in this game, 32 seconds away from absolute delirium, from a night perhaps of snake dancing in the parking lot of Aloha Stadium!
A great stop, inbounds, Robert Lan. The clock rolled.
Iowa had to kick.
Bad snap. No good.
"What you hear," Blangiardi said, "is what words cannot describe."
Remember! Remember this moment. In the history of University of Hawaii football, remember this moment.
Jones kneeled. It was over.
The biggest victory in the history of University of Hawaii athletics, football. Fourteen seconds, 13 seconds ...
Wagner, jumping, pumping his fist. Looking for Fry. Players hugging him, all of them an arm around him, and then running together, picking up speed. Wagner running into the locker room with his guys, faster, faster. Headed into history at a full sprint.