Iowa Coach Hayden Fry is a good ol' boy. He wears cowboy boots, even when he's wearing a tie, just like all the other big shots who grew up in Texas. He's quick with a smile, quick with a quip, acts like he's known you all his life.
He can trade tall stories and one-liners all day and into the night.
But when he was asked how he reacted when quarterback Chuck Long said early last spring that he would pass up the National Football League draft and stay for his fifth year at Iowa, Fry paused, assumed a serious expression and said, "I dropped to my knees and thanked the Lord."
No doubt, he did.
With that commitment from Long, Iowa's football team started preparing for the Rose Bowl game that it will play this afternoon against UCLA.
"Everything has been perfect," Fry said. "When Long made his decision to come back to play with (running back) Ronnie Harmon and (linebacker) Larry Station, we knew we had a good nucleus for a fine football team.
"We started preparing for the Rose Bowl last spring. We were preparing to win the Big Ten championship, which meant going to the Rose Bowl, and we shared with the team how we intended to handle our trip out here.
"This time, we not only want to play in the Rose Bowl, we want to win it."
The last time Iowa played in the Rose Bowl was New Year's Day of 1982. Iowa lost that one to Washington, 28-0, and Long, then a freshman, went in for two plays.
Long played such a limited role for the Hawkeyes that season that the NCAA saw fit to let him call that season a redshirt season, giving him the chance to come back for this fifth one.
When Long chose to come back and use that extra year of college eligibility, he made it very clear that he was coming back to take another shot at the Rose Bowl game.
Said Fry: "Chuck admits it was one of the wisest decisions he has made in his lifetime."
If it takes numbers to prove the point, then the point can hardly be argued. In 1985, Long completed 231 of 351 passes--that's 65.8%--for 2,978 yards and 26 touchdowns, all school records.
Setting every other record along the way, Long became the first quarterback in the 89-year history of the Big Ten to pass for more than 10,000 yards. His 1981-85 total is 10,142.
No wonder Fry is thanking the Lord.
No wonder Iowa went 10-1. No wonder Iowa was ranked No. 1 longer than any other team this season.
No wonder UCLA Coach Terry Donahue, the kind of guy who wears perfectly polished penny loafers even when he's not wearing a tie, is also wearing his worried look these days.
Donahue can praise Long with the best of them. He can quote the statistics and recite the superlatives. But Donahue says that Chuck Long's passing is just the beginning of his problems.
"Chuck Long is a great quarterback, but he will not be the first great quarterback we have faced," Donahue said. "When you look at the strengths of Iowa's offensive team, you have to look, No. 1, at their balance. They not only have the great passing of Chuck Long, they have the ability to run the ball. Ronnie Harmon is one of the premier tailback athletes in the country.
"We have faced other great quarterbacks who played with passing teams, but we have never faced a quarterback like Chuck Long who played for a team that has this kind of balance.
"This team will really stretch your defense."
Of course, Donahue is not going to be the one to sing the praises of his own defense. That honor falls to Fry as the two joust, trying to kill one another with kindness.
Fry pointed out: "Their defense is very similar to ours. It's diversified and uses a number of different coverages. For UCLA, those X's are manned by very fine athletes. They will be the quickest, fastest team we've seen.
"Terry's team is No. 1 against the rush (70.3 yards a game) and No. 7 in total defense (281.8 yards a game).
"I'm amazed at the number of guys that can play in the secondary. They have six or seven defensive backs that can come in, and I don't see any apparent drop-off in continuity."
Donahue counters with the assessment that the teams have more similarities than differences, pointing out the offensive balance philosophies of both teams, too, and adding that Iowa is better able to utilize its running backs as receivers and that Iowa seems to be a more physical team.
Fry has really hit hard on the home-field advantage enjoyed by UCLA, going so far as to call timeouts as the team worked out in Southern California last week so that the players could get all of their marveling at the beauty and the weather out of the way.
Donahue keeps trying to downplay the issue of home advantage, even though his team will be in its own stadium, arguing that the home-field advantage counts only when one team has to play in adverse weather conditions or when the crowd is a factor to momentum. "The crowd for the Rose Bowl game is always split 50-50," Donahue said.
Neither does Donahue believe that the Pac-10's domination in recent years means much.