Today's Tidbit... The 1925 Iowa-Wisconsin Snow Game's 33 Fumbles
I published a story about a week ago regarding WSUI, the University of Iowa's radio station, and its coverage of football games in the 1920s. I noted that WSUI only broadcast the first four games of the 1925 season, which led a reader, Bill Claypool, to suggest they might have missed the Wisconsin game due to the game being played in a blizzard.
Whether the snow and wind had anything to do with the radio station missing the game is unknown, but it was among the more bizarre games in Big Ten history. The game was a mess. There were no drives. Just one mistake after another, followed by a punt.
The game began with four+ inches of drifting snow on the field. With 30 MPH winds coming from the north, punts heading south traveled well, but those going north were problematic, even when the punter kept his feet. Many punts plopped into the snow and stayed wherever they landed. There were few favorable rolls during this game.
In the first quarter, Wisconsin headed into the wind and had the ball on Iowa's 49. Leo Harmon punted, but the ball was caught in the wind and sailed backward to Wisconsin’s 35-yard line, where Iowa recovered the ball and fumbled it back to Wisconsin on the same play.
A second-quarter run by Iowa's Schirmer went for 17 yards. Running with a clear field, the ball slipped out of his hands, ending the play. Both teams came out in the second half wearing gloves.
Long snapping on punts or to running backs was problematic. Reports vary, but there were around 33 fumbles in the game, with 17 coming in the first quarter.
The grounds crew had difficulty keeping the sidelines swept of snow and stopped trying to sweep the yard lines during the game. Somehow the officials determined when Iowa and Wisconsin earned first downs. The teams combined for six first downs during the game.
The snow clung to players' jerseys obscuring their numbers and making it difficult to tell one ball carrier or tackler from another.
Wisconsin lost 47 yards from scrimmage, while Iowa lost 33 yards. Wisconsin's lost yardage from scrimmage and penalties exceeded their yards gained. Iowa lost more yards on fumbles (95) than they gained from scrimmage.
The Badgers scored partway through the fourth quarter after driving to Iowa's 1-yard line and fumbling. Iowa's punt out of its end zone was partially blocked, and Wisconsin got it at the 11, scoring a few plays later.
Down 6-0, Iowa threw the game's only pass on the last play. It fell incomplete.
When doing a deep dive on the game, I read an Iowa City Press-Citizen account indicating the game was broadcast by radio. While that corrected my earlier information, had I not relied on another report of WSUI missing this game, I would not have been tipped off to this wonderful snowy game and would never have found these images. Sometimes the best information is bad, and the best or worst football occurs in blizzard conditions.
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