Lost in Iowa State’s heartbreaking loss to Texas last Thursday was the historic play by sophomores Quenton Bundrage and Sam Richardson. Early in the third quarter, on a 3rd-and-9 at the ISU 3-yard line, Richardson hit Bundrage with a perfect pass on a slant route.
Bundrage slipped by his defender and immediately saw a huge hole of open space, darting 97 yards for the touchdown. The catch was the longest pass play in school history and the longest play from scrimmage in Jack Trice Stadium history. The duo also teamed up for a 67-yard TD pass in the Iowa game.
“I ran a decent route, but Sam threw a better ball,” Bundrage said. “It was crazy how wide open I was after I caught it. I hope we can do it again.”
Bundrage’s catch didn’t break the school mark for longest play from scrimmage. He fell one yard shy of the record held by Meredith Warner, who recorded a 98-yard run on Oct. 2, 1943 vs. Iowa Pre-Flight. The circumstances behind Warner’s run are interesting to say the least, but we will get to that later.
First we need to note how rare it is to see a 90-yard play from scrimmage. In the 122 years of Iowa State football, it’s only happened four times. Besides Bundrage and Warner, Ed Williams caught a 90-yard pass from Todd Doxzon in 1995 against Oklahoma and Graston Norris ran 91 yards that same year vs. UNLV. That’s it. No other Cyclones have done it.
Just knowing these facts there has to be an epic story of how Warner rambled 98 yards for paydirt in 1943, right? Well, there is a fascinating story, but I wouldn’t call it “epic.”
In 1943, war was ravaging in Europe and Pacific and many young men between the ages 18-25 were serving their country. The U.S. Navy commissioned pre-flight schools at various universities, including the University of Iowa. The cadets trained and were given aerial instruction before being sent out to flight schools.
While they trained, the NCAA allowed the cadets to compete in college football, forming its own collegiate teams. Many of the cadets were grown men and former All-Americans in college. They formed impressive teams, including national power Iowa Pre-Flight.
The 1943 Iowa Pre-Flight squad was led by former Missouri coach Don Faurot, who guided the Seahawks to a national ranking and 9-1 mark. Triumphs that season were against Iowa State, Iowa, Illinois, Ohio State, Missouri and Minnesota. Their only blemish was a 14-13 loss to Notre Dame in South Bend.
On Oct. 2, the mighty Iowa Pre-Flight team traveled to Ames to take on the Cyclones. The Seahawks out-manned the home team, mounting a 33-7 lead at the end of the third quarter. Iowa Pre-Flight amassed 470 yards on the ground in the dominant performance and put in the reserves in the fourth quarter.
This is when Warner made history. The 5-11, 170-pound back from Des Moines took a handoff in the closing minutes of the game, and according to the Ames Tribune postgame write-up, he had a little help.
“There are about 7,000 people who will stoutly refute the oft-repeated statement that there is nothing new under the sun after seeing Saturday’s game between the Cyclones of Iowa State and the Seahawks of the University of Iowa.
In the closing minutes of the game, Meredith Warner started from his own two yard line and aided by some good blocking got started for a long run, and he really eluded some tacklers and went down the east sidelines like a streak of lightning. However, about midway of his journey a couple of Seahawks caught up with him and while one of them was blocked out, the other, Van Hagen, ran alongside him and slapped him in the seat of his pants and urged him to even greater speed. Well, Warner made it and six more points were added to the Cyclones lowly score.”
– Ames Tribune, Oct. 3, 1943
Iowa State historian Tom Kroeschell has verified this account with a number of sources who actually attended the game. They all saw the same thing. The intent, however, is conflicting. Did Hagen urge Warner on his run out of good sportsmanship during a time America was at war? Or, did Hagen “show up” Warner in an act of mockery? It is doubtful we will ever find the answer to this question.
One thing we do know is that you can’t put an asterisk on the play. Ninety-eight yards is 98 yards. However, it is safe to say that Bundrage owns ISU’s longest play from scrimmage without an opponent escort.