Outback Bowl: Dynamic Duo and More

Dec. 26, 2005

The Bowl Game

More About Iowa Football

Fans of the Iowa Hawkeyes who have been watching closely know that their head coach doesn’t take anything for granted. And, if they’ve been watching really close, they probably know that Kirk Ferentz is an emotional individual.

So, imagine the feelings that will be racing through Ferentz’s mind on January 2. It’ll be the fourth straight bowl game in January for Iowa – an accomplishment Ferentz appreciates more than ever given what he was thinking during the three-plus hour bus ride home from the Hawkeyes’ heartbreaking last-minute loss at Northwestern.

“I would have signed in blood with any bowl that would have taken us that night,” said Ferentz Monday after Iowa’s second practice in Tampa.

Iowa vs. Florida will also be the last time he takes to the gridiron with his oldest son, Brian, lining up as a student-athlete – an event that didn’t seem very realistic during the late winter/early spring of 2004 when Brian’s health was an serious jeopardy.

And, the 20th annual Outback Bowl will also be the stage on which two of Iowa’s most prolific linebackers – seniors Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge – play their final games as Hawkeyes.

“What a great story,” Ferentz smiled when asked about his bookends. “Two guys from two opposite worlds.”

The story has been told and re-told. Greenway. The farm kid. Hodge. The big city guy. Two boys that came to Iowa, achieved at Iowa and, now, ready themselves to leave Iowa as men who are likely to be playing the game of football on Sundays.

“They’re so different and, yet, so similar, mostly with the intangibles,” offered their head coach.

“Chad is the unbridled colt, full of energy and enthusiasm. Abdul is steady and by the numbers. Both are tremendous leaders.”

The numbers say it all: Greenway – 407 career tackles in a star-studded career, a total that includes 147 tackles in 2005. Hodge – 434 career tackles in a career equally as brilliant.

“We’ve had a lot of fun together and we’re going to miss them for more reasons than what they provide us as football players,” Ferentz added. “As a staff, we’ve known for three years that we’d get great production at that position….not that we’ve ever taken it or them for granted.”

Notes — After answering a Florida-based reporter’s question to compare former Hawkeye Fred Russell with current Hawkeye Albert Young, Ferentz was quick to point out that the Hawkeye sophomore led the Big Ten in rushing in 2005. “I guess he’s a `Quiet Productive Guy,'” Ferentz said with his trademark wry smile. “We like him but I guess nobody else does.” Young averaged 125.2 yards per game on the ground in Iowa’s eight Big Ten games in 2005, a mark that’s even more impressive when one considers – as noted by Ferentz – Iowa didn’t rush for positive yardage at Ohio State.

As he often does, Ferentz passed the credit to his seniors and team captains when asked to explain the Hawkeyes’ performances at Wisconsin and in the regular season finale against Minnesota inside Kinnick Stadium. “Our leaders chose to look forward, not backward,” he said flatly.

Ferentz said the Hawkeyes are healthy – “Knock on wood.” – three days into their stay in Tampa. He also said the team is moving forward. “We not where we need to be, but we’re making good progress.”

Iowa’s head coach said he’s also enjoying being outdoors. It was sunny, windy and 62 degrees on the practice field Monday. “I am very appreciative of the facilities we have back home, but it’s good to be outside. It’s an outdoor sport, afterall.”

Iowa’s Monday ended with the first official event of the Outback Bowl – the Outback Steakhouse Team Welcome Dinner at the Tampa Convention Center. Both teams, their coaches, and select staff enjoyed a meal catered by the official sponsor of the Outback Bowl, Outback Steakhouse. After dinner, both teams had an opportunity to attend a home game of the Tamp Bay Lightning, the defending Stanley Cup champions of the National Hockey League at the nearby St. Petersburg Times Forum.