Bit(es) and Pieces from the Outback Bowl Team Luncheon

Dec. 29, 2008

TAMPA, Fla. – Perhaps the emcee for the 2008 DeBartolo Outback Bowl Team Luncheon, a well-tanned local television sportscaster, summed it up best Monday shortly before noon when he said quite plainly: “Both teams are here…and they are hungry.”

So it goes during “Bowl Week” in Tampa. Coaches, student-athletes, administrators and fans of Iowa and South Carolina descended upon the city’s Convention Center for another celebration of the 2009 Outback Bowl, the event that will pit the Big Ten Conference’s Hawkeyes against the Southeastern Conference’s Gamecocks on New Year’s Day in Raymond James Stadium.

There was food. There were introductions. There was desert. There were video highlights of both team’s victories. And, of course, there were a few brief speeches.

“Obviously, we’re very, very excited to be back in Tampa and if you’ve seen the weather back in Iowa, you’d understand at least one of the reasons why,” joked UI head coach Kirk Ferentz between welcoming UI President Sally Mason and David Miles, president of the State of Iowa, Board of Regents to the Tampa and acknowledging the efforts of his coaching staff and the accomplishments of his student-athletes.

“It’s been an enjoyable season. The team has worked hard each week, played hard each weekend and we’ll need to do the same this week. We’re matched against another outstanding and well-coached opponent,” he added.

Part of the program included questions submitted by fans in attendance. The first to Ferentz was a hanging slider: “How difficult is it to coach someone as talented as Shonn Greene?”

“A real challenge,” Ferentz said with the same poker face he’ll have on the sideline at kickoff on the first day of 2009.

“Seriously, Shonn is a great, great story. He’s travelled a very difficult road, working as hard as he had to to get back to where he needed to be both athletically and academically,” he continued.

“One of the many outstanding things about this story is that Shonn is as humble and hard-working today as he was when he returned to the team. That’s speaks volumes about the kind of teammate and person he is.”

“Obviously, we’re very, very excited to be back in Tampa and if you’ve seen the weather back in Iowa, you’d understand at least one of the reasons why.”
Kirk Ferentz

Asked how the Hawkeye offense was going to attack the South Carolina defense, Ferentz didn’t tip his hand, other than to note the potential for Iowa’s punting unit to be at the top of its game.

“They’re pretty impressive against the run and equally impressive against the pass. As I’ve said for several weeks, we have some work to do,” he said.

Another fan offered the tried-and-true, “Is there really a difference between Big Ten football and SEC football?” Ferentz noted that his counterpart, USC Coach Steve Spurrier, addressed that one quite effectively during yesterday’s media conference.

“I agree with Steve’s assessment. Each team in each conference has their own personality. I’d also add that the SEC has been a power in college football for a long, long time thanks in good measure to the outstanding coaches the league has had over the years.”

Spurrier opened his remarks lamenting the fact that a record he shared with the first Tampa Bay Bucanneer football team was broken yesterday when the Detroit Lions finished the 2008 NFL regular season winless in 16 games. SC’s flamboyant head coachwas the quarterback for the Bucs’ 0-14 season 32 years ago.

“I played in every game that season,” Spurrier recalled, with an emphasis on the word “every.”

“It wasn’t a pretty sight.”

Asked who was the most talented student-athlete the Gamecock’s had faced this year, Spurrier singled out Florida’s Percy Harvin after noting that they “haven’t faced Shonn yet.”

Spurrier also noted – in response to other questions – Florida’s “Swamp” was the toughest place for the 2008 South Carolina team to play, the Gamecock’s come-from-behind victory at Ole Miss was his team’s biggest win of the season, and that the state of Florida has a bullseye on its back as a source for great high school talent.

Lastly, when asked about how his defense was going to stop the Greene, the 2008 Doak Walker Award winner as the nation’s top running back, he was candid.

“I don’t know if we can stop him completely, nobody has yet. We’re going to try to contain him, to minimize his opportunities for big runs. If we do that, we have a chance – a chance – to be successful.”

The luncheon was the start of a busy day for the Hawkeyes. Shortly after returning from the Convention Center, the team was huddling for meetings prior to another practice at the facilities at the University of Tampa.

Tonight’s highlight? For some of the Hawkeyes, dinner and games and GameWorks in nearyby Ybor City is on the agenda. For others, a little college football: The Valero Alamo Bowl. Northwestern will be looking to even the Big Ten Conference’s record in postseason play to 1-1.

Fans of the Iowa Hawkeyes who live in the Heartland or in the Sunshine State or in all points between should note that the UI Athletics Ticket Office is still accepting ticket orders via its online ticket office. Click here to purchase your tickets online. Fans can also purchase over the phone by calling 1-800 IA-HAWKS or over-the-counter at the UI’s Outback Bowl ticket office located in the Hyatt Regency Tampa.