Dec. 8, 2009
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — The quest for a unique on-field matchup was one of the reasons the Orange Bowl jumped at the chance to pair the University of Iowa against Atlantic Coast Conference champion Georgia Tech on Jan.5 in Land Shark Stadium.
“We want to put on the best bowl game that we can with the best teams that are available,” said Orange Bowl media host Larry Gautier at a press conference Monday inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “Iowa and Georgia Tech have never played before. Iowa’s defense versus Georgia Tech’s offense is a very interesting storyline. The extent we could take all that together and come up with a great matchup on the field and put 75 to 80,000 people in the stands — that’s what we’re going to look at.”
The Yellow Jackets average 307.2 rushing yards (second in the NCAA) and 35.3 points per game (11th); Iowa’s defense has limited its first 12 opponents to 122 rushing yards (33rd) and 15.5 points per game (10th).
“No question that Iowa’s defense is stellar across the board and they’ve shown that time and time again,” Gautier said. “Georgia Tech’s offense is a very unique offense. Their strength is their flexbone, wishbone, whatever coach (Paul) Johnson calls that. Iowa’s defense with A.J. (Edds), with Pat (Angerer) and the defensive folks that you have…it’s going to be mano-a-mano at the end of the day.”
The Fiesta Bowl owned the first selection of the Bowl Championship Series postseason games and it decided to pit two undefeated at-large teams — Texas Christian and Boise State. Gautier said that move surprised the Orange Bowl selection committee “a little bit.” Then there was no hesitation to choose the Hawkeyes for the second time in seven years.
“We had Iowa on our radar screen for a long time,” Gautier said. “We were hoping Iowa would be available. We had a very positive experience with the Hawkeye Nation in our 2003 game. Iowa was the team we wanted to come down to Miami. We had a track record with you, you were available, we made the pick of Iowa, and here we are.”
Georgia Tech (ninth) and the Hawkeyes (10th) flip-flopped from the Nov. 29 to the Dec. 6 BCS polls. The Yellow Jackets are 11-2 overall, Iowa is 10-2.
There is an Orange Bowl history for both schools. Georgia Tech played in the Orange Bowl five times previously — 1940, ’45, ’48, ’52 and ’67. The Hawkeyes were outscored 28-7 in the second half and lost to the Southern California, 38-17, in the 2003 Orange Bowl.
“We had Iowa on our radar screen for a long time. We were hoping Iowa would be available. We had a very positive experience with the Hawkeye Nation in our 2003 game. Iowa was the team we wanted to come down Miami. We had a track record with you, you were available, we made the pick of Iowa, and here we are.”
Orange Bowl rep
“When coach (Kirk Ferentz) came down and played the USC game, it started off well with C.J. (Jones) running it all the way back (for a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown),” Gautier said. “At halftime, you guys obviously didn’t poke it in, but it was a good experience. I think it’s been coach’s goal to get back to the big dance. Now he’s got his chance again.”
Since that game, Ferentz has led the Hawkeyes to a 3-2 record in the postseason, including a 31-10 win over South Carolina in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, 2009.
Gautier said the 2009 Iowa team reminds the Orange Bowl committee of the 2002 Hawkeyes, a group that included quarterback Brad Banks, tight end Dallas Clark, running back Fred Russell, defensive end Matt Roth and strong safety Bob Sanders.
“It’s very similar to your team back in 2002,” Gautier said. “The chemistry was very strong, you overcame a lot of adversity, a lot of last-minute wins — nail-biters.”
For the 2003 Orange Bowl, approximately 48,000 Iowa fans invaded Miami with 25,000 UI supporters at the Hawkeye Huddle.
“We anticipate that same number or maybe more Hawkeye fans this year,” Gautier said. “The first time the Hawkeye Nation came down, you overwhelmed the state of Florida. It was our first experience with the Hawkeye Nation and we now have that experience under our belt. We got a lot of our feedback from the Hawkeye fans from a couple years ago as to how to make our events better.”
Gautier said that several teams were included in the discussion to be the bowl’s at-large representative, including Penn State of the Big Ten Conference.
“Iowa took care of business in Happy Valley (a 21-10 win on Sept. 26). You were higher-ranked, so from our perspective, Iowa was always on the front burner with us,” Gautier said. “At the end of the day, you were available and we went with Iowa. This team has overcome tremendous adversity this year with its injuries and it has continued to persevere all the way through. We thought that perseverance and that commitment needed to be rewarded. It was a job well done and Iowa deserves to come dwon to Miami on Jan. 5.”
The 2010 Orange Bowl will start at 7 p.m. (Iowa time). The game will be televised by FOX.