Coaches Square off in Balmy Miami

Dec. 10, 2009

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – With 10 inches of snow on the ground and a wind-chill that made Iowa City feel like 10 degrees below zero, opposing 2010 FedEx Orange Bowl Coaches Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz and Georgia Tech Coach Paul Johnson crossed paths for one of the first times yesterday next to the pool at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Florida with temperatures in the mid 80s.

Though both are long-time members of the coaching fraternity, and have shared a mutual admiration for each others work, they first met less than a year ago, while on the recruiting trail.

“We bumped into each other at a high school in New Jersey in January,” Ferentz said. “That was the first time I met Paul.”

This January their teams will bump heads in the 2010 FedEx Orange Bowl to be played January 5 at Land Shark Stadium in Miami Gardens. It will mark the first ever-meeting between Atlantic Coast Conference Champion Georgia Tech (11-2, 8-1) and Iowa (10-2, 6-2) from the Big Ten.

Both teams played several close games throughout the 2009 season and prevailed in the majority. Georgia Tech had five wins by a total of 21 points, including a thrilling 39-34 last minute victory over Clemson in last Saturday night’s ACC Championship.

“You have to believe that you’re going to win,” Johnson said. “Certainly we didn’t get it done every week, but for the most part, our guys have found ways to make plays. In big games, good players find ways to make plays. That’s what we’ve had.”

Iowa had seven games decided in the final minute, including two wins on the last play of the game.

“There’s a little bit of development that has gone on,” said Ferentz, whose team lost four games the year before by a total of 12 points. “One of the neat things for us this year is it was a different player finding a way to ignite us every time. That’s how we’re built. We don’t have a marquee player, but we have a lot of good players.”

Georgia Tech is making its first major bowl appearance since January 2, 1967 when they lost to Florida in the Orange Bowl, one of five Orange Bowl game appearances.

Iowa’s last major bowl was in the 2003 FedEx Orange Bowl, its only appearance in the game.

The 2010 FedEx Orange Bowl promises to be a classic matchup of offense (Georgia Tech ranked #11 in total and scoring offense nationally) vs. defense (Iowa is 11th in total defense and 10th in scoring offense).

So who won the battle for that New Jersey recruit?

“He did,” Johnson said. “I owe him one.”

“I cheated,” laughed Ferentz. “His dad went to high school with me.”