Dec. 22, 2009
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — After opening the season with a career-best 10-catches against Northern Iowa, Hawkeye tight end Tony Moeaki must have felt he was suffering from a case of `here we go again.’
The Wheaton, Ill.-native, who missed 12 games during the 2007 and ’08 seasons, caught one pass for four yards during a 35-3 rout at Iowa State on Sept. 12, then nursed an injury that forced him to miss starts against Arizona, Penn State and Arkansas State.
“It was tough. Obviously it’s my last season, so missing any game is tough,” Moeaki said. “That was kind of when we were trying to get things rolling, so it was tough not being out there as a captain.”
Moeaki made up for lost time in a hurry. A game-time decision for the Homecoming contest against Michigan on Oct. 10, the first-team all-Big Ten Conference performer hauled in six passes for 105 yards and two scores as the Hawkeyes remained unbeaten at 6-0 with a 30-28 victory over the Wolverines. It marked the second time in his career that Moeaki topped the century mark in receiving yards in a game. He caught eight passes for 112 yards and three touchdowns against Syracuse on Sept. 8, 2007.
“That week (of the Michigan game) we really didn’t know if I was going to play or not,” Moeaki said. “Then Thursday and Friday, things started to turn around. I ended up playing and ended up having a good game. More importantly, it was a big win for us.”
The following week, Moeaki hauled in three passes for 55 yards and a touchdown during a 20-10 win at Wisconsin. It was the third of four road triumphs for the Hawkeyes during the season.
“My favorite plays are any that happened in a close game,” Moeaki said. “We were down (10-3), so the touchdown at Wisconsin tied it.”
The early-season injuries didn’t keep Moeaki from becoming one of eight finalists for the John Mackey Award, given annually to the nation’s most outstanding tight end. For his career, Moeaki has 72 receptions for 868 yards (12.1 yards per catch) and 11 touchdowns. In the 2006 Alamo Bowl, he caught one pass for eight yards. Last season during a 31-10 win against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl, Moeaki caught three balls for 43 yards and a long of 39.
With 26 catches this season, Moeaki has already exceeded his personal season-high by 12. His 302 yards and four touchdowns are also individual bests.
Iowa enters the FedEx Orange Bowl ranked No. 10 in the country with a record of 10-2.
“It’s awesome to be part of this team and to be part of this year, especially since I’m a senior,” Moeaki said. “We’re going to go into this game ready to go. We know we have a tough opponent in Georgia Tech. They run things offensively we haven’t seen and defensively they’re really athletic and have some really good players. It will be a fun game and a good atmosphere. I can’t wait to see all the fans down there.”
Because of a medical redshirt from the 2007 season, Moeaki has participated in games during five seasons. Iowa has 38 wins during that span, including a 19-6 mark the past two years.
“It’s been fun and a great honor playing for coach (Kirk) Ferentz and his coaching staff,” Moeaki said. “Just being part of this team has been awesome. I went through a lot with injuries, but it was definitely worth it. Doing it for this team and coach Ferentz and his staff…I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
The Hawkeyes depart for Miami on Sunday, Dec. 27. They wrapped up their final pre-Christmas workout Tuesday morning inside “The Bubble.” Iowa and the No. 9 Yellow Jackets meet Tuesday, Jan. 5, in the FedEx Orange Bowl beginning at 7 p.m. (Iowa time).