Dec. 27, 2009
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MIAMI – It official. “Game week-extended” is here for the University of Iowa football team.
The Hawkeyes, their coaches and support staff, families hit the runway of Miami International Airport shortly after 5 p.m. local time Sunday, successfully escaping the latest snowfall in the Heartland and setting in motion nine days of sun, practice, some fun, practice, more practice, and the 2010 FedEx Orange Bowl against Georgia Tech on Jan. 5
“We’re pretty excited to play in any bowl game. That’s a tradition we’re thrilled to be part of,” UI Coach Kirk Ferentz said at a meeting with the media just outside the team plane. “Bowls are a matter of attitude more than schedule. Our guys have been really good so far this month and we need to continue that. One of the big challenges in a bowl is you’re away from home and in this case it’s a pretty exotic environment for all of us,” he added.
“It’s a little different than Iowa City, and a little sexier than some other places we’ve been. We want the guys to enjoy Miami, but we also want the guys to remember we’ve got a game to play and we all know that we’re playing an outstanding opponent so we’ve got a great challenge on our hands.” The Orange Bowl is the 24th post-season game in the history of Iowa football. Iowa will carry a 12-10-1 record onto the playing field inside Land Shark Stadium. It’s also the eighth bowl game for the Hawkeyes under Ferentz and Iowa has won four the first seven, including last year’s Outback Bowl date with South Carolina – the Big Ten Conference’s only bowl game victory.
The visit to the Sunshine State is also Iowa’s second Bowl Championship Series game. The Hawkeyes were on the short end of a 38-17 score in the 2003 FedEx event that featured the Big Ten champion – Iowa – and the Pac-10 winner – Southern Cal.
“We’ve come a long way since 2002 as far as bowl preparation. We know it’s not a three or four-week vacation. It’s not time off. It’s a time to get better and improve,” said A.J. Edds, Iowa’s talented senior linebacker who ranks second on the squad with four interceptions to go along with 73 tackles.
“It’s also not just the young guys getting better. It’s everybody working hard on technique, fundamentals, skills. The month of December is a time to grow.”
Lastly, Ferentz’s squad will be looking to improve the Big Ten’s record in Orange Bowl games to 4-2. Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State have registered wins for the league in previous visits to Miami. Penn State has the most Orange Bowl appearances among Big Ten schools – five – but four of those came before the Nittany Lions joined the league.
“It’s going to be a great test, a great game. We’re excited to be playing such a great opponent on a big stage. We’ll be ready,” said Edds. “We’re excited to be down here. We still have a lot of work to be done and that’s where our main focus is right now. We’ve been kind of snowed in so we’ve been mostly indoors. To get outside and practice and get used to the climate will be a good change,” added junior quarterback Ricky Stanzi. “I’ve come back from the injury with at least three or 4 week of practicing so I’m pretty much all the way back up to speed with conditioning. It’s surprising to see when you’re gone for three weeks how much you need to work on your fundamentals to get back into sync.”