Dec. 27, 2009
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Football is a sport that highlights statistics and there is one particular number that will help the University of Iowa student-athletes focus at the FedEx Orange Bowl.
“Less than 1 percent of the people in the world get to experience something like this,” UI wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos said. “It’s your responsibility to understand that. It’s not often you can say that you played in a BCS game in Miami, Florida, against a great opponent like Georgia Tech.”
Less than 1 percent of all the people in the world!
Johnson-Koulianos and the Hawkeyes touched down at Miami International Airport on Sunday eveing. No. 10 Iowa (10-2 overall) and the No. 9 Atlantic Coast Conference champion Yellow Jackets (11-2) play Tuesday, Jan. 5.
“We’ve earned the right to be here,” said Johnson-Koulianos, a second team all-Big Ten selection by league coaches. “We won 10 ball games this year and we could have easily won 12. This is a huge opportunity for us. You have to continually remind yourself what we’re going down there for. There will be a lot of festivities going on, but the most important thing is to stay focused and realize that we’re there to win a ball game.”
With 41 catches, this is the third straight season Johnson-Koulianos has led the Hawkeyes in receptions. He had 38 as a freshman and 44 as a sophomore. Johnson-Koulianos has career numbers of 123 catches for 1,808 yards (14.7 yards per reception) and seven touchdowns. His first start this season came at Wisconsin in the seventh week of the season, and he responded with eight grabs for 113 yards in a 20-10 victory.
“I just went out and made plays when they were there to be made,” Johnson-Koulianos said. “We played well that day as an offense…sustained a lot of drives. I just did my part when the opportunities presented themselves.”
“Less than 1 percent of the people in the world get to experience something like this. It’s your responsibility to understand that. It’s not often you can say that you played in a BCS game in Miami, Florida, against a great opponent like Georgia Tech.”
UI wide receiver
During the final three games of the regular season, Johnson-Koulianos caught 16 passes for 197 yards. For the season, he also averaged 32.2 yards on 11 kickoff returns, with a 99-yard touchdown at Ohio State. That was a thrill for the native of Campbell, Ohio.
“It was probably one of the greatest feelings of my life,” Johnson-Koulianos said. “I followed Ohio State very closely when I was growing up and I have a lot of friends on their team. It happened at a very pivotal time for us to get back in the game.”
With the Hawkeyes in flight, it’s a safe bet that offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe has the Georgia Tech defense on his mind.
“As long as we keep working, I think we can make some plays in that game,” Johnson-Koulianos said. “Coach O’Keefe is installing a game plan that gives our offense the best chance to succeed. Everybody’s main focus is to do what it takes — whatever sacrifices you need to make to get it down for us.”
Three Yellow Jacket defenders were honored on an all-ACC team. Defensive end Derrick Morgan landed on the first-team, safety Morgan Burnett was on the second unit and linebacker Brad Jefferson earned honorable mention. Jefferson is the team-leader with 90 tackles, Burnett has 77 stops and four interceptions and Morgan compiled 12 ½ quarterback sacks.
“They have a pretty experienced secondary,” Johnson-Koulianos said. “They have some good corners and some guys that can match up one-on-one and shut you down. We’re practicing for that.”
Iowa displayed a balanced offense and defeated South Carolina, 31-10, last season in the Outback Bowl. The Hawkeyes rushed for 181 yards and quarterback Ricky Stanzi completed 13 of 19 passes for 147 yards. This is the second BCS bowl berth for Iowa; the Hawkeyes were defeated by Southern California, 38-17, in the 2003 FedEx Orange Bowl.