The Hawkeyes Have Landed

Dec. 22, 2011

Hawkeyes Arrive in Arizona (photos) | Hawkeyes Arrive in Arizona (video)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The defensive MVP of the 2010 Insight Bowl is a better player this year. A Hawkeye running back has been waiting for this day, and now it’s time to go.

Those were a few sound bites Thursday when the University of Iowa football team touched down at Phoenix Skyharbor Airport at approximately 5:30 p.m. (CT).

“We’re happy to be back,” said UI cornerback Micah Hyde, the 2010 Insight Bowl defensive MVP. “Bowl games are special — you always want to play in a postseason game. We were treated well last year and we played a good game. Hopefully we can come back and play another good game.”

Hyde returned a fourth-quarter interception 72 yards for the go-ahead points in the Insight Bowl last season to defeat No. 12 Missouri, 27-24.

“After that game I was looking to get better and I think I’m better than I was that game,” Hyde said. “Our team is here to prepare to win a ball game.”

Redshirt freshman De’Andre Johnson played four regular-season games and is the second-leading rusher on the team with 18 carries and 79 yards. He will contend for extended playing time Dec. 30.

“We’ve been waiting for this day and we’re happy to be here,” Johnson said. “We want to go out there and play as hard as we can. Now that we’re finally here, it’s time to go. Let’s go.”

Duane Woods, chairman of the board for the Insight Bowl, welcomed UI head coach Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes back to the valley Thursday during a brief press conference on the tarmac of Phoenix Skyharbor Airport.

“This is déjà vu all over again,” Woods said. “We are so thrilled on behalf of the Insight Bowl and the state of Arizona and the Valley of the Sun — we are so thrilled to have the Iowa Hawkeyes back.”

Ferentz spoke for nearly eight minutes, and answered questions about the final game for defensive coordinator Norm Parker, the Hawkeye running back situation, and the practice schedule for bowl week.

“We’re excited, we’re thrilled, thank you,” Ferentz said. “Our players were absolutely thrilled to get the news that we were coming back here. What a tremendous venue — I can’t say enough about the hospitality that was extended to us last year.”

Ferentz called the 2011 Insight Bowl “an interesting matchup,” and cautioned that the Hawkeyes still have a lot of work to do before they are ready to “play a representative game like we did last year.”

On the topic of retiring defensive coordinator Norm Parker, Ferentz said that Parker didn’t want to make an issue of this being his last game. He joked that Parker almost left before playing the 9-3 Oklahoma Sooners.

“I think he was trying to actually retire before the game after he say the film of Oklahoma — the amount of yards and points they were scoring,” Ferentz said. “But we made him stay through this thing.”

Ferentz said both the Sooners and the UI are battling depth issues at running back, but he added that there are plenty of capable Hawkeyes ready for playing time.

“If we have to do it by committee, we’ll do it by committee; whatever it takes,” Ferentz said. “Our guys are willing and able; they’ve been practicing well. We’re not going to call the game off. We’re going to go out and play and compete — everyone else is going to have to pick up the slack a little bit.”

Ferentz joked that the Hawkeyes might even have a psychological edge over the Sooners, coached by his friend and Iowa graduate, Bobby Stoops.

“(Oklahoma) is going to have a hard time finding our guys — the guys they’re going to have to play against — on film,” Ferentz said.

Iowa will hold its first practice in Arizona on Friday at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale.