Dec. 23, 2011
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The University of Iowa football team began another phase of its Insight Bowl preparation Friday at Chaparral High School. Hawkeye All-Big Ten Conference wide receiver Marvin McNutt called it refreshing.
“It’s a great feeling to finally get outdoors and get some good air in you,” McNutt said.
The Hawkeyes practiced outside for the first time since the month of November, and when they took the field, it was 65 degrees and sunny with no wind.
“It’s nice for me,” said punter Eric Guthrie, whose kicks Friday weren’t limited by the unforgiving roof of the practice bubble in Iowa City. “I could actually see how far my punts are really going. It’s nice for the specialists, and it’s always good to get outside and moving around.”
Iowa was in full pads for Friday’s two-hour practice. UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said the team emphasized fundamentals and implemented game preparation. The Hawkeyes (7-5 overall, 4-4 Big Ten) play No. 19 Oklahoma (9-3, 6-3 Big 12) on Friday, Dec. 30, at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe.
“This is another phase and certainly we have a lot of work to do, but that’s usually the case the first time out,” Ferentz said. “(Friday) was a start.”
Iowa has won its last three bowl games, including a 27-24 victory against No. 12 Missouri last season in the Insight Bowl. The bowl travel strategy used by Ferentz is not only successful, but essential.
“We need to do it this way,” Ferentz said. “It’s really important for us to get outdoors and get this out of our system a little bit. It’s not a big transition, but it is a transition.”
The Sooners won’t arrive in Arizona for two more days, and by the time they practice for the first time here, Iowa will be into its third practice in the Valley of the Sun.
“Everyone was excited to get out in this weather,” UI quarterback James Vandenberg said. “It’s sunny and a perfect day for practice. It went well; we took another step. Bowl prep is a long process. It started a while ago and it has to keep progressing. We’re getting down to the home stretch, but we still have some work days left.”
“It’s nice to get down here a couple days early and get used to the weather,” Hawkeye linebacker Tyler Nielsen said. “While we’re getting used to the environment, we’re getting better and getting ready for Oklahoma.”
Ferentz hinted that it will be running back-by-committee for the Hawkeyes in the Insight Bowl because of the suspension to leading ground-gainer Marcus Coker.
“Basically whoever has two legs under them is going to help us out,” Ferentz said. “We’re going to do our best to get those guys prepared. I’m confident and hopeful they’ll respond real well.”
Vying for time in the UI offensive backfield are junior Jason White (three carries, 12 yards in 2011), sophomore Brad Rogers (one carry, two yards), freshman De’Andre Johnson (18-79) and freshman Jordan Canzeri (9-56).