Dec. 24, 2013
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By DARREN MILLER
TAMPA, Fla. — The needle in the thermostat went from blue to red for the University of Iowa football team this season, like the temperature change felt Tuesday flying from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Tampa, Fla.
It was negative-8 degrees (wind chill) in Iowa when the Outback Bowl-bound UI football team departed Eastern Iowa Airport; it was in the 70s when the World Airways jet touched down at Tampa International Airport at 4:22 p.m. (ET).
“The drastic change is similar going from cold to warm and going from 4-8 to 8-4,” UI senior linebacker Christian Kirksey said after exiting the plane in Tampa.
Florida is the home state for three Hawkeyes, including starting quarterback Jake Rudock. Rudock, who completed 60.2 percent of his passes this season with 18 touchdowns, is from Weston, less than four hours away.
“It’s warm, it’s nice, there is a beautiful sunset, we got to see the ocean coming in, so that was pleasant,” Rudock said. “Guys were looking out the window (of the plane) with smiles on their faces when they could see a nice ocean and not frigid snow.”
“We timed it up well; it was little cold in Iowa today and has been all winter actually. It seems like winter came early. Being in Florida is an extra treat; the big thing is for the team to be together for another month and have another challenge. The guys are looking forward to it; they have practiced well thus far and now we have to finish the deal here, so we have a lot of work ahead.”
UI football coach
This is the fourth trip to Tampa for UI head coach Kirk Ferentz, who is 2-1 in the Outback Bowl and 4-2 in bowl games played in the Sunshine State. The four-game turnaround from 2012 to 2013 is the best for the program since the Hawkeyes went from 3-9 in 2000 to 7-5 in 2001.
“The credit goes to our players,” Ferentz said. “We had a meeting after the season and everyone was determined to do something about last year, it was disappointing. The outcome is better this year to turn the record around and be in Tampa over the holidays. Playing a great opponent like LSU is a great opportunity for our team.”
And the difference in temperature?
“We timed it up well; it was little cold in Iowa today and has been all winter actually,” Ferentz said. “It seems like winter came early. Being in Florida is an extra treat; the big thing is for the team to be together for another month and have another challenge. The guys are looking forward to it; they have practiced well thus far and now we have to finish the deal here, so we have a lot of work ahead.”
The Hawkeyes prospered during a 12-game schedule that included seven bowl participants. When bowl practices began Dec. 5, Iowa didn’t know its postseason opponent. Three days later, the Hawkeyes discovered they would play LSU, but final exams were on the horizon. Now that the team is in Tampa, the focus is solely on football.
“The guys have gone to work and this will heighten their energy level now that we have arrived at the bowl site,” Ferentz said. “We have a couple days of work here and then hopefully we can streamline the closer we get to the game.”
Sophomore running back Jordan Canzeri was thrust into the spotlight as a true freshman when the Hawkeyes played Oklahoma in the 2011 Insight Bowl. It was the first collegiate start for Canzeri, who rushed for 58 yards and caught six passes for 28 yards and a touchdown.
“We’re here, we’re ready to go and we’re going to be working hard and focusing on LSU,” said Canzeri, who has rushed for 447 yards and two touchdowns this season.
Iowa will hold its first closed practice Christmas Day at Jesuit High School.
“I’m excited to be here, it’s my senior year,” said offensive left guard Conor Boffeli. “I’m excited to come to a great bowl game, play a great opponent, and I’m looking forward to getting on the field (Wednesday).”