Dec. 29, 2013
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By MATT WEITZEL
TAMPA, Fla. — Steady rain fell Sunday afternoon in Tampa, but that didn’t deter the focus at the University of Iowa football team’s practice. The Hawkeyes continued their Outback Bowl preparation for their Jan. 1 matchup against Louisiana State University.
“The rain didn’t change anything today,” said Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker after Sunday’s practice. “We had a normal practice. Coach Ferentz loves to be out there, and we had a good day of practice. Our guys have been focused and understand what we’re trying to do and that’s get our ninth win of the season for this team.”
The Hawkeye defense is preparing for an LSU team that is tops in the country in third-down conversions, moving the chains 59 percent of the time (82-of-140), and ranking 27th nationally in total offense (466 yards per game).
The Tigers boast two 1,000-yard receivers in Jarvis Landry (1,172 yards) and Odell Beckham (1,117 yards) and a 1,000-yard rusher in Jeremy Hill (1,185 yards).
Parker says Beckham and Landry are the best receiver tandem Iowa has faced this season, which will make it tough to cheat in certain areas defensively.
“Our guys have been focused and understand what we’re trying to do and that’s get our ninth win of the season for this team.”
UI defensive coordinator Phil Parker
“If you steal from one area you’re going to have to pay somewhere else, so you have to be very careful,” Parker said. “They move their two receivers around, so it’s hard to double them. But you have to be very careful and know where they are, especially on third downs. They’re fast guys, very talented receivers.”
Parker went on to say that LSU is a talented team and it will be a challenge when the two teams meet in Raymond James Stadium.
“They have a lot of talent, especially on the edges,” said Parker. “But they also have four good running backs and a pair of tight ends and their offensive line is good. It’s going to be a great challenge for us. I believe we’ve had a good week of practice down here; we have one more polish day tomorrow.”
True freshman quarterback Anthony Jennings will make his first collegiate start in the Outback Bowl after Zach Mettenberg went down with a season-ending injury in LSU’s regular-season finale versus Arkansas. Jennings has attempted only 10 passes and has rushed 14 times for 49 yards, but has momentum coming into Wednesday’s bowl game after leading the Tigers on a 99-yard game-winning touchdown drive against the Razorbacks.
“He’s a very good athlete,” said Parker. “He can throw the ball well and you can see when he led the last drive against Arkansas that he beat you with his feet. He delivers a good ball as he threw a 49-yard strike at the end for the touchdown.”
Senior defensive end Dominic Alvis returns to the Hawkeye defense after missing three games due to injury and seeing limited action in two others. Parker says Alvis is 100 percent and ready to go.
“He has been moving around well,” Parker said. “(LSU) has a big offensive line and can wear you out. His return gives us more depth up there.”
Parker says the players and coaches have enjoyed their time in Tampa and are thankful for this opportunity.
“Our kids understand and appreciate the opportunity to play in the Outback Bowl,” he said. “We’re honored they picked us to play a great team like LSU.”