Dec. 31, 2013
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By JAMES ALLAN
TAMPA, Fla. — It has been 23 days since the University of Iowa football team learned its Outback Bowl fate. Now game day is within sight and the Hawkeyes want to end the season right.
“The thing we’re trying to do is finish this season up in a positive way,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday at the Wyndam Hotel in his final pregame news conference. “What that comes down to is playing our best football. That’s what it is going to take to beat LSU tomorrow.”
The Hawkeyes and Tigers meet at 12:03 p.m. (CT) on New Year’s Day at Raymond James Stadium. Iowa is in search of its ninth victory; 14th-ranked Louisiana State University brings a 9-3 record to Tampa.
For the past 13 months, Iowa has tried to put last season’s 4-8 record in the rearview mirror. When the Hawkeyes take the field Wednesday, the team can officially move on.
“The thing we’re trying to do is finish this season up in a positive way. What that comes down to is playing our best football. That’s what it is going to take to beat LSU tomorrow.”
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz
“It was a long winter,” said Ferentz following the 2012 season. “It’s like losing a game, until you play the next one, it sticks with you. It’s the same with this.
“The best thing (Denver Broncos head coach) John Fox said about the way their season ended last season is it is kind of like a scar. It is healed, but you still notice it. When you come off a tough year, you don’t want to go down that road again.
“There are no magic answers, it is about getting back to what you do. That’s been our theme for the last 13 months.”
When asked if Iowa could take anything from Alabama’s game plan of wearing down the Tigers to the tune of a 38-17 victory on Nov. 9 in Tuscaloosa, Ferentz said the only way it could be helpful was if Alabama head coach Nick Saban was in a giving mode.
“I worked with Nick for a few years in Cleveland, and I called and asked if we could borrow a few of his guys,” joked Ferentz. “It’s good to look at that film, but Alabama can wear a lot of people down, especially if the ball gets rolling.”
Joking aside, Ferentz says it will come down to the little things, the coaching clichés for the Hawkeyes to post their ninth victory Wednesday.
“We’ll have to play our best game,” he said. “It’s all the basics, the things that come from every coach, but they’re true. Playing well on special teams, ball security, and we’re going to have to execute about as well as we possibly can because they’re very well-coached.
“We have to play as hard as we possibly can. Somehow, some way, we’re going to have to manage to get an extra couple of plays in there and that’s easier said than done.”
Ferentz says it is hard to imagine his team having better hospitality or experience than what the Hawkeyes have encountered since arriving in Tampa on Christmas Eve.
“(Former Iowa defensive coordinator) Bill Brazier said in the early 1980s, there is no such thing as a bad bowl game, but some are better than others,” said Ferentz. “To be in a bowl is a good opportunity and treat, but it’s hard to get any better than this environment.
“It’s hard to have a better experience.”
Wednesday’s game will be televised on ESPN with Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and Lisa Salters on the call.