Dec. 31, 2014
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By DARREN MILLER
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Quinton Alston walked past a “countdown clock” in the team hotel Tuesday, pausing when the senior linebacker realized there were three days until the final kickoff of his University of Iowa football career.
It sunk in for senior offensive tackle Brandon Scherff after he finished a final 9-on-7 drill at practice earlier that day.
“All the emotions are mixed together in your mind,” Alston said Wednesday at a news conference in the Prime Osborn Convention Center. “You’re anxious and nervous, you are ready to get to the game and play football. At the end of the day, you have to focus on what you have ahead of you.”
For the 7-5 Hawkeyes, what is ahead is a tussle against the 6-6 Tennessee Volunteers of the Southeastern Conference. Iowa is 6-5 in postseason games under head coach Kirk Ferentz since 2001.
“The guys have done a good job preparing, going back to the start of December,” Ferentz said. “We have one practice left, a walkthrough (Thursday), and it will be time to go. It’s time. Everybody is ready to play, I’m sure our opponent feels the same way. We’re eager to get on the field.”
“The guys have done a good job preparing, going back to the start of December. We have one practice left, a walkthrough (Thursday), and it will be time to go. It’s time. Everybody is ready to play, I’m sure our opponent feels the same way. We’re eager to get on the field.”
UI head football coach
The Hawkeyes lost their final two games of the regular season by a combined five points, but the program is looking forward to Jan. 2, 2015, not the 2015 season. This one is for 16 seniors on its TaxSlayer Bowl roster.
“There is not a lot of downside to winning,” Ferentz said. “We have one game left and we want to win it very badly, it’s as simple as that. To me it’s not so much about next year, it’s about finishing for our 16 seniors. It’s important that we play well this game.”
That goes for Weisman, who transferred from Air Force and rushed for 2,592 yards and 30 touchdowns in three seasons. It goes for Alston, who a season after studying behind three linebackers who are all in the NFL, recorded 83 tackles and three sacks. It goes for Trinca-Pasat, who Ferentz said at one point had “1 ½ feet out the door” to become an All-Big Ten defensive tackle with 65 stops and 6 ½ sacks. It goes for Scherff, who delayed his professional playing career and won the Outland Trophy.
“I have such respect for guys that run the whole race and stay the entire four or five years of their careers and earn their degree,” Ferentz said. “Our guys have done a great job of that and that is the most lasting thing they will accomplish coming out of college. I don’t care how good a player they may be, none are going to be playing when they are 40.”
On Wednesday, the Hawkeyes took their official TaxSlayer Bowl team picture in EverBank Field, hustled to a news conference featuring Ferentz and the captains, and enjoyed a meal at the TaxSlayer Bowl Coaches Luncheon held in conjunction with Tennessee. There was also a hospital visit and practice at Fernandina Beach High School.
“Being in a bowl game is a special experience for everybody involved,” Ferentz said. “One of the great things about a bowl is it gives you another month to be together. We have done it both ways, as recently as a couple years ago, and it’s not much fun sitting at home. It is a great privilege, something our guys have earned; they have worked hard to earn the bowl bid.”
The TaxSlayer Bowl will kick off at 2:20 p.m. (CT) on Friday with ESPN televising the action.