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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Desmond King is from Detroit, so he’s used to cold, hard winters. Still, Iowa’s senior cornerback wasn’t prepared yesterday when he woke to an eastern Iowa snowstorm.
But there won’t be snow when King finishes his collegiate football career less than a month from now in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida.
“It’s going to be great going down to some heat,” King said with a laugh.
The Hawkeyes caught fire during a November surge that featured victories against No. 2 Michigan, Illinois, and No. 15 Nebraska and propelled them into the Outback Bowl for the fifth time. Temperature at kickoff for Iowa’s final three regular-season games was 42, 36, and 41 degrees Fahenheit. (It was 73 degrees in Tampa on Jan. 2, 2016.)
King was a true freshman when the Hawkeyes lost to LSU, 21-14, in the 2014 Outback Bowl. He made six tackles, one for a loss, with a pass breakup. One of the opposing receivers that day was Odell Bechkam, Jr., (now of the New York Giants), another was Jarvis Landry (now of the Miami Dolphins). All Landry did yesterday as a professional was catch 11 passes for 87 yards; Beckham caught 10 passes for 100 yards. (Combined, the duo had four catches for 56 yards against Iowa).
“We’re excited to get an opportunity to go back down to Tampa,” King said. “We want to get our minds right and win this bowl game. It was a hard, tough game against LSU. They had great players and it’s going to feel good to leave that field where I started.”
The 2014 Outback Bowl was the first postseason action for King. That was followed by appearances in the TaxSlayer and Rose bowls. And although the Hawkeyes have won 35 games since 2013, none of those have been in December or January.
No. 21 Iowa will face No. 20 Florida in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 2, 2017. Kickoff is set for noon (CT).
“Anybody that’s involved with college football understands how important that is to play in a bowl game, what a great opportunity it is for our team to continue to develop,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said Sunday at a news conference in the Stew and LeNore Hansen Football Performance Center. “One of our preseason goals was not only to play in a bowl game, but win a bowl game. Having a chance to play in this game gives us a great opportunity for that, but also presents a tremendous challenge when you look at the University of Florida.”
On the offensive side of the ball for the Hawkeyes against LSU was C.J. Beathard, a redshirt freshman quarterback. He completed 4-of-7 passes for 55 yards, including a 35-yard completion to tight end Jake Duzey and a 4-yard touchdown to Kevonte Martin-Manley with 1:42 left in the game.
“It was a great environment, great time, and great hospitality,” Beathard said. “It was a fun trip, we had a great turnout with fans, and we’re expecting the same thing this year.”
Iowa finished the 2013 regular season with three consecutive wins and flew to the Outback with a record of 8-4. Likewise, this season the Hawkeyes won their final three games and currently sit with a record of 8-4.
King mentioned resiliency as an attribute that could get Iowa to 9-4; Beathard said playing “Iowa Football” will be key.
“We will prepare well and go into this month with the mentality that you win during the month and you don’t want to take it easy,” Beathard said. “You want to take it a day at a time and know that each practice is geared toward that game.”
This will be the 14th bowl game for Ferentz as head coach of the Hawkeyes. He is used to being an underdog in the postseason, even though he has six bowl victories under his belt. Ferentz said the Hawkeyes learned a lot about themselves in November and even though they aren’t “the prettiest car on the lot,” they display sufficient horsepower. And that’s a testament to a senior class that elevated them to great heights after hitting bottom with a 27-point loss at Penn State on Nov. 5.
“To get off the mat like they did and come back and meet a big challenge that next week showed a lot about the kind of guys we have,” Ferentz said. “So win, lose or draw, this is a good group of guys and it starts with the seniors.”
It is a senior class that will finish its career in balmy Tampa, Florida.