By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — It’s still 14 days away, but the forecast predicts 70 degrees and overcast when the University of Iowa football team takes on Mississippi State in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, 2019, in Tampa, Florida. That’s a contrast to clear, cold, and windy 23-degree conditions at last season’s New Era Pinstripe Bowl in New York City.
Of all the Hawkeyes, senior kicker Miguel Recinos is wearing the biggest smile when conversation of weather, temperature, and field conditions inside Raymond James Stadium are brought up. He made the trip to the 2017 Outback Bowl, but was a backup to sophomore Keith Duncan.
“The trip, stadium, environment, and atmosphere were exciting,” Recinos said. “I remember the conditions were really nice. Raymond James Stadium is a nice stadium with nice grass.”
Recinos has kicked in challenging conditions during his career, but the Outback Bowl is expected to be, as its public relations folks like to say, football in paradise. A starter for the past two seasons, Recinos has made 27-of-36 field goals, including 10 in a row from between 40 and 49 yards. This season, there was a successful 49-yarder in cold drizzle at Penn State, a 46-yarder in the wind against Northwestern, and who could forget the 41-yard game-winner in steady rain in the regular season finale against Nebraska?
Even considering those trials, nothing compares to what Recinos faced in his only postseason appearance at the 2017 New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
“Let’s put it this way,” Recinos said. “There are the conditions I have faced in the past, like the Pinstripe Bowl, and on the other end of the spectrum is most likely what we’re going to experience at the Outback Bowl.”
Recinos had Yankee Stadium on his mind after coming up clutch in the Hy-Vee Heroes Game on Nov. 23 inside Kinnick Stadium.
“I wouldn’t say it was the hardest kick of my career, but I would say it’s the most important because it directly decided the game,” Recinos said. “But even if I would play in the pros, nothing could top that 38-yarder in the Pinstripe Bowl. It was like they told you to kick a ball while you were ice skating.”
Recinos put Iowa ahead twice during the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, a game the Hawkeyes won, 27-20, over Boston College. His 24-yard field goal opened the game’s scoring with 12:59 left in the first quarter; the 38-yarder put the Hawkeyes ahead, 20-17, with 11:32 left in the game.
What a difference a year makes. The Hawkeyes will still be bowling in the Eastern Time Zone, but competing 1,200 miles south of the Bronx promises to be more advantageous to a student-athlete who relies on the accuracy of booting a ball with his right foot.
“In terms of the actual flight of the ball, it’s always better to kick in heat because the ball moves quicker through lighter air,” Recinos said. “That is something I’m looking forward to as opposed to much heavier cold air.”
Recinos joined the Hawkeyes as a walk-on from Mason City (Iowa) High School. He took a redshirt year in 2014 when Marshall Koehn handled the bulk of Iowa’s kicking duties. As a redshirt freshman in 2015, he was 2-of-2 on point-after attempts and averaged 61.5 yards on two kickoffs.
As the Hawkeye’s long-range specialist in 2016, Recinos was 1-of-3 on field goal attempts from 46, 47, and 50 yards. His successful attempt provided a milestone with a twist. Iowa was playing Wisconsin with the Heartland Trophy on the line and trailed 7-3 with five seconds left in the second quarter. Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst used not one, but back-to-back timeouts in a futile attempt to ice Recinos from 47 yards.
Last season, Recinos was second on the team with 77 points. He made all 44 PATs and 11-of-13 field goals.
With a bowl game to go this season, he leads the Hawkeyes with 89 points (44-of-44 on PATs and 15-of-20 on field goals). At the team banquet Dec. 9, Recinos received the Reggie Roby Special Team Award for specialists.
Recinos enters his final collegiate game with a fresh memory of celebrating with teammates after his kick sent the Hawkeyes to their eighth victory of the season and a berth to its sixth Outback Bowl in 16 seasons.
“I don’t know how my kick would hold up to the legendary ones,” Recinos said. “At the end of the day, a game-winner is a game-winner and it is something I will be proud of for the rest of my life and look back to fondly.”