By Jordan Hansen | Jordan-Hansen@uiowa.edu
TAMPA, Fla. — In the week prior to the Outback Bowl, Iowa players compared Florida with Michigan on a fairly regular basis.
Offensive coordinator Greg Davis did, too, noting that Michigan played a similar type of defense to what the Gators played. On the flip side, the Iowa defense found some similarities between the defenses as well.
As it turns out, the Wolverine comparisons were exactly right. The games were incredibly similar in just about all but the final score.
Let’s take a look.
Outback Bowl stats:
For starters, C.J. Beathard had poor games in both contests. Against the Wolverines, he had 66 passing yards; on Jan. 2 against the Gators, he tallied just 55.
Incredibly, Akrum Wadley not only had 115 rushing yards in both games but was the leader in receptions and receiving yards as well. Iowa’s wide receivers were fairly awful in both games (especially the Outback Bowl), and it only served to complicate matters immensely.
Speaking of the Hawkeye offense, it gained just 4 more yards against Michigan than it did against Florida. Time of possession is similar, and Iowa’s third-down conversions were exactly the same. Another important stat — yards per play — is extremely close as well (3.4 against Michigan, 3.5 against Florida).
Eerily identical looking games, outside of the scoreboard.
So what were the big differences?
Well, while Florida quarterback Austin Appleby did turn the ball over twice, he also threw for 2 touchdowns and 222 yards, far more than Michigan’s Wilton Speight did. The Gators also forced Beathard into 3 interceptions, something rather uncharacteristic of the Iowa quarterback.
The Hawkeye defense and special teams units also fared better against Michigan. Iowa punter Ron Coluzzi did not have his best game against the Gators, by any means — a huge shift from how he played against the Maize and Blue. Along those same lines, placekicker Keith Duncan had a better day kicking the ball against Michigan.
Defensively, Iowa was able to force a few turnovers early, but unlike in the game against the Wolverines, the Hawkeyes weren’t able to turn them into scoring drives. Speaking of points, the Hawkeyes’ inability to score in the red zone was another huge problem.
They came into the Outback Bowl with a 36-of-39 scoring in the red zone mark. Against Florida, Iowa was just 1-of-3 inside the 20.
If a few things had gone a little differently in this game, there would have been a good chance that the Hawkeyes’ last game of the season played out much as one of its best wins under Kirk Ferentz. Perhaps even better, if they had been able to take advantage of the Gators’ early miscues. However, things went south in a hurry, and unable to recover, Iowa was badly beaten on national television.
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