By Jordan Hansen | Jordan-Hansen@uiowa.edu
TAMPA, Fla. — Almost as soon as the Outback Bowl was over, grounds crews began to scrape the evidence off the field.
The process was mesmerizing. Two workers used small machines to put cuts into the soil, walking back in forth in perfectly — practiced — straight lines. As they worked, larger loaders began bulldozing the turf into piles, which were then scooped into waiting tractors pulling dump trailers.
The process was surprisingly fast; it looked as if the crews might have the entire field torn up within three or so hours of the game ending.
Unlike the Raymond James Stadium field crew, Iowa can’t just remove what happened during its 30-3 loss in the Outback Bowl and dump it off somewhere. It was Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferentz’s fifth-straight loss in a bowl game and its third in a row by 17 or more points.
“I evaluate seasons on a lot of things, not just wins and losses,” Ferentz said. “That’s certainly part of the criteria, and in the court of popular opinion, that’s certainly a big, big part of it, and I get it.”
The problems started early. Iowa managed 26 yards passing in the first half and had just one completion to a wide receiver during the entire game.
On defense, things were better — until halfway through the third quarter, that is. The Hawkeyes held Florida to just 10 points and picked off Austin Appleby twice during the opening quarter.
Despite a failed fourth-down conversion on the goal line in the second quarter, Iowa looked as though it had a serious shot to win the game. Akrum Wadley was excellent, finishing his season as a 1,000 yard rusher, toting the ball 22 times for 115 yards. Wadley and LeShun Daniels Jr. are the only Hawkeye backs to both run for 1,000 yards in the same season.
“Hats off to our offensive line; they were the ones that took me over that 1,000-yard mark,” Wadley said. “They took the stress off me and LeShun Daniels this year.”
Iowa, however, faltered on its opening drive of the second half and wasn’t able to recover. The Hawkeyes marched 63 yards down the field, only to miss a short field-goal attempt.
Florida immediately took advantage, capping off a 12-play 80-yard drive with a touchdown on third down, making the score 17-3. On Iowa’s next possession, senior quarterback C.J. Beathard — who pulled a hamstring during the game — threw a ball on third and 8 that was tipped up and returned for a Florida touchdown. All of the sudden, the Gators led by three touchdowns.
“I think frustrating a good way to put how today went,” Beathard said. “We started off well, you have a few plays that changed the game drastically, and once they happened, we couldn’t get out from under them.”
There was no coming back and little solace; Beathard threw two more interceptions, and the passing game deteriorated into further nothingness. He finished 7-of-23 for 55 yards and 3 interceptions in the worst performance of his career.
Iowa finishes the season 8-5 in a disappointing end that’s become commonplace.
“Right now, as I stand here, I feel like we had a good plan,” Ferentz said. “I think we really practiced well. I thought our guys were ready to go, and I thought they played hard today.”
Hard as they worked, at the end of the day, there was a 27-point difference between a mediocre SEC team and Iowa. That was what was on display in the Outback Bowl.
Certainly not something a couple of front loaders can remove.
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