Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014 Outback Bowl: Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4) vs. #16 BCS ranked LSU Tigers (9-3)

Tampa, FL -- The New Year opens for the Iowa and LSU football teams in the 2014 Outback Bowl with a Noon kickoff on ESPN (HD) in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

Iowa is lead at quarterback by a first-year starter, sophomore Jake Rudock. Rudock  is seeking to enjoy a homecoming with the Outback Bowl appearance, as a Florida high school player. Rudock is 8-4 as a starter for the Hawkeyes. Rudock is a game manager for Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis, who is making his first bowl appearance, in his second season at Iowa. Davis was OC for Texas' Mack Brown, until the 2010 season.

LSU Les Miles on what he sees in Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis’ system:
LSU Coach Les Miles is in his
ninth season as head coach.
“I think any offensive coordinator always does some things that speak to the talents he has. You can see what they’re doing; it’s just the challenge of stopping it. I think he’s a very talented coach that calls a game with experience and understanding. He’s a very capable play caller.”

Iowa will mix the running game, play action passing and Greg Davis' horizontal passing game. Iowa goes five deep at TE and Davis uses different running backs andwide receivers over the course of the game.

LSU is making a change at quarterback for the Outback Bowl, due to the injury of 12 game starter, senior Zach Mettenberger, in the final game of the regular season. True freshman Anthony Jennings will make his first start vs. Iowa in the Outback Bowl. Jennings was required to come into the final game of the season, during the fourth quarter and rally LSU to a come from behind victory.

Iowa upset LSU in the 2005 Capital Bowl on the final play. LSU won their final game of the 2013 season, with a last minute touchdown pass from Jennings on a 99 yard drive to defeat Arkansas, coached by an Iowa alum, Bret Bielema. Could we see the Outback Bowl come down to the wire, as Iowa-LSU square off for the second time in the series history?

On getting Anthony Jennings ready for his first start (Miles):
“We really focused on him running drills as opposed to necessarily have practices and plays. We put a little bit more burden on him in terms of preparing to handle the huddle, handle the play call. That, besides the physical execution of the play, has made a little bit more burden that much.”

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz on preparing for new LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings:
Iowa head coach
Kirk Ferentz, 11th
bowl game in 15
seasons at the helm.
LSU QB Anthony Jennings is 6 for 10 passing, 99 yards, one
touchdown as a true freshman, in the regular season.
“That’s really the only wildcard for us is that we don’t have much tape on him. As I've said before, the job of any quarterback regardless of his style or his age is to move the team. He moved them in about as extreme circumstances as you can possibly dream up. You wouldn't put a guy in that situation in practice, I don’t think, and expect him to do what he did. So that’s the bottom line. I think the other obvious thing to me is they recruit a lot of good players at LSU historically. For him to move from incoming freshman to the number two guy the way he did knowing that they've got a senior who’s going to go on to the NFL, I think that says a lot about the people that have seen him on a day to day basis. We’re not sure what exactly to expect, but I know this, we can count on a really good player being back there and a guy who’s a leader on their football team.”

Both quarterbacks will be under pressure, as underclassmen. Both are first-year starters at quarterback. Could the Florida homecoming effect Rudock's poise for Iowa? 

On how Jennings is handling the spotlight (Miles):
“The greatest characteristic of Anthony Jennings is poise. He’s always had it, he’s never been motivated by situations, it’s what he does. He did it in the spring of the year. He pursued the starting job with great effort and energy. He’s always been a guy that came in and sought extra coaching, sought knowledge of the game when he was second team. The confidence of the team, really, when he went under center didn’t change; we kind of knew what to expect. We expect him to play well.”

Iowa junior RB Mark
Weisman is 62 yards
from a 1,000 yard season.

Iowa has four running backs who have played during the 2014 season. One is close to a 1,000 yard season, in junior Mark Weisman (938 yards), but Iowa is using a rotation of running backs, as the season comes to a close. LSU, who also can go four deep at running back, is lead by a 1,000 yard rusher in sophomore Jeremy Hill (1,185 yards), who likely will carry the primary load for the Tigers.

Iowa coach Ferentz on facing LSU running back Jeremy Hill:
“He’s an outstanding back and I think they have several. Our coaches have respect for all four we’ve seen on film. If you look at him last year, statistically, he was one of, and now he’s certainly risen to the top of an outstanding group. He’s a tremendous football player; strong, physical. The rest of the story to me is they are just a well-conceived offensive football team. It starts with the way they block up front. They’ve got big, physical guys up front that allow them to get going. They’ve got good skill players at every position. They’ve got the kind of balance, if you look at them statistically they’re over 200 throwing it and 200 rushing. It’s a tough team to defense because of their balance and the players they put out there, but he’s certainly a marquee player.”

Both teams will work to establish a balanced attack on offense.

Iowa has improved on offense after an awful 4-8 season in 2012. But, it isn't a sexy team compared to LSU or most of the top college offenses today. Iowa beats opponents using the sum of all its parts, which starts with establishing the run and continues with a passing attack that features the tight end. Iowa will bring a business-like attitude on offense. The Iowa offense will attempt to move the chains and stay ahead on downs. Iowa does need to improve in the red zone, a problem at times throughout the 2013 season. Iowa Is undefeated this season, when they win the turnover margin game.

On Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz (Ferentz):
Senior TE C.J.
Fiedorwicz leads
Iowa in TD receptions.
“First of all, the obvious thing is he has great size and great ability. He had that when he came to us. He’s one of the few guys that looked like that when he showed up. He’s a four-year player. I talked about the linebackers and C.J. is the same way, he’s a four-year player now, he’s more productive than he’s ever been. He’s a very willing blocker and a very good blocker. He’s done a really nice job in the passing game, particularly down in the red zone. When you have a guy with that size, he’s aggressive to the ball, and he does it on the practice field as well. I think that will serve him well moving forward too. We’re excited about him being on our football team. He’ll draw attention I’m sure. He does have the ability to make some plays. It’s good to have some players that can do that. He’s certainly capable of winning a one-on-one contest.”

On the LSU offense and what to expect with a new quarterback (Ferentz):
“We don’t know; it’s a little bit like a first game. I wasn’t joking about that, I wish it was three days of preparation rather than three weeks. All that being said, what they were doing was working pretty well this year. So we have to be ready for anything. I don’t expect a wholesale change, but I’m sure we’ll see a wrinkle or two, and that all makes sense. I think philosophically what they try to do we expect to see that. I don’t think they’re just going to take those receivers out of the game. It would be okay if they chose to."

On the team getting accustomed to new quarterback Anthony Jennings (Miles):
“It’s like anything, it takes time. It’s interesting, in that last game, with the second-team center and second-team quarterback, there was no quarterback-center exchange issue whatsoever. We were fortunate it happened that way I guess. We haven’t had any real problems there as we move forward. I think (Elliott) Porter, our starting center, and Anthony have just operated very effectively. There are some different throws and some different abilities at the quarterback spot. He does the things that Zach (Mettenberger) does to a certain regard, and he does some of the things that he does better.”

LSU has a very productive lead running back and two 1,000 yard pass receivers, so Jennings has a lot of guys in the huddle to lean on in his first start. Junior wide receiver Odell Beckham (1,117 yards) won the Paul Hornung Award in 2013. Junior Jarvis Landry is the other top notch SEC wide receiver leading the Tigers with 1,172 yards receiving. Iowa's pass defense will be tested. 
Iowa defensive
coordinator Phil Parker,
2 seasons as DC and
15 seasons under Kirk
Ferentz overall.

Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker said Beckham and Landry are the best receiver tandem Iowa has faced this season, which will make it tough to cheat in certain areas defensively. Iowa's passing defense will face a stiff test on New Year's Day. Can Iowa defense avoid giving up explosive plays against LSU?

"If you steal from one area you're going to have to pay somewhere else, so you have to be very careful," Parker said. "They move their two receivers around, so it's hard to double them. But you have to be very careful and know where they are, especially on third downs. They're fast guys, very talented receivers."

On the importance of a good defense (Ferentz):
“I think that’s pretty much true in football, at least I still believe that and I think most coaches that have been in their jobs for a while believe that. In any sport, defense is important. For us typically that means we have to improve and that’s something our team did this year. We came into the season with three linebackers that we expected to play at a high level. They’re all seniors and they played an awful lot. They’ve practiced well and they really, I think, helped lead our football team. We always have stories. For us to lose our corner early and Jordan Lomax came out early. For Desmond (King) to jump in there, none of us could have predicted that. Things like that enable you to move on and hopefully improve. I think the guys have really done a good job in moving forward and advancing. This is certainly, I think, going to be our biggest challenge defensively, the team that we’re facing.”

On the Iowa linebackers and defense (Miles):
“I think they play the scheme as well as I’ve seen it played. It’s a traditional scheme but there’s nothing traditional about how they play it. The technique is excellent; they’re on their keys. They’re always in position and physical. They know how to take on blocks. I think the linebacking corps, I think the secondary and the defensive front all play a very disciplined concept and it allows them to play at a very high level no matter who they play, no matter if it’s a spread team or a two-back team. The concept transitions those different offenses extremely well.”

On how he would describe LSU football (Miles):
“I think the concept is the same as any collegiate football team. You’re coming to school to get a degree and it’s important to our guys that they graduate and they put themselves into a position to have success beyond football. I think people that come to LSU want to play at a very high level, want to play for the national championship, and in this instance, a championship. I think there are some similarities between our program and all the other well-run programs in this country.”

The Outback Bowl isn't the BCS title game. Last year, LSU lost in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, 25-24 to Clemson. In LSU's last loss in Florida, 19-17 to Penn State, during the 2010 Capital One Bowl, was LSU playing down to competition, since they were not in the BCS again?

LSU has a lot to play for in the Outback Bowl ...

On the opportunity for a fourth straight 10-win season (Miles):
“I think there are some seniors in there that really see that, feel that, and want that. I think the motivation for playing this game, if you’re a competitor, is playing a quality team. Victory is really motivation enough. You have to play well; you have to play smart, play tough. You have to be called upon to show all the talents and skills you have.”

Miles' alma mater Michigan had a similar situation in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl starting a new true freshman quarterback in his first start. Senior leadership is critical for both teams, whether it be Michigan-Kansas State or Iowa-LSU. As is often said in bowl games, who wants to be there?

"Our guys have been focused and understand what we're trying to do and that's get our ninth win of the season for this team," Parker said about Iowa's challenge vs. LSU.

Iowa's Parker went on to say that LSU is a talented team and it will be a challenge when the two teams meet in Raymond James Stadium.

"The thing we're trying to do is finish this season up in a positive way," Ferentz said during his final pregame news conference. "What that comes down to is playing our best football. That's what it is going to take to beat LSU tomorrow."

  • Iowa has 11 wins all-time against teams from the Southeastern Conference. Iowa also has lost 11 times to SEC opponents.
  • Iowa will be looking to secure the Big Ten Conference its 11th victory in the Outback Bowl. The league is 10-14 since 1988. Iowa has two of the Big Ten's 10 victories.
  • Iowa's defense has allowed only 13 red-zone touchdowns which ranks third-lowest in the nation.
  • Sixteen seniors will play their final game as a Hawkeye against LSU on Jan. 1.
  • LSU is ranked 14th in both the Associate Press and USA Today Top 25's; the Tigers were No. 16 in the final Bowl Championship Series ranking.
  • LSU (9-3) is making its 45th all-time bowl appearance (22-21-1 record), and ninth straight in nine seasons under head coach Les Miles, but this marks only the second appearance in the Outback Bowl in school history.

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