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Ghost of Orange Bowls Past Visits The Iowa Hawkeyes

Posted on December 13, 2009 by JA Allen
Fred Russell is tackled by Melvin Simmons

The Iowa Hawkeyes will look for a different result than in their last Orange Bowl appearance.

This is the ghost of Orange Bowls past—specifically 2003, when the Iowa Hawkeyes met the USC Trojans….

In case you have not heard this before, be advised that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Study your lessons well, Iowa Hawkeyes, before you head off to another Orange Bowl contest.

Simply put, the lesson to be learned is this—”Speed Kills.” You either contain it or it hits you like a Mack truck, leaving you flattened—road kill diem.

Think back…recall the hope and promise of the season…

It was January 2003 and Iowa had an amazing 11-1 record, ranked No. 3 in the polls (No. 5 BCS). The Hawkeyes’ only defeat, if you recall, came at the hands of in-state rival Iowa State. Curse those Clones!

Quarterback Brad Banks had come in second in the Heisman balloting, losing out to Carson Palmer, quarterback for USC who, ironically enough, would be leading his Trojans against Iowa—no, not in the Rose Bowl, but in the Orange Bowl.

It was a scheduling coup the Orange Bowl Committee still ranks right up there as one of their best sleight of hands.

The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl was hosting the BCS national championship game between No. 1 Miami and No. 2 Ohio State. Detailing how the Orange Bowl came to host a contest between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the USC Trojans would require an advanced degree.

Suffice it to say that the Orange Bowl Committee came out of the selection process smelling like a “rose” with a matchup that sold out immediately. They were offering two of the hottest teams in the country on their field in Miami.

How well-prepared were the Hawkeyes? Did they take every opportunity to study this USC team down to the way they laced up their cleats? The answer was soon revealed, because the key to victory is preparation…

The Game

To start things off, Hawkeye C.J. Jones returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for Iowa’s first points of the game. Iowa’s Nate Kaeding, who won the Lou Groza Award for the best kicker in college football, successfully kicked the extra point to make it seven.

The Hawkeyes got off to a great early start with a return for a touchdown by C.J. Jones on the opening kickoff.

The Hawkeyes got off to a great early start with a return for a touchdown by C.J. Jones on the opening kickoff.

There. That seemed easy enough. Iowa fans relaxed and rejoiced.

On his team’s first possession, however, USC quarterback Palmer threw a 65-yard bomb down field to Kareen Kelly. Justin Fargas plowed it in three plays later, tying the score at 7-7.

After that explosive beginning, the game see-sawed with little scoring by either team. Iowa’s failure to take advantage in the red zone, its turnovers, and miscues cost Iowa the lead at halftime.

Iowa could have had a substantial lead at halftime if Mo (Maurice) Brown had hung onto the pass he dropped in the end zone in the second quarter, and if, during Iowa’s final drive before intermission, Kaeding’s field goal attempt had not been blocked as time ran off the clock.

That killed Iowa’s momentum and fed USC’s hope. At halftime the score stood 10-10.

Iowa had a run defense ranked second in the nation and a pass defense that was dead last in the Big Ten. USC prided itself on being a second-half team. You are beginning to see what would happen next.

In the second half Palmer opened up the throttle with his pin-point passing and his speedy receivers. Iowa’s corners could not keep up, and Iowa could not stop the USC quarterback. The Trojans ate up the clock with long drives, wearing down an Iowa defense that had not played a game since Nov. 16. By the same token USC had not suited up since Nov. 30. USC held the ball for over 38 minutes, giving it up to Iowa for only a scant 22.

In the end, Pete Carroll, Troy Polamalu (#43), Carson Palmer (#3) and the Trojans claimed the Orange Bowl 38-17.

In the end, Pete Carroll, Troy Polamalu (#43), Carson Palmer (#3) and the Trojans claimed the Orange Bowl 38-17.

USC’s speed and stifling defense made the Iowa team move a step slow and come up a dollar short in the second half. At times the Hawkeyes appeared to be reacting in slow motion next to the fleet-footed Trojans. Iowa did not have an answer in the second half as the Trojans poured it on. Besides a field goal by Kaeding in the middle, Iowa scored only on the opening and closing plays of the game. Iowa lost to USC, 38-17. Seduced by their own press and forgoing solid preparation to enjoy the night life, the Hawkeyes sealed their fate…which was disappointment. To watch the highlights of this contest, click here for YouTube magic.

From the Ghost of Orange Bowl Present…So, noble black and gold linesmen, if you know speed is going to kill you—how do you counter the break-neck speed Georgia Tech is going to throw at you with their triple-option and possible variations on offense?

The Yellow Jackets’ rushing attack ranks second nationally, averaging 307.2 yards and typically 35.3 points per game. Their passing game has also enjoyed some success—junior wide receiver Demaryius Thomas averages 25.1 yards per catch.

Georgia Tech receiver Demaryius Thomas is averaging 25.1 yards per reception.

Georgia Tech receiver Demaryius Thomas is averaging 25.1 yards per reception.

But it is the option that drives opposing teams crazy.

Iowa on the other hand leads the Big Ten in pass defense and ranks third in points allowed. This will not help them all that much as they try to contain the dangerous rushing Yellow Jackets sprinting through their option patterns. The Hawkeyes’ rush defense remains suspect against the option.

What will Norm Parker do to ready his potent defense to face the unfamiliar offense? No doubt the venerable mastermind has a few cards up his sleeve.

Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi will be back after missing the last three games of the season along with freshman running back Adam Robinson, who also also missed play due to injury.

The Iowa junior quarterback certainly has the capability to light up the air with a variable passing assault, but he can also misfire—and all during the same game. Which Stanzi will emerge strongest?

The Yellow Jackets are not sterling on defense. They have allowed 25 points a game and almost five yards per carry. Stanzi has the capability to lead an attack on the ground and through the air.

Georgia Tech brings their No. 11 ranked offense against Iowa’s No. 11 ranked defense—the irresistible force meets the immovable object—or who will blink first?

The object for Norm Parker is to instill patience and persistence into his vaunted defense. The triple-option will garner yardage—no doubt about it. According to experts blitzing is a bad idea. When you blitz, a good option quarterback has you just where he wants you. Forcing the ball out, whether it is a pitch, a lateral, a pass or a run, allows for the defense to do damage.

On offense the key is “no turnovers.” Take care of the ball and the ball will take care of you. Stanzi must have a good outing with a balanced attack.

If Iowa plays up to its potential and prepares with diligence, the Ghost of Orange Bowl 2003 will fade into oblivion…

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