The Daily Iowan

Hawkeyes talk Outback Bowl, Noah Fant

Gary Barta, Kirk Ferentz, and the Hawkeye players are excited to clash with SEC-foe Mississippi State on Jan. 1.

UI+Athletics+Gary+Barta+announces+that+Iowa+has+accepted+a+bid+to+the+2019+Outback+Bowl.+Iowa+finished+the+regular+season+8-4+and+will+play+in+the+Outback+Bowl+for+the+third+time+in+six+seasons.+%28Beau+Bowman%2FThe+Daily+Iowan%29
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Hawkeyes talk Outback Bowl, Noah Fant

UI Athletics Gary Barta announces that Iowa has accepted a bid to the 2019 Outback Bowl. Iowa finished the regular season 8-4 and will play in the Outback Bowl for the third time in six seasons. (Beau Bowman/The Daily Iowan)

UI Athletics Gary Barta announces that Iowa has accepted a bid to the 2019 Outback Bowl. Iowa finished the regular season 8-4 and will play in the Outback Bowl for the third time in six seasons. (Beau Bowman/The Daily Iowan)

UI Athletics Gary Barta announces that Iowa has accepted a bid to the 2019 Outback Bowl. Iowa finished the regular season 8-4 and will play in the Outback Bowl for the third time in six seasons. (Beau Bowman/The Daily Iowan)

UI Athletics Gary Barta announces that Iowa has accepted a bid to the 2019 Outback Bowl. Iowa finished the regular season 8-4 and will play in the Outback Bowl for the third time in six seasons. (Beau Bowman/The Daily Iowan)

Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor

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After plenty of speculation, Iowa’s bowl destination and opponent are officially set – the Hawkeyes will take on No. 18 Mississippi State on Jan. 1 in the Outback Bowl.

“I took what ends up being one of my favorite phone calls of the year,” UI Athletics Director Gary Barta said. “I don’t take them for granted, Jim McVay from the Outback Bowl, executive director, gave me the call, and officially invited us to their Bowl and obviously we accepted quickly.”

This season will mark the third time in six years that Iowa has traveled to Tampa for the game, but there wasn’t any disappointment from the team on Sunday.

“I’m a big fan of Tampa,” center Keegan Render said. “I was just down there for spring break this year, actually. It’s awesome. I love it, especially with this weather outside [in Iowa].”

Barta said that in the end, it came down to three different postseason outings for Iowa – the Outback, the Citrus, and the Holiday Bowls.

All three of those options seemed to be favored more than New York City, where Iowa defeated Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl last season.

“It should be nice [going] from a skating rink we had last year to some good turf, some good weather,” defensive back Amani Hooker joked.

Iowa fans travel well to bowl games, and that’s one reason why the Outback had its eyes set on Iowa, according to Barta.

But while Iowa fans travel well, the Mississippi fans don’t have a far trek, either, and there will be plenty of maroon and white in Raymond James stadium to support the Bulldogs.

Mississippi State is led by senior quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, a dual-threat signal caller with the ability to burn defenses. In 11 games this year, Fitzgerald has 1,615 passing yards and 15 touchdowns to go along with 1,018 yards and 12 scores on the ground.

“Just first blush, it looks like [Mississippi is] an outstanding defensive football team,” Ferentz said. “I know they have a really good quarterback. Sounds like a guy who is a very strong leader… But yeah, we have a lot of work to do to catch up and find out more about them. The good news is there’s plenty of time.”

Iowa will also have plenty of time for off-field activities while in Florida. For the juniors and seniors, it’ll be their second time in Tampa.

“We got to explore Tampa a little bit. We got to go to a Lightening game, so that was fun,” quarterback Nate Stanley said. “If I have that opportunity again, I’ll definitely go to an NHL game.”

Ferentz, players talk Noah Fant’s early exit.

On Nov. 30, Hawkeye tight end Noah Fant announced via Twitter his decision to leave school a year early and head to the NFL.

His early exit included Iowa’s bowl game.

“After multiple discussions with my family, coaches, and a lot of prayer, I have decided to forego the remainder of my eligibility and declare for the 2019 NFL Draft,” he tweeted.

On Sunday, Ferentz was asked about Fant’s decision to not only leave a year early, but also his choice to skip the bowl game.

“What we do is so hard and so competitive that if you’re not fully into it, it’s not good for anybody,” Ferentz said. “I certainly respect Noah’s decision. I think it’s something he and his family felt was best for him and his interests, and I understand that and can appreciate that. We’re just all very appreciative of what he’s done for our team and for our program over the last couple years, and wish him nothing but the best. He’ll have a great future.”

Ferentz noted that because of Fant’s early exit, the Hawkeyes will be working with Nate Wieting and Drew Cook at tight end behind T.J. Hockenson.

Hockenson noted that it will be different no longer lining up alongside Fant, but he’s confident in the Hawkeyes’ tight-end group moving forward.

“We’ve got some depth at the tight end room,” Hockenson said. “We’ve got some guys that can do some different things and specialize in different categories in their game. We’ll see what these guys can do in the next game.”

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About the Writer
Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor

Adam Hensley is the current Pregame Editor at the DI, covering football, men's basketball, and baseball. Formerly the DI Sports Editor, Hensley has been...

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