Iowa football will try to establish postseason winning streak

After a lengthy bowl-season losing streak, Iowa will try to start a postseason winning streak.


Ben Allan Smith

Iowa’s Kevin Ward (26) holds up the New Era Pinstripe Bowl trophy after the Hawkeyes beat Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in New York on Wednesday, Dec. 27. The Hawkeyes went on to win 27-20.

Pete Ruden, Sports Editor

From 2011-17, there was a bad taste left in the Hawkeyes’ mouths after each season.

Losing bowl games repeatedly does that to a team. It hurts to end the season on a low note each time.

But after Iowa topped Boston College in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, 27-20, on Dec. 27, 2017, the Hawkeyes found new postseason life.

“Establishing the winning culture and being able to end the season with a win is something we really want to do,” tight end T.J. Hockenson said. “I think it’s something that we owe this team, so we’re going to go down there and look for a win. After a losing streak, that’s not a fun time to be a competitor and do a lot of things, but it’s a lot more fun when you win.”

The last time Iowa was in the Outback Bowl, things didn’t go well for the Hawkeyes.

A 30-3 shellacking by Florida in 2017 served as the final game of the careers for C.J. Beathard, George Kittle, and Desmond King, but Iowa moved on quickly.

Now, it’s a chance for some of the team’s older players to redeem themselves after a rough showing in Tampa two years ago.

Iowa hasn’t played a team quite like Mississippi State yet this season, however.

The Bulldogs lead the country in scoring defense, giving up just 12 points a game, while ranking third with 268.4 yards allowed.

The Hawkeyes, on the other hand, give up 17.4 points per game, ranking 11th, and finished the season seventh in total defense, allowing 289.6 yards each contest.

“The Big Ten takes pride on playing defense, so that’s the way a lot of Big Ten games go,” defensive end Parker Hesse said. “That’s something we’re used to, and we’re excited to, hopefully, have a defensive matchup.”

Because Iowa has faced similar defenses — although not so powerful — the Hawkeyes have a chance to take advantage of the familiarity.

Even though the Bulldog defense is built like a Big Ten program, Iowa still has to deal with change. Boston College and Mississippi State have different playing styles, and New York City is certainly a different trip from going to Tampa.

Amani Hooker compared Mississippi State’s offense with a spread-heavy squad such as Purdue. But preparation, he said, doesn’t change.

“You’ve got to treat it like you’ve been doing all year long,” Hooker said. “You just got to take approach like any other game, watch your film, and then just understand what they’re trying to do to us as a defense.”

Establishing a winning culture in the postseason is huge when it comes to starting the next season with momentum.

For five seasons, there were Hawkeyes who never won a bowl game during their time in Iowa City. Now, Iowa wants to put the program in a solid position for future classes so losing doesn’t carry over.

“We were in a little rut there where we hadn’t won a bowl game in a while, and we got to send the seniors out last year with a win at the Pinstripe Bowl,” safety Jake Gervase said. “If we can go out and get that win No. 9, finish on a strong note, not only is it a good way to send the seniors out, it’s also good for momentum into next year for next year’s team. It’ll be big for us to, hopefully, get a little bowl winning streak going this year.”