Iowa football battles losses in Holiday Bowl

For the Hawkeyes, this season has been about battling losses on the injury front and coping with deaths of important people in the program. They’ll have one final chance to do that in the Holiday Bowl.

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Iowa football battles losses in Holiday Bowl

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz speaks during the 2019 SDCCU Holiday Bowl Coaches Press Conference in the Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Diego on Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz speaks during the 2019 SDCCU Holiday Bowl Coaches Press Conference in the Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Diego on Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019.

Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz speaks during the 2019 SDCCU Holiday Bowl Coaches Press Conference in the Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Diego on Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019.

Shivansh Ahuja

Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz speaks during the 2019 SDCCU Holiday Bowl Coaches Press Conference in the Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Diego on Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019.

Anna Kayser, Sports Editor

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For Iowa football, this season has been riddled with losses.

From injuries to deaths in the program, the Hawkeyes have fought through adversity all season. Now, they’re gearing up to continue that fight one final time with the team at full-force and one key member of the program notably absent.

Hayden Fry’s death

The latest and most impactful loss for this Iowa program came on Dec. 17, when former Iowa head coach Hayden Fry died.

The Hawkeyes will honor him on Friday by removing the Tigerhawk decal from their helmets.

“The biggest thing is I think his impact just overriding with our program is so significant, and same thing with the Big Ten,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He changed Big Ten history in my opinion, and obviously changed Iowa football history forever.”

Injuries

While Iowa tries to honor an icon of the program as a whole, the injuries that plagued it during the regular season have been sidelined.

Brandon Smith, who posted his best game as a Hawkeye receiver on Oct. 19 against Purdue, suffered an injury to his right leg in the fourth quarter of the same game. He entered the Nov. 16 game against Minnesota but didn’t record any statistics and hasn’t played since.

Now, Smith is back and any players that experienced setbacks at the beginning of the week are projected to be good to go.

“Again, we see arrows going up right now with guys, they have been out working,” Ferentz said. “Great to get Brandon back. I don’t know if he’s full speed, but he’s pretty close. He just hasn’t played in a while but great to get him back.”

NFL Draft and graduation

For now, the Hawkeyes are focused on the game. But once they pack up the plane and head back home, losses might be sitting there waiting for them.

The team is in full-force this week, with names such as A.J. Epenesa and Tristan Wirfs electing to play out the rest of the season in the bowl game. Last season, Iowa had tight end Noah Fant leave to focus on the upcoming draft instead.

“We’ve asked the players to put it aside,” Ferentz said. “They have done a great job of that. They get it. They are mature guys, and they understand it’s all about this game.”

This is also quarterback Nate Stanley’s final game in a Hawkeye uniform, and his impact on the team through his three years at the starting position has led to him being in the race for second in Iowa’s all-time passing yard rankings.

He has never missed a game since appearing in the 2017 Outback Bowl against Florida.

“Probably the first word that comes to my mind would be steadiness and dependability; I guess that’s two words,” Ferentz said. “They go hand-in-hand. He’s just extremely steady. He’s so dependable.”

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