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Hawkeyes, Yellow Jackets set for Miami clash

BY BRENDAN STILES | DECEMBER 18, 2009 7:30 AM

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When No. 10 Iowa and No. 9 Georgia Tech square off in Miami at the 2010 FedEx Orange Bowl on Jan. 5, it will be the first time the Hawkeyes and Yellow Jackets have faced one another.

The Hawkeyes will head south for the new year with a 10-2 record, selected as a BCS at-large team. The Yellow Jackets will enter the contest with an 11-2 mark, which includes winning the 2009 ACC championship over Clemson, 39-34, on Dec. 5.

It will be Iowa’s second trip to the Orange Bowl. The first occurred in 2003, when the Hawkeyes were co-Big Ten champions with an 11-1 record; they lost to USC, 38-17.

“The credit really goes to our players,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said on Dec. 6 after learning of the Hawkeyes’ destination. “They’ve done a wonderful job all season. They’ve handled all the challenges that we’ve had, and there were many, especially on the injury front.

“Our guys just kept pushing forward. We’re really proud of what they’ve done and very excited about the opportunity ahead of us.”

It might be the BCS bowl game with the two lowest-ranked top-10 teams, but intriguing matchups abound.

Perhaps none is more so than the Yellow Jacket offense against the Hawkeye defense. Georgia Tech runs what is called the “spread option attack,” implemented by head coach Paul Johnson when he took over prior to the 2008 season.

Junior quarterback Josh Nesbitt commands the Yellow Jacket offense, and he leads Georgia Tech with 18 rushing touchdowns this season. Joining him in the backfield are backs Jonathan Dwyer, who has 1,346 yards on the ground, Anthony Allen, and Roddy Jones. The four have combined for 40 rushing touchdowns this season.

The Yellow Jackets, as a team, average more than 300 rushing yards per game.

With the Hawkeyes running their vintage “bend-but-don’t-break” defense designed by defensive coordinator Norm Parker, this battle should play a major role in the outcome.

“We are going to have to play fundamentally sound; no playing out of your gap or out of your position,” junior defensive end Adrian Clayborn said on Dec. 6. “We are going to have to watch a lot of film. We have to be focused and disciplined, because they have some great running backs, a great quarterback, and a great team.”

For Iowa, the game should mark the return of junior quarterback Ricky Stanzi, who missed the Hawkeyes’ final two regular-season contests after suffering an ankle injury against Northwestern.

Stanzi returns with 2,186 passing yards and 15 touchdowns through the air in 10 games with a completion rate of 56 percent. The native of Mentor, Ohio, began practicing with the team again shortly before the Orange Bowl announcement was made. He is confident he won’t be rusty.

“Sometimes, you take things for granted when you do them all the time,” Stanzi said on Dec. 6.

“When it is taken away from you, and you don’t get to practice, you realize how much you miss it and how badly you want to be out there. Being back out there, I was more excited than worried about shaking off the rust.”

Kickoff is scheduled 7 p.m. CST in Land Shark Stadium; the game will be televised by Fox Sports. Georgia Tech is the designated home team, but it plans to wear its white uniforms, meaning Iowa will dress in black for the third-consecutive bowl game.


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