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Insight Bowl: One more chance for the Hawkeyes

BY JORDAN GARRETSON | DECEMBER 17, 2010 7:30 AM

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Believe it or not, the Iowa football team still has another game to play this season.

After the arrest of Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, the official departure of Brandon Wegher, the exit of Jewel Hampton, and the suspension of Adam Robinson — all of which occurred in the last 10 days — the 14th-ranked Missouri Tigers (10-2) still await.

The two teams will meet in the Insight Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., at 9 p.m. (CST) Dec. 28. ESPN will televise the game live.

Johnson-Koulianos' arrest and subsequent removal from the team — aside from being controversial in itself — seemingly set off a spiraling chain of speculation and whispers that more trouble and accompanying discipline would soon be revealed.

Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta and head coach Kirk Ferentz called a Tuesday news conference to put those rumblings to rest.

Aside the aforementioned players, the exodus is finished.

"As far as we know, we dealt with two transactions [Monday], one last week, and I anticipate everybody else on the roster to be ready to go, at least on the plane," Ferentz said. "I don't know about health status, but I expect them to go and play well against Missouri."

After the way the month of November went for the Hawkeyes, the 12-year head coach may be one of few still maintaining that expectation. Just as the matchup against the Tigers represents the final opportunity to end the year on a good note, another fact still remains: Iowa has lost its last three games.

The slump is the Hawkeyes' longest since the fall of 2008, when they were defeated by Pittsburgh, Northwestern, and Michigan State in consecutive weeks.

This streak is different, though. That one was the result of a squad yet to discover its identity — a team whose potential was unknown.

This Iowa group had already shown what it was capable of. Just look at Iowa's 37-6 dismantling of then-fifth-ranked Michigan State.

And even more troubling, perhaps, is the similar recipe the Hawkeyes have followed throughout their three-game slide. Iowa held fourth-quarter leads in all three of those defeats.

A far cry from the frequent fourth-quarter magic of the team's 2009 run to an Orange Bowl appearance.

"If we could have quit at 55 [minutes], we'd have been in great shape," Ferentz said in a Dec. 5 teleconference. "But that is the difference between winning and losing."

Achieving a win in the Insight Bowl likely won't be as simple as improved fourth-quarter play. The Hawkeyes may find it difficult to gain a lead at any point.

Though Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel lauded the Hawkeye football program in that same teleconference — frequently complimenting Ferentz on the program he's built — his squad is arguably the best one not playing in a January bowl game.

Led by quarterback Blaine Gabbert, the Tigers enter Tempe having reeled off three-straight victories, and have outscored their opponents 87-35 over that stretch. Wins over six bowl-eligible teams — including a 36-27 triumph over Oklahoma, which was then the top-ranked team in the BCS standings — highlight Missouri's impressive season.

Neither team probably expected to be here. With a 10-2 record, many felt the Tigers were worthy of a more prestigious bowl. Meanwhile, it's not a stretch to say Iowa entered the season with aspirations much higher than a 7-5 record and a Dec. 28 bowl game.

If the Hawkeyes want to at least rid themselves of the sour taste left over from the failures of November, then they must channel the playing caliber they often exhibited in September and October.

Senior offensive lineman Julian Vandervelde wants the squad to be even better than that.

"We started off the year playing at a higher level than we are right now," Vandervelde said. "So our goal is going to have to be to get back to that form and then exceed it."

Barta to ring opening bell

Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta will be joined by Missouri head football coach Gary Pinkel and officials from Insight Enterprise Inc. in ringing the NASDAQ Stock Market Opening Bell today.

The official ringing — in honor of the 22nd Insight Bowl — will take place between 8:15 and 8:30 a.m. (CST) at the NASDAQ MarketSite in Times Square.


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