Seniors to relish bowl game


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When asked what they knew about the city of Jacksonville, three of Iowa’s senior captains had blank stares. They eventually produced smiles once reality quickly crept in — they don’t really know much about Florida’s largest city.

A local reporter bailed them out this time. Surely they knew of the NFL team down there, the Jacksonville Jaguars, right?

“That’s it. The Jags,” left tackle Brandon Scherff said.

But wait. There’s a Waffle House, too.

“The Waffle House,” middle linebacker Quinton Alston said, letting it hang in the air for a moment. He smiled. “They do have a Waffle House,” he said, as if he would make a visit during Iowa’s trip to Jacksonville for the 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl. The room erupted in laughter.

Regardless of whether a meal at Waffle House happens, all three seniors who spoke during Iowa’s bowl-announcement press conference on Dec. 7 — Scherff, Alston, and defensive tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat — said they relish the opportunity to play one final game as members of the Iowa football team.

“Getting a chance just to play football again, that’s what I’m excited about,” Alston said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re lining up against. Regardless if it was against [a team from] the SEC, Big 12, so on and so forth, I’m happy to get out there and get another shot.”

All three admitted to still having a “bad taste” in their mouths after losing the final two games of the season in devastating fashion. A win will give Iowa eight wins for the second-straight year.

Playing in the TaxSlayer Bowl, though, has allowed certain emotions to surface. Scherff, especially, broke his normally stoic image when asked what it’s liking knowing that Jan. 2 will be the last time he plays in an Iowa uniform.

“I kind of catch myself just thinking about, you know, what happened five years ago,” he said. “It’s hard to believe. We were down in Arizona [for the 2010 Insight Bowl] then, and all the good times we’ve had, you know — I’ve had a great time here.

“We just want to come out with a W, so we’re going to use this time to study film, because we’re going to have a little more time — I only have one final — so we’ll have more time to use that to my advantage and help us get that much better.”

This, all three said, works in two ways. For starters, the Hawkeyes have a given number of practices for their bowl prep, and they have traditionally used them to their advantage ahead of postseason games.

But even more, the experience of preparing for a bowl game bodes well for the future of the program, too. All three players said the experience of that 2010 Insight Bowl — a 27-24 win over No. 14 Missouri — helped with their overall technique at their respective positions.

“During the season, it’s a lot of game-plan stuff and schemes that we try to go over to prepare for the next team,” Alston said. “But bowl prep, it pretty much takes you back to the basics, back to pretty much like camp. You go back and do fundamental drills because the basics are what make you great.”

And perhaps that’s what Iowa needs in order to end this disappointing 2014 campaign on a high note. Head coach Kirk Ferentz said winning in Jacksonville helps carry over confidence into the next season — something he said he wouldn’t mind having after these particular seniors leave the program.

“I can tell you from experience winning bowl games is a positive for everybody. And it doesn’t hurt the opportunity for next year,” Ferentz said. “… It’s a new chapter. But there’s not a lot of downside to winning any game. That’s for sure.”

Follow @codygoodwin on Twitter for updates, news, and analysis about the Iowa football team.

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