Florida 30, Iowa 3 - Bloomin’ Onion kid delivers unkindest cut
BY Marc Morehouse
TAMPA, Fla. — At one point, the kid in the “Bloomin’ Onion” costume taunted Iowa tight end George Kittle.
That was Iowa’s Outback Bowl experience in a nutshell. The dude with the cup of sauce for a hat gave Kittle the “incomplete pass” arms in his general direction. You can argue that Iowa never recovered from this indignity.
The Hawkeyes (8-5) had a chance to take the lead midway through the second quarter, but running back LeShun Daniels was stopped for a 2-yard loss on a fourth-and-goal from the 1. A drive later, Florida (9-4) got an 85-yard touchdown on an innocuous screen pass and scored 27 unanswered points in a 30-3 victory over the Hawkeyes before 51,119 fans Monday at Raymond James Stadium.
The Iowa team that made its way to Florida by plowing through the Big Ten in November melted in 82-degree heat and 70-percent humidity.
The Hawkeyes have now lost five straight bowl games. The three points Iowa scored ties for its second fewest in a bowl (Iowa scored three against Cal in the 1993 Alamo Bowl). Everything looks pretty cool in November, in the cold and against mostly Big Ten West opponents, but against top competition (Florida, Stanford, Tennessee, LSU and Oklahoma) in the postseason, Iowa has now been outscored 172-75 in its last five bowls.
“We’ve played good teams, that’d be the first commonality I’d throw out there,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. He said he believed in the plan they had for this game, cutting the bowl trip by a day or two and getting more work done in Iowa City.
“I might feel differently a month from now, two months from now, but right now, as I stand here, I feel like we had a good plan,” Ferentz said. “I think we really practiced well. I thought our guys were ready to go and I thought they played hard today.
“It wasn’t effort necessarily as it was execution.”
So much bad happened for the Hawkeyes on that second-quarter drive. First, the obvious failure at the line of scrimmage. The Gators defense, missing five of its top seven tacklers, gutted Iowa on the fourth-and-goal.
Safety Marcell Harris was on Daniels less than 1.5 seconds after the snap.
“Right as I got the handoff there was a guy flying upfield,” Daniels said. “All I could really do was secure the handoff and try to get what I could. Obviously, the defense surrounded me.”
That was a big, big play. Perhaps the bigger play was on third down, when quarterback C.J. Beathard scrambled for a 6-yard gain to the 1. He rolled into the end zone, but the call was down at the 1 and was upheld upon review. So, no TD, no 10-3 Iowa lead and, ultimately, after the fourth-and-1, zip, nada, nothing for Iowa.
“It was Hippo Diamond Stick again, same call,” Florida head coach Jim McElwain said. “The guys penetrated and were able to get that. That was huge.”
Less obvious was the fact that Beathard pulled his hamstring during the run. He said in the postgame that if he had to run, he felt he was at about 30 percent capacity. It looked like it. The Gators put hit after hit and pressure after pressure on Beathard, who put up the worst numbers of his career, completing just 7 of 23 for 55 yards and three interceptions, including bowl MVP Chauncey Gardner’s 58-yard pick six in the fourth quarter. The Gators turned the picks into 13 points. Iowa’s offense at this point in the game couldn’t gain 13 yards much less score 13 points.
Should he have come out in favor of true freshman Nathan Stanley? Did it even matter at that point? Ferentz said the medical side OK’d a return, and Beathard wanted back in.
“He wanted to compete and we certainly left it to him,” Ferentz said. “He’s had a tremendous career and laid it out there for us game in and game out.”
Iowa gained just 226 yards total offense, a season low and lowest in the Outback’s 31-year history. The Gators set three other defensive bowl records.