Iowa City, Iowa – A holiday season hallmark of New York City is sunk slightly below street level in the iconic Rockefeller Center’s shadow. Accompanied by Central Park, among others, winter ice skating in the Big Apple is a bucket-lister. The gracefulness in the modern romantics activity embodies few traits found on the gridiron of bowl season that corresponds with the holidays.
Ice skating requires little preparation beyond learning to stay uprights and sliding. The only necessities are skates and maybe earmuffs on occasion. Cleats, helmets, and a leather football aren’t among the adequate attire to skate.
There is one exception.
Five and a half miles up Fifth Street with a hop over the Harlem River into the Bronx is the cities new, slightly unpopular skating rink. Those of New York prefer home runs and an occasional championship ring over skating inside the ‘House That George Built’.
With temperatures in the twenties and the absence of a field heating system, the natural grass field at Yankee Stadium felt as slick as a sheet of ice during the annual New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Typically a defrosted field isn’t necessary even in years when the Bronx Bombers make a late postseason run. It would’ve been very useful for Iowa and Boston College.
“They played tough, gritty football, and certainly we were playing in tough conditions,” Head Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “This was just a real challenge for both teams with the weather, certainly the field, and it’s just December, January football. It’s always going to be a challenge.”
If Only Wadley Could Cut on Ice
Slip sliding and falling plagued both teams. Boston College players opted to switch footwear throughout the game, in attempts to gain traction. Most Hawkeyes stuck with the typical grass cleat instead of a turf shoe. Game MVP Akrum Wadley ran on the frozen ground in regular football spikes despite their inability to grip the surface.
Post-game accolades implies he wasn’t fazed by the unfavorable conditions. That’s false, Wadley lost his footing multiple times in the rare northern state bowl game.
Returning kicks in his final game, Wadley opened the second half with a 40 yard return that abruptly ended on the 45 yard line. His feet quickly slid out from underneath while attempting to change direction. If the slip is averted, chances are Wadley finds the end zone.
Wadley recorded an Iowa season high 171 yards on kickoff returns despite the unsavory conditions.
“We just felt like this is Akrum’s senior year, we’re going to use everything we’ve got,” Ferentz said. “He gave us a real spark out there in a lot of different ways today.”
Similarly, when opening the fourth quarter, the Iowa running back contributed a much-needed boost. Third and eight with the game tied, Nate Stanley found Wadley in the flat resulting in a 17 yard gain. The play concluded as Wadley ran out-of-bounds for no reason other than he couldn’t turn on the slick field. Had he been able to cut, he would’ve easily gained five to ten more yards.
Wadley wasn’t the only Hawkeye noticeably impacted. All-American defensive back Josh Jackson appeared to be searching for his balance as often as the ball. Fortunately for him, Boston College wasn’t looking to take a chance throwing against the FBS interceptions leader.
Straight lines were everyone’s best friend. The conditions limited both teams ability to run outside the tackles. It very likely would’ve taken away Wadley’s strengths but as a senior in his last game, he adjusted accordingly. Even as offensive lineman literally slid towards him, Wadley carried the Hawkeye offense.
Not the Super Finale but Close Enough
Wadley completed his final collegiate game for Iowa just under 20 miles from his high school in Newark, New Jersey. An opportunity to play in the city of giants for his finale couldn’t have been more perfect. Statistically though, it wasn’t his greatest game.
Stats aside, Wadley put the weight on his shoulders and lead Iowa to a victory, as he has so many times before. His 88 yards and single touchdown only slightly represent the conclusion of a career that includes two seasons which eclipse one thousand yards. Wadley was the Iowa offense in the Pinstripe Bowl carrying the ball 22 times.
“His career has really propelled upward,” Ferentz said. “For him to be home like this and do it in front of so many family and friends, that’s even better. Just really happy for him.”
The senior running back sports a home town Yankees hat in Iowa City. For Yankees, there is one city that should never win in their stadium. Boston. The Hawkeyes have no ties to the legendary baseball organization but they acted as the Bronx defenders against the rival city. Wadley defended New York, with his Hawkeye teammates, as the perfect scenario to cap his career.
He was the Hawkeye hero in New York.