Ferentz ties Fry, Wadley runs wild in final game
IOWA CITY, Iowa – No one needs to be reminded about Iowa’s bowl drought. (In case you didn’t know, it was up to five straight losses dating back to 2010.)
On Wednesday night in the Bronx, New York, 18 Iowa seniors were looking to win their first bowl game in their college careers.
Those seniors, and many other Hawkeye playmakers, did their part in making sure that losing streak didn’t extend to six.
Akrum Wadley did his part. The senior running back from nearby Newark, New Jersey made sure to go out with a bang. Wadley, playing in front of many family members, accounted for 283 all-purpose yards (88 rush, 24 receiving, 171 kickoff returns) and a touchdown, numbers plenty impressive enough for Pinstripe Bowl MVP.
The linebacker trio of Josey Jewell, Benn Niemann, and Bo Bower combined for 22 tackles in their final games as Hawkeyes. The trio will go down as some of the most productive and winningest linebackers in program history.
Lineman Nathan Bazata, in his last game, set a new career-high with nine total tackles, capping off an impressive career for the big No. 99.
And finally, there was fullback Drake Kulick. The Muscatine native had his 2016 season end with a leg injury, but the grittiest Hawkeye made a full recovery and got back to the field his senior year.
With 3:09 on the clock, Kulick took his only handoff of the game up the middle for one, hard-fought yard. It was a touchdown – his first career rushing touchdown – that brought the game to its final score: 27-20, an Iowa football bowl victory.
It’s the first bowl victory for every player on the roster. The imperfect season was complete, and so 18 Iowa seniors finally had their coveted postseason win. In doing so, head coach Kirk Ferentz notched victory 143 at Iowa, tying legendary Hayden Fry for most in program history.
Two Different, Slippery Halves
At halftime, Boston College had dominated Iowa in every aspect of the game. The Eagles led 17-10 and had outgained the Hawkeyes 281-56, and freshman running back AJ Dillon was already above 100 yards rushing.
The playing surface, which looked to be natural grass covered with a sheet of ice, didn’t do either team any favors. Stopping, starting, and changing direction looked nearly impossible, but the Eagles got their footing down in the first half.
The second half was Hawkeye time.
Iowa held Boston College to just three points after the break, and kept the offensive production to 102 total yards for the Eagles. Dillon finished with just 157 yards rushing after an explosive first half that included a touchdown run.
Tight end Tommy Sweeney, who finished with 137 receiving yards and touchdown, also did most of his work in the first half.
The Hawkeyes looked faster and more determined in the second than in the first. The game was the coldest Iowa had played since 2013, and it’s possible the slick playing surface had guys outthinking themselves.
Whatever the problem was, the Hawkeyes fixed it at halftime, and capped the wild and imperfect 2017 season with a win.
How’d It Happen?
Iowa’s defense got off to another fast start when, on the third play of the game, Jake Gervase recorded his third interception of the season. Gervase returned the pick 29 yards to the Boston College six-yard line, setting up a Miguel Recinos field goal.
Dillon scored his touchdown in the final minute of the first quarter to cap a long Eagles drive. Dillon’s run from four yards out gave Boston College a 7-3 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Akrum Wadley got loose and took the kick 72 yards downfield to the Boston College 16-yard line. This set up an eight-yard touchdown pass to Noah Fant, putting Iowa back up 10-7.
Again, the Eagles responded, as Darius Wade found Sweeney for a 39-yard touchdown reception. Amani Hooker had a hand on the pass, but it stayed in the air for Sweeney to haul in.
Colton Lichtenberg would make one of his two field goal attempts to finish the half with Boston College leading 17-10.
The Hawkeyes got back to their running ways in the second half. Wadley finished a 58-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown to tie the game at 17-17.
The scoring was stagnant for the rest of the third quarter, and Recinos and Lichtenberg traded field goals early in the fourth quarter, tying the game at 20-20.
The Eagles had the ball near midfield when Anthony Nelson sacked Wade and forced a fumble. Parker Hesse fell on it, and Iowa took over with 4:22 left on the clock.
On the next two plays, Wadley ran for 27 yards, and Nate Stanley found Nate Wieting for a 17-yard gain to the half-yard line. Wieting’s first career catch was originally ruled a touchdown, but was overturned on review.
Kulick would pound in the game-winning score on the next play, getting a helpful push from senior running back James Butler.
Josh Jackson, who was quiet for most of the night, notched his eighth interception of the season on the next Boston College drive, essentially closing the door on an Iowa bowl victory.
The Hawkeyes finish the up-and-down season at 8-5, notching the program’s first bowl victory since defeating Missouri in the 2010 Insight Bowl. The team opens up 2018 with a home game on September 1 versus the Northern Illinois Huskies.
With a win, Kirk Ferentz would pass Hayden Fry for most wins as head coach in Iowa football history.