Dec. 8, 2013
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Christmas 2012 was a pleasant holiday season for University of Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz, but in his chosen profession, it wasn't where he wanted to be.
"It was nice sitting at home for a while and being with my family, and I love them dearly, but after a while, if you're a football coach, it's not good to sit at home at Christmas," Ferentz said during a Sunday news conference inside the Hayden Fry Football Complex. "As much as I love the holidays, I want to be working. Our time for rest is in January."
After winning eight games, including five Big Ten Conference contests, Ferentz and the Hawkeyes will be spending the 2013 holiday season in sunny Florida. Iowa accepted an invitation Sunday to play in the 2014 Outback Bowl against 14th-ranked LSU.
"This is a happy day for our football team," said Ferentz. "We're thrilled to be going back to Tampa Bay and to be in the Outback Bowl. They do an outstanding job of not only hosting the teams, but matching us with a marquee opponent, and playing LSU is going to be a great challenge for us."
"This is a happy day for our football team. We're thrilled to be going back to Tampa Bay and to be in the Outback Bowl. They do an outstanding job of not only hosting the teams, but matching us with a marquee opponent, and playing LSU is going to be a great challenge for us."
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz
The Tigers finished the regular season with a 9-3 record with three victories over ranked foes (No. 20 TCU, No. 17 Florida, No. 9 Texas A&M). LSU was the only team to defeat Auburn, a team that will be playing in the 2014 BCS National Championship game against Florida State.
"Their losses came to quality opponents like ours," said Ferentz. "The most telling thing is they're the only team to beat Auburn this year, and Auburn is an outstanding football team. The last time we played them; they had great personnel, talent, and were well-coached.
"It will be a great challenge, but it will be something for our football team to latch on to."
Ferentz hasn't studied any film on LSU, but knows the Tigers will be without the services of starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who suffered a knee injury in LSU's 31-27 victory over Arkansas on Nov. 29. With LSU's reputation, Ferentz says Iowa must be prepared with back-up Anthony Jennings running the show.
"They're No. 2 doesn't look like the No. 2 (we had) at Maine, and I was there for three years," joked Ferentz. "I am guessing he was highly-recruited and is very talented. I know nothing about him, but my guess is he's a good football player, and they have a month to get ready, too."
Ferentz lauded the effort of the senior class in helping the Hawkeyes flip the script following last season's 4-8 finish.
"The ownership these guys accepted, the senior class in particular, and the underclassmen too like (Brandon) Scherff, Kevonte (Martin-Manley)... those guys did a good job," he said. "They all accepted the fact that we wanted to change things in a positive way, and they were committed to doing the work involved."
UI director of athletics Gary Barta says first-and-foremost, the team's play on the field made Iowa an appealing pick for the Outback Bowl over the likes of college football "blue-bloods" Michigan and Nebraska, but the program's brand, history, and fans were also factors.
"I'll stand pretty tall on the brand of Iowa," said Barta. "We're not as large in terms of size and population, but at the end of the day, when we got to the resume table, we were able to say we beat Michigan and Nebraska. They both have storied histories, but in 2013, the University of Iowa stood taller.
"We have some of the best fans in the country and the bowls know that. (Being invited to the Outback Bowl) is a credit to Kirk, Hayden (Fry), the fans, our history, but most importantly to the guys that won on the field this year."
Outback Bowl ticket information is available at hawkeyesports.com, or by contacting the UI Athletics Ticket Office at 1-800-IA-HAWKS. Most tickets are $80, although a few club seats are available on a limited basis at $170. Kinnick Society and Champion Club members have the first opportunity at purchasing club tickets, while others have an opportunity to request a ticket upgrade when placing their order.