Dec. 20, 2010
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Excited and appreciative.
Moments after touching down at approximately 5 p.m. (Phoenix time) University of Iowa head football coach Kirk Fernetz addressed a smattering of media and Insight Bowl representatives in a makeshift tent set up near a runway of the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. He emphasized how thrilled the Hawkeyes are to be spending the holiday in Arizona.
"When we left Iowa City today, I don't know what the temperature was, but the wind was kicking, a little snow was blowing, we have some snow coming in tonight. We're well into Midwestern winter for sure," Ferentz said. "We're excited about being selected to the Insight Bowl; very appreciative of the opportunity and feel extremely fortunate to be playing in such a great venue -- the hospitality for the bowls down here is absolutely legendary."
It was 30 degrees when the Hawkeyes left Iowa; it was 40 degrees warmer in Arizona.
A local television reporter asked the final question of the press conference and an already cheerful event turned even jollier when Ferentz noticed he was wearing a black Iowa ball cap.
"First of all, I like your hat," Ferentz said. "That looks like an Iowa hat; appreciate that. That is, I saw the Tiger Hawk on the back now."
The reporter was curious about the mood of the Iowa players and coaches. Ferentz said the group is thrilled because the Insight Bowl did not have to select the Hawkeyes and they are thrilled about the opportunity of playing 10-2 Missouri, which is rated No. 14 by the Associated Press and USA Today.
"Our practices have been good, the guys have been focused," Ferentz said. "I think they're eager to play on the 28th, realizing that we still have a lot of work to do -- a lot of hard work in front of us yet."
Part of the reason Iowa is so grateful to be playing football late into December is because of what happened in 2007. Iowa needed a win at home against Western Michigan on the final day of the regular season, but lost 28-19, finishing 6-6. Although bowl-eligible, the Hawkeyes were on the outside looking in when pairings were announced.
"A couple years ago we didn't make it to a bowl game," Ferentz said. "We had an opportunity to come here actually and we didn't play well in our last game at the end of the '07 season. So that's one of the first and only misses we've had this decade -- we've been going since 2001 and that was a great lesson in appreciation. All of us greatly missed the opportunity to be practicing together for another month."
Since 2007, the Hawkeyes have won the Outback Bowl and the Orange Bowl, and they are now in position to win three consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history. A dangerous Missouri team stands in the way.
"They're very, very well-coached with a great scheme and a lot of help at all positions," Ferentz said. "They're good in all three phases (special teams, offense, defense)."
This will be the 13th meeting between Iowa and Missouri and the first since the Tigers won 5-0 in 1910.
The Hawkeyes resume practice Tuesday at Corona Del Sol High School.