Dec. 25, 2010
TEMPE, Ariz. -- If the University of Iowa offense doesn't top its regular-season averages of 379.4 yards and 29.1 points Tuesday against No. 14 Missouri in the Insight Bowl, it won't be because of effort.
"Our guys are working their rear ends off," UI offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe said following Christmas Day practice. "Everybody has come determined to improve and get better and that's probably what gets your attention right away."
Iowa completed its fourth practice at Corona del Sol High School on Saturday, signaling an end to the bulk of the physical pregame work.
"The guys had good enthusiasm out there today for being Christmas," senior quarterback Ricky Stanzi said. "There is a lot of mental work that still needs to be done, the physical work is always here at practice. Guys had the right approach, they had good enthusiasm and that's really all you can ask for when you're practicing at Christmas."
UI senior wide receiver Colin Sandeman caught four passes for 53 yards and a touchdown during the Hawkeye's 24-14 win against Georgia Tech in the 2010 Orange Bowl. He knows how to rise on a national platform.
"That definitely gives me some more confidence knowing that I've played on that big of a stage," Sandeman said. "Right now I'm trying to get better and get back to where I was before I hurt my foot. But definitely having that confidence from the Orange Bowl helps."
This season Sandeman caught 17 passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns.
There is one "real" practice remaining before the Insight Bowl and it will signify the conclusion of a rigorous and productive month of December for the Hawkeyes.
"Coach pushed us hard for this whole month and actually we deserved that and we needed that," Sandeman said. "It's starting to show -- a lot of guys are improving, especially some of our young guys and then having some of our older guys work out the kinks."
Fullback Brett Morse spent the regular season opening holes for the Hawkeye running backs, but he also caught eight passes and carried the ball four times. He said the team is trying to get as much work done before Tuesday.
"The heavy work is over after (Saturday)," Morse said. "Now we're trying to get as much work done as possible before the game."
Morse knows it will be a challenge facing a Tiger defense that is ranked No. 1 in the country in red zone scoring percentage.
"They're a very talented group," he said. "They're fast, athletic and they're very well-coached. It's going to be a great challenge for us."
Iowa (7-5 overall) plays Missouri (10-2) on Dec. 28, with a 9 p.m. start (CT) in the Insight Bowl. The game will be played in Sun Devil Stadium (56,000) on the Arizona State campus and televised nationally by ESPN (HD).
The Hawkeyes return to Corona del Sol High School on Sunday for their final workout before packing the gear and heading to the Insight Bowl venue.