Dec. 30, 2013
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The University of Iowa football team completed its final practice in preparation for Wednesday's Outback Bowl against Louisiana State University Monday and then joined thousands of Hawkeye fans at "Beach Day".
Fans from both schools mingled on the beach, but clearly the Black and Gold outnumbered those from their LSU counterparts. To no surprise, UI starting quarterback Jake Rudock was thankful for the support from the swarm of Hawkeye faithful.
"It's awesome; you get off the bus and hear fans screaming `Let's Go Hawks'... what a great environment," said Rudock.
Rudock, a native of Weston, Fla., and his teammates enjoyed a little time in the sand and sun this afternoon.
"I'm from South Florida so being on the beach is kind of like being at home," said Rudock. "The beaches are beautiful and being surrounded by Hawkeye fans is fantastic."
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz addressed the crowd when the Hawkeye team buses arrived. Ferentz assured the Hawkeye faithful that the team has working hard for the New Year's Day bowl game.
"I promise you the team has worked hard all month long, and we're excited to get out on the field to play an outstanding LSU football team," said the 15-yeard Iowa head coach. "It will be a great challenge that we are looking forward to."
Junior running back Damon Bullock says the "Beach Day" added to what has already been a great experience.
"Hawkeye fans traveled from all over the country, not just Iowa, to come down here and support us, and that's special," said Bullock. "It's a great feeling to be with your teammates and fans around New Year's."
Senior receiver Jordan Cotton echoed Bullock's sentiments.
"My teammates and I are enjoying this opportunity," Cotton said. "I'm not used to the warm weather in December, so it's nice to walk around a little bit and get my feet in the sand. This is a great time."
Senior tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, who has caught at least one pass in 30 consecutive games, says the team is grounded and has done a good job balancing work and fun on this trip.
"We've been preparing for LSU for about a month; we have a good game plan," Fiedorowicz said. "We've been going hard the last couple weeks and to be able to get away before the game and take your mind off football for a little bit will only help."
With only a few days remaining on Iowa's 27th bowl trip, Ferentz is extremely appreciative of the hospitality the team has received all week.
"We know from previous experiences what a great trip this is and a great opportunity," said Ferentz. "Our players have all had a chance to learn that during the past week. We have been treated extremely well.
"There's beautiful weather down here, it's a great venue, but most importantly, there is outstanding hospitality from everybody involved with the Outback Bowl. We appreciate all the Hawkeye fans making the trip to Tampa. We are thrilled to have you with us."
The team will enjoy a movie tonight before its walk-thru and team photo tomorrow at Raymond James Stadium.