TAMPA, Fla. – LSU running back Jeremy Hill was named most valuable player of the Outback Bowl Wednesday.
But it was the Tigers’ defense that paved the way for this 21-14 victory before an announced crowd of 51,296 at Raymond James Stadium.
Iowa won the opening toss and deferred. Hill gained 42 yards on the first play from scrimmage, and finished with 63 in six carries on a drive that resulted in a touchdown. The Tigers covered 77 yards in all, with three first downs.
Iowa had 73 yards of total offense and four first downs the entire first half while falling behind, 14-0. Five of the Hawkeyes’ seven first-half possessions were three-and-outs.
“They made it tough for us to move the ball consistently,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said after his team finished 8-5 and LSU won a 10th game for a school-record fourth consecutive season.
Hill finished with 216 yards on 28 carries, the most by a Hawkeye opponent since T.J. Duckett of Michigan State went for 248 in 2000. The most yards this year against an Iowa team that entered the game seventh nationally in total defense was 149 by Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde.
“He’s a very good back, obviously,” Ferentz said. “The first guy that comes to mind is the running back at Ohio State, who is awfully good, too. Both are excellent. I don’t want to pick one over the other.”
Iowa’s defense had Hill well-scouted. Tackling him was a different story, though 150 of his yards came on the Tigers’ first and last true possessions of the game. And the final one was against an Iowa defense running on fumes because of the inability of the offense to consistently sustain drives.
“We had to get a hat on a hat,” Iowa linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “It’s up to us to get off the blocks. Hill saw the hole and he hit it. He’s a great running back. We knew that coming into the game. We had to wrap him up. That’s something we didn’t do.”
Iowa’s running game, its bread-and-butter, couldn’t counter. Iowa ended up with just 76 yards on the ground. Mark Weisman had 37 of them, leaving him 25 shy of 1,000 for the season.
“They were just playing better than us,” Weisman said. “More physical than us. And that’s just not acceptable.”
Iowa finished with a season-low 233 yards of total offense. The Tigers suffocated the running game and made it hard for Jake Rudock to find open receivers until he was knocked out of the game at the end of the third quarter with a knee injury that he said won’t require surgery.
Rudock said the Tigers gave him different looks than he expected with their alignments, keeping him off-balance as he tried to check into the right play.
“It wasn’t necessarily shifts,” Rudock said. “It was more how they were lining up … bringing a guy to blitz, bluffing a blitz.”
LSU also did a good job of jamming up Iowa’s inside zone play, and keeping Rudock on the run.
“They did a good job of rushing,” Rudock said. “I had to move. I couldn’t necessarily get back to survey the field.”
LSU doubled its 7-0 lead with a seven-play, 39-yard drive that ended in Hill’s crushing 14-yard run with 2:52 remaining in the first half. The drive started after the Hawkeyes’ Kevonte Martin-Manley fumbled away a punt.
Iowa ran just two plays on LSU’s side of the field in the first half. The Hawkeyes came out in the second half and had three first downs in a promising drive that stalled at the Tigers’ 17. And then senior Mike Meyer missed a 35-yard field goal.
The Hawkeyes’ defense kept them in the game. LSU finished with just 302 yards of total offense.
“I thought we did a little better job the second half,” Ferentz said of his offense. “To me it was a good defensive game. Both teams were playing good defense.”
But LSU’s offense had more answers than Iowa’s did, though the second half was better than the first.
“We were able to get it going a little bit,” senior offensive tackle Brett Van Sloten said. “But still not the run right at them football that everyone is used to at Iowa.”
Iowa even dug deep into a bag of tricks, trying an unsuccessful fake punt and a double pass. The Hawkeyes’ two second-half touchdowns came on drives covering a total of five yards.
The first was one yard, and it took three plays for Weisman to score. Iowa got the ball there after strong safety John Lowdermilk picked off Anthony Jennings and looked to score on a 72-yard return. But he dropped the ball before reaching the end zone.
The second scoring drive, four yards, came after Jordan Cotton returned a kickoff 96 yards in the final minutes.
“We were too sideways, not up and down the field,” Weisman said. “They outplayed us.”
NOTES FROM THE STADIUM
HILLYER: It may have seemed like Iowa’s receivers were blanketed, but Jacob Hillyer caught two passes for 39 yards on Iowa’s opening series of the second half. “The ball was just thrown my way and I just did something with it,” Hillyer said. “Luckily, it got our team going.”
2014 SEASON: So when do the Hawkeyes start working toward the 2014 season? “It starts right when we get back to school for strength and conditioning,” offensive lineman Brandon Scherff said, “becoming more detailed, watching more film.
FIEDOROWICZ: Now that his college career is over, how does C.J. Fiedorowicz plan to spend the next few weeks? “I’m going to enjoy a little time off,” he said. “I have the Senior Bowl coming up, but I’m going to enjoy a couple days with my family.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football