No. 10 Iowa solved Tech’s explosive triple option and
Ricky Stanzi threw two early touchdown passes for a 24-14 victory Tuesday night
in the coldest Orange Bowl ever.
Temperature at kickoff was 49 degrees, and Tech’s offense
was slow to warm up. The ninth-ranked Yellow Jackets averaged 35 points during
the regular season, but their only score in the first three quarters came on
Jerrard Tarrant‘s 40-yard interception return.
“This was Hawkeye weather,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
“We feel right at home right now.”
The Hawkeyes (11-2) earned their first Bowl Championship
Series bowl win, matched the school record for victories and could claim their
highest final ranking since finishing No. 3 in 1960.
Georgia Tech (11-3) totaled nine first downs and a
season-low 155 yards.
The Yellow Jackets were first in the nation in time of
possession, second in rushing and 11th in scoring at 35 points per game. But
they sputtered against an Iowa defense that held four bowl-bound teams to 10
points or less during the regular season.
End Adrian Clayborn led Iowa’s defensive charge. He had
two sacks and nine tackles, including two for a loss, and was chosen the game’s
most valuable player.
The Hawkeyes had never faced the triple option in
Ferentz’s 11 seasons as coach, but his staff had a month to prepare for Tech,
and it showed. The Yellow Jackets had only 14 three-and-outs during the regular
season, fewest in the nation, but they failed to pick up a first down on their
first four possessions.
“It’s just a good thing we had a month to prepare
because it was difficult,” Clayborn said.
Georgia Tech finally made a first down midway through
the second quarter. The Yellow Jackets’ first pass completion came 43 minutes
into the game with Iowa leading 17-7.
Quarterback Josh Nesbitt went only 2-for-9 for 12 yards
for Tech, which had a season-high seven punts.
By comparison, Stanzi went 17-for-29 for 231 yards in
his return from a sprained ankle that sidelined him in the season’s 10th game.
Iowa true freshman Brandon Wegher rushed for 113 yards and one score in 16
“It was great having Rick back. It was tough when he got
injured,” Ferentz said. “He did a great job leading us tonight — and what can I
say about that defense?”
Tech’s first scoring drive covered 71 yards, with
Anthony Allen‘s 1-yard touchdown run making it 17-14 with 12:30 left.
Iowa drove 63 yards for the clincher. Wegher ran for 23
yards on one carry, followed by a 32-yard touchdown run with 1:56 to go.
The Hawkeyes had a 185-18 advantage in yards in the
first quarter. Stanzi, playing his first game in two months, started 8-for-8 for
138 yards and two scores for a 14-0 lead. Then came Tarrant’s interception to
keep Tech in the game.
Iowa lost a fumble at midfield on the game’s opening
possession, but Tech was quickly forced to punt for the first time in three
games. Stanzi hit Tony Moeaki for a 54-yard gain, then threw to Marvin McNutt
for a 4-yard score.
Tech again went three and out, and Iowa moved 83 yards
to score in four plays. Stanzi threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Colin Sandeman.
The Yellow Jackets finally got their offense going to
start the second half and drove 43 yards before missing a 41-yard field goal.
Iowa then moved 59 yards, and Daniel Murray kicked a 33-yard field goal for a