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Miami, FL (Sports Network) - Brandon Wegher ran for a game-clinching 32-yard touchdown with less than two minutes remaining, and Ricky Stanzi threw for a pair of scores in his return from ankle surgery, as 10th-ranked Iowa pulled out a 24-14 victory against No. 9 Georgia Tech in the 76th edition of the Orange Bowl.
Stanzi was 17-of-29 for 231 yards and had an interception returned for a touchdown, while the freshman Wegher totaled 113 yards on 16 carries for Iowa (11-2), which notched its first major bowl win since beating California in the 1959 Rose Bowl.
The Hawkeyes seemed destined to return to the Rose Bowl after starting the season 9-0, but the injury to Stanzi led to consecutive losses to Northwestern and eventual Big Ten champ Ohio State in November to foil those plans.
Iowa's stingy defense held Tech to just 156 yards of offense, with junior defensive end Adrian Clayborn leading the way with nine tackles and two sacks.
Georgia Tech's spread offense couldn't recreate its success of the regular- season, as dynamic quarterback Josh Nesbitt was held to 48 yards rushing and two completions on nine pass attempts for 13 yards, including a critical fourth-quarter interception.
Anthony Allen's rushing score represented the lone offensive score, while Jerrard Tarrant had a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown for the Yellow Jackets (11-3), who captured their first outright ACC title since 1990.
Georgia Tech hasn't won in the postseason since taking a 51-14 decision from Syracuse in the 2004 Champs Sports Bowl.
Georgia Tech mustered some actual offensive points in the fourth quarter, in the form of a 1-yard Anthony Allen run, but it wasn’t enough to catch Iowa, whose 24 points qualify as running up the score in the Big Ten. The play of the game was awarded to a (failed) fake Hawkeye field goal, if that tells you anything. Iowa triumphed, 24-14. Now let us never speak of this again.
Josh Nesbitt has completed a pass. I repeat, Josh Nesbitt has completed a pass. GT’s offense has picked up a little bit, to the tune of … OK, they haven’t actually scored, but they have worked their total-offense-to-penalty-yardage ratio up to a sickly 2:1. Iowa kicked a field goal, though, so that’s cool. We now return you to your annual 3rd-quarter Orange Bowl siesta. The Hawkeyes lead, 17-7.
How’s the Orange Bowl coming along? We’re so glad you asked. Let’s go to the box score:
• Nine punts,
• six Hawkeyes with more offensive yards than the entire Jackets team,
• one Georgia Tech first down,
• zero converted fourth downs,
• and no score changes.
Yes, it’s another barn-burner a-brewin’ here in South Florida, gentle readers. Georgia Tech has 13 more yards in penalties (44) than they do in total offense (31). The EDSBS liveblog is reduced to debating the origins of the Quad City DJs. Iowa leads, 14-7 at the half.
At the close of the first quarter, Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi is singlehandedly controlling this game — and that’s not always in a good way. He has yet to throw an incomplete pass (8-of-8 for 140 yards in this quarter alone), but an additional pass fell neatly into the arms of Georgia Tech’s Jerrard Tarrant for six the other way. The Hawkeyes lead, 14-7.
ESPN's Pat Forde may have summed it up best when he tweeted, "An Iowa fan has requested commentary on the Orange Bowl, so here you are: Looks like they'll go ahead and play the thing."
To say there isn't much "buzz" about the Orange Bowl would be an understatement, which is saying something, considering the Yellow Jackets are playing (HIY-O!). It's an ACC team playing a Big 10 team on a Tuesday night, sandwiched between a much-hyped Fiesta Bowl and the National Championship game. But hey, there are still reasons to watch -- really, there are!
Matt Hinton over at Dr. Saturday actually has his "Ten valid reasons to care deeply about the Orange Bowl." Things like, "Irresistible quirk meets immovable stereotype," Adrian Clayborn's dog, FedEx product placement ("likely means a bony, bloated, nearly naked Tom Hanks stumbling in to deliver a perfectly maintained package to sideline reporter Laura Okmin sometime in the third quarter"), and, of course, white guys rapping. Notti Boy for the Hawkeyes. And The GTGs for the Yellow Jackets ("RECK STYLE!"):
3. It's Iowa. Notice the completely uniform confusion surrounding this game? The stunned looks your friends give when asked to give an opinion as to what's going to happen here? Iowa is a team made up completely of dark matter, a theoretical cat in an unopened box preventing you from determining whether it is truly dead or not. Iowa plays solid defense. Iowa sorta kinda sometimes runs the ball. The rest is a muddle of Stanzi-centered mayhem consisting of three quarters of disaster, one quarter of raging Tyler Sashdom, and hammering Penn State while almost losing to Northern Iowa. It's not pretty. Hell, it's ghastly as slashed tires sometimes. But it is not predictable, and at least they've got that going for them.
5. BEEEEEEEEEEEEES. Georgia Tech, if you have not had the pleasure of watching them this season, runs a triple-option attack that looks like a cross between square dancing and MMA drills. People fly at knees; there's some choreographed do-si-do-ing, and then someone's running through a heretofore unseen seam in the defense for a touchdown. Josh Nesbitt, Jonathan Dwyer, and Anthony Allen are all different runners: Nesbitt is the rabid ostrich, all legs and elbows, Dwyer is the angry Cape Buffalo, and Allen has the odd, flat-footed gait that makes him look like the fastest man with fused ankles ever.
But really, it's football, and you have to: "There are exactly three college football games left in the season: this, the GMAC Bowl Featuring Rust Belt Tebow vs. Troy, and the title game."
Yes, that's SB Nation's Iowa blog, Black Heart, Gold Pants, counting down the top ten reasons their Hawkeyes will lose to the Yellow Jackets in the Orange Bowl.
9. Real Man Of Genius. One could argue that if Georgia Tech's Coach Paul Johnson didn't cut his hair regularly, his likeness to Einstein would be more than just cerebral. With Mike Leach out of coaching, Paul Johnson is now the undisputed offensive genius of college football. On Tuesday night expect Johnson to perform the football equivalent of splitting the atom, which will result in the Iowa defense doing this around the end of the first quarter. [...]
7. No Joshing Around. Josh Nesbitt don't play that. It would be easy to take an option quarterback lightly. In an age where option attacks are reserved for service academies and a couple of MAC/WAC or CRACK schools, Josh Nesbitt is no clown, he's Georgia Tech's dual threat quarterback. He has rushed for more yards than Robinson or Wegher this season and he has thrown for 77% of Stanzi's total passing yards, but with half as many completions. On Tuesday expect Nesbitt to to whack Iowa upside the head.
SB Nation's Georgia Tech blog, From The Rumble Seats, offers their take on Tuesday night's Orange Bowl against Iowa, with more preview-y goodness than you could imagine. But eventually, it will all come down to how well the Yellow Jackets can run the ball against the Hawkeye defense.
Iowa has struggled with teams that committed to the run. For all the accolades and awards won by the Iowa defense this season, they've faltered against teams that continued to pound the football. The three worst defensive efforts of the Hawkeyes were against Northwestern, Michigan, and Ohio State. The Hawkeyes gave up ~20 offensive points per game in those three games and had a 4 minute TOP disadvantage per game. The opposing offenses established the run and never stopped running as their OC's called in at least 45 run plays. In fact, those three teams' rush:pass ratio was 140:72 combined. The average yards/carry of the Buckeyes, Wolverines, and Wildcats was just short of 4 yards per carry.
If GT keeps up the season rate of ~4 rushing attempts per pass attempt and maintains the team average 5.32 yards/carry, I don't see GT losing. GT is 19-3 under CPJ when they've attempted at least 45 rushes (1-3 when they've failed to do so). The Hawkeyes will have to severely limit the dive and rocket sweeps and that will probably be the focus of Norm Parker's bowl practices. Another opponent of the Hawkeyes will be their incredibly inefficient offense with a stale QB at the helm.
Plenty more preview and analysis at SB Nation's Georgia Tech blog, From The Rumble Seat, and our Iowa blog, Black Heart, Gold Pants. When the game kicks-off, join them for discussion, party here in this StoryStream for live updates and head over to EDSBS where Spencer Hall will be live-blogging a college football game for the final time this season. It's an Orange Bowl jamboree!
The Yellow Jackets posted an 11-win campaign and captured their first outright ACC title since 1990, topping Clemson in the ACC Championship Game, 39-34. Paul Johnson's squad opened the season with a pair of victories before suffering its only league loss at Miami on September 17th (33-17). Tech rebounded nicely though, with eight straight victories to capture the ACC's Coastal Division crown and spot in the conference championship game. The team suffered its only other defeat at the hands of rival Georgia (30-24) in the regular season finale, but was able to earn the BCS bowl bid with a thrilling win over Clemson for the conference crown. The season earned Johnson his second straight ACC Coach of the Year award.
Georgia Tech is playing in its 13th consecutive bowl game and is 22-15 in the postseason all-time, including a 3-2 mark in the Orange Bowl. The Yellow Jackets have not had much success in the postseason of late, losing their last four bowl games, including a 38-3 rout at the hands of LSU in last year's Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Kirk Ferentz's Hawkeyes were not as fortunate in their bid for a conference championship this year, as back-to-back losses to Northwestern (17-10) and Ohio State (27-24 OT) in November prevented the Big Ten title and Rose Bowl bid from landing in Iowa City. Still, the team reeled off a 10-win campaign, winning nine straight to open the year and ended the regular season on a high, with a 12-0 shutout of Minnesota to place second in the Big Ten and earn the Orange Bowl bid.
Iowa is making its 24th bowl appearance and is 12-10-1 in its previous postseason play. The Hawkeyes have played in the Orange Bowl just one time before, that being a 38-17 loss to USC in 2003.
Iowa is 0-7 all-time against the ACC, while Georgia Tech is 6-6 in 12 matchups against the Big Ten. However, this is the first-ever meeting between these two teams on the gridiron.
Unlike a lot of teams in the Big Ten, Iowa utilized more of a balanced attack this season, instead of relying heavily on the run. The Hawkeyes had their moments when the ground game took center stage, but on the year, the team averaged a rather pedestrian 109.4 yards per game rushing, on 3.2 yards per carry. In addition, Iowa scored just 12 rushing touchdowns, all by tailbacks Adam Robinson (775 yards, five TDs) and Brandon Wegher (528 yards, seven TDs).
The passing attack was much more effective (221.3 ypg) as QB Ricky Stanzi completed 56 percent of his passes, for 2,186 yards and 15 TDs and came up huge late in big games when needed. The receiving corps lacked any real go-to- guy, but there were several reliable outlets on the season, in Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (41 receptions, for 687 yards, two TDs) and Marvin McNutt (30 receptions, for 653 yards, seven TDs).
A strong defense was really the key to Iowa's season, as the team limited the opposition to a mere 15.5 ppg. The team was stingy against both the run at 122.4 ypg, and the pass, where foes managed just 164.7 ypg, ranking eighth nationally in that category. The Hawkeyes thrived on big plays, racking up 29 takeaways this year, including 20 interceptions.
Several All-Big Ten First-Team members highlight the play on defense for Iowa. Linebacker Pat Angerer is one of them, after leading the team in tackles (135), with one sack, one INT and two forced fumbles. The secondary is highlighted by ball-hawking strong safety Tyler Sash (84 tackles, six INTs), while the defensive front's relentless pressure was spearheaded by defensive end Adrian Clayborn (61 tackles, 18.0 TFLs, 9.5 sacks). Other defenders of note include LB A.J. Edds (73 tackles, four INTs) and DE Broderick Binns (58 tackles, 9.0 TFLs, 6.0 sacks).
Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker knows the task at hand, considering Georgia Tech's electric offense.
"It's like coaching 20 years ago," he said, before adding, "but what these guys have done with this offense, they are, without question, they are the gurus of doing it. You've got to look at it and say these guys are really good. I mean, not only are they good at what they do, but they've got good players. They've done a great job."
The Yellow Jackets use a totally different approach to move the football, as they represent one of the most productive rushing teams in the nation thanks to a devastating spread offence. Georgia Tech finished the year second in the nation in rushing, churning out a ridiculous 307.2 yards per game on the ground, on a hefty 5.3 yards per carry.
It certainly helps to have one of the nation's premier tailbacks in Jonathan Dwyer (1,346 yards, 14 TDs) and an ultra-productive QB in Josh Nesbitt (991 yards rushing, 18 TDs). Throw a talented Anthony Allen (597 yards, five TDs) into the backfield, and this is a ground game that can strike at any time.
Nesbitt is critical to what Tech can accomplish on offense according to Coach Johnson.
"The key in any offense is to have a quarterback. Josh has certainly played well this year and he has done a good job running the offense and hopefully he will have a big game next Tuesday. He is a good athlete. Josh is a strong guy and he is very competitive. He is an athletic guy so he is a good runner as well as being able to throw the ball."
Despite the fact that Georgia Tech rarely goes to the air, Nesbitt has thrown for 1,689 yards and 10 TDs this season, thanks in large part to star wideout Demaryius Thomas. The 6-3, 230-pounder creates matchup problems down the field and comes into this game with 46 receptions, for 1,154 yards and eight TDs.
According to Thomas, it is "pick-you-poison" with his ability downfield.
"If you try and play a safety and a corner over the top of me then you don't have enough people in the box to stop the run. When we're running the ball well you have to have eight people in the box. That leaves me one-on-one and our offense is a vertical passing game so we can go deep on them and most of my catches can be for so many yards."
Keeping the defense fresh has been a key to Georgia Tech's success this year and a potent ground game has done just that, with Tech controlling the ball for just over 34 minutes per game. That has allowed the defense to make big plays, including 24 takeaways and 23 sacks.
The unit is highlighted by ACC Defensive Player of the Year and All-American rush end Derrick Morgan. The 6-4, 275-pounder put up a huge campaign, finishing the year with 52 tackles, 18.0 TFLs, 12.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. The linebacking corps is highlighted by standouts Brad Jefferson (team-high 90 tackles, 8.0 TFLs, two forced fumbles) and Sedric Griffin (72 tackles). All-ACC Second-Teamer Morgan Burnett (77 tackles, 3.0 TFLs, four INTs) spearheads the play in the secondary.
Coach Johnson thinks that Iowa will present a unique challenge.
"Defensively, they're probably similar to North Carolina or Clemson in that they're big up front. They're just a good defensive team. Offensively, they kind of have a style of their own. They have some big offensive linemen and they try to run the ball at you and throw some play action. I don't think we've played anyone that resembles what they do offensively."
This game will come down to ball control and if Tech can get its ground game going, look for the Yellow Jackets to end their current bowl skein and finish the season on a strong note.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Georgia Tech 27, Iowa 21
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