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Pat Harty: Bowl matchup brings back 2005 miracle memories

[ 0 ] December 8, 2013 |

Expect the legend of Warren Holloway to grow over the next three weeks as the Iowa football team prepares to face Louisiana State in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1 in Tampa, Fla.

That was my initial reaction upon learning Sunday that Iowa (8-4) and LSU (9-3) would be matched in a bowl game for the first time since their classic battle at the 2005 Capital One Bowl in Orlando.

My second reaction was disappointment that Texas A&M would not be Iowa’s opponent in the Outback Bowl. Nothing against LSU, but I can’t think of a better way for Iowa’s three senior linebackers to end their careers than being matched against Texas A&M dual-threat quarterback and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.

This isn’t to suggest that LSU will pose a lesser challenge. That would be foolish. LSU is the better team on paper this year and was the better team on paper back in 2004.

The desire to face Manziel was strictly from an entertainment standpoint.

Revisiting Holloway’s legend and the miracle finish that came at the expense of Nick Saban is a nice alternative, though.

Holloway was playing in his last game as a Hawkeye receiver when Iowa and LSU squared off at the 2005 Capital One Bowl, while Saban was coaching in his last game for LSU after already having accepted the same position with the Miami Dolphins.

On the verge of finishing his career in obscurity, Holloway made one of the greatest receptions in school history, a 56-yard scoring strike from quarterback Drew Tate on the final play of the game to defeat Saban and Tigers, 30-25. The fact that it was Holloway’s only touchdown catch as a Hawkeye made the play more surreal.

Saban didn’t last very long with the Dolphins, but he has since restored Alabama to dominance, winning three national titles in the last five seasons.

Meanwhile, the legend of Warren Holloway lives on and certainly will be one of the storylines heading into the 2014 Outback Bowl. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was asked Sunday night if he would consider having Holloway speak to the team in preparation for facing LSU.

“I hadn’t thought about that,” Ferentz said. “That’s a good idea. So we’ve got a month to figure it out and put it together. Wrong city, but right opponent.”

This LSU team is like so many other LSU teams coached by Les Miles in that it’s loaded with future NFL players and with an abundance of speedy playmakers. It fell short by LSU’s lofty standards by finishing 9-3 this season and will be without injured starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger in the bowl game, but don’t let that deceive you.

Iowa will have to perform at its best to defeat LSU — it might be asking too much to expect another miracle finish. LSU is the only team to defeat Auburn this season and it held Manziel in check during a 34-10 victory over Texas A&M on Nov. 23 in Baton Rouge, La. Manziel only completed 16-of-41 passes for 224 yards and was intercepted twice.

It’ll be interesting to see how the LSU fans respond to a rematch with Iowa. Playing in the Outback Bowl is considered a disappointment by LSU’s standards, while with Iowa it’s a considered a milestone moment.

What makes Iowa’s bowl invitation more special is that hardly anybody expected it to happen.

The same Iowa program that looked overmatched for much of the 2012 season and hopeless at times down the stretch is now just a year later headed back to the Outback Bowl for the fourth time in a decade under Ferentz. That’s quite a statement when you think about it.

The Iowa program is preparing for its 11th bowl game in 15 seasons under Ferentz, including its seventh January bowl game. Combine that with the 14 bowl games under Ferentz’s predecessor Hayden Fry and that’s 25 bowl appearances for the Iowa program since 1981.

To put that in perspective, Indiana hasn’t played in a major January bowl game since appearing in the 1968 Rose Bowl and has only played in nine bowl games overall.

Minnesota hasn’t played in a January bowl since making back-to-back appearances in the Rose Bowl in 1961 and 1962 when Kirk Ferentz was 5 and 6 years old.

Northwestern won its first bowl game just last year.

This latest bowl game is a reminder that Iowa fans have it pretty good and that Warren Holloway is proof that anything is possible.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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