1st in town; Iowa focused on preparation

Hawkeyes arrived Christmas Day, 3 days before Volunteers come to Florida


FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. – Blue skies and sunshine greeted the University of Iowa football team to Pirate Field at Fernandina Beach High School on Saturday.

Next Friday the 7-5 Hawkeyes take on Tennessee (6-6) in the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville. Iowa is playing its 12th bowl game in the last 14 seasons under head coach Kirk Ferentz. The Hawkeyes are 6-5 in those postseason games -- more wins than any other program in the Big Ten Conference during that span.

"Since the end of the Nebraska game (Nov. 28) we have been pushing toward this game, counting down the days until we get to face a good opponent," UI junior wide receiver Jacob Hillyer told HawkeyeReports.com. "It's good to get (practice) started. Some of the guys were a little sore coming off a five-day block of practice. It's exciting to come into game week and get ready for Tennessee."

UI sophomore cornerback Desmond King is in the midst of his second bowl preparation. One difference from last year is the weather: the Hawkeyes often battled rain showers in Tampa while getting ready for the Outback Bowl.

"Last year it was raining so it was a little slippery and we had trouble seeing the ball," King said. "Today was sunny with a cool wind. We had people paying more attention and everybody was focused."


King had two interceptions (one for a 35-yard Pick 6 against Indiana), 54 tackles and five pass breakups this season. Even though the season has less than six days remaining, King said the Hawkeyes are treating it as another week and not getting ahead of themselves.

"We're getting comfortable in the playbook and trying to get ready for Tennessee on Jan. 2," King said. "It's another step forward."

The Hawkeyes arrived in Florida on Christmas Day and planned a week of practices. The Volunteers arrive Sunday and will hold the first of four practices Monday.

Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker said preparation has been key to the Hawkeyes' postseason success since 2001.

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"We come down to the bowl site early and we work hard all the way through," said Parker. "We get some work in and develop our fundamentals and get used to the environment. We're going to be here a long time; the guys are focused and that last three or four days they're ready to play the game."

Running the offense for the Volunteers is quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who has passed for 1,077 yards and eight touchdowns, and run the ball for 393 yards and six scores. The leading rusher is Jalen Hurd with 777 yards and three touchdowns.

Those are just two of the Vols that the Hawkeyes are preparing to face on Friday.

"We have been working on (Tennessee) for the last couple weeks and our guys are getting comfortable with what they see," Parker said. "I'm not big on who gets all the sacks. I'm worried about playing sound defense and playing within our system."

Thanks to HawkeyeReports.com for quotes and background information used in this article.