When Kirk Ferentz and his Iowa football team arrive today to start preparations in Miami for their Jan. 2 Orange Bowl game against Southern California, it's not the players from Florida that the coach needs to start worrying about.
So says Fred Barr, the Hawkeyes' standout linebacker from Fort Lauderdale.
"I think (Ferentz will) have to worry more about the Iowa guys," Barr said. "They won't know the atmosphere down there."
And what will the players, whether they're from Florida, Iowa or anywhere else, find when they arrive?
"Lots of beautiful girls," Barr answered. "It will be fun."
Oh, sure. There will be plenty of opportunity for fun for the Hawkeyes in Miami. That's the case at any bowl site. But Ferentz plans to make sure there are limits put on it as they await a chance to upset a USC team that's favored by a touchdown.
"This game isn't (a matter) of life and death," Ferentz said. "But we want to go down there and win the thing, and it's going to take our best effort. To win a 12th game this season would be special and significant.
"We'd wind up being ranked second or third in the country. That's uncharted territory for us (in recent history). But, if it doesn't work out, it's not going to diminish what's been a great season already."
When the Hawkeyes finally tees it up at 7 o'clock (Iowa time) the night after the New Year's Day games, it will have been six weeks since their last game Nov. 16 at Minnesota. But Ferentz has enough confidence in his players to think they can bring the magic back that carried them to an 11-1 regular-season record.
"I haven't detected any difference with how we're practicing," Ferentz said. "We should have our timing down. I'm real confident we'll be ready to go."
The Orange Bowl trip came about, of course, after Iowa's players and fans thought they'd be heading to Pasadena, Calif., and the Rose Bowl.
Asked about the 12 Florida players on his team, Ferentz said, "Those are the guys I've got to watch" in the pre-Orange Bowl activities. "They've all got friends down there. That's the one bad thing about not going to the West Coast. We have only three guys from California, and it's easier to keep track of those guys. The Florida guys might be a bigger challenge.
"But, again, you're talking about guys like Fred Barr and Colin Cole. They're playing their last ballgame. They don't want to go down there and lay an egg, I can assure you of that. I can't say enough about this team and how they've handled themselves.
"Quite frankly, the guys I worry about on bowl trips are the freshmen; the guys who know they're not going to play. They don't worry about being at full strength. They're the guys we'll keep honest."
Ferentz said he's taking 112 players on the trip. "We're not Nebraska and carrying a big roster," he said.
6 Hawkeyes From Fort Lauderdale
Half of the 12 Florida players on Iowa's roster are from Fort Lauderdale. They include Barr, Cole, wide receiver Mo Brown, defensive tackle Fabian Dodd, linebacker Abdul Hodge and linebacker George Lewis. Quarterback Brad Banks is from Belle Glade, wide receiver C.J. Jones is from Boynton Beach, linebacker Edmond Miles is from Tallahassee, defensive back Marcus Paschal is from Largo, defensive lineman Larry Thomas is from Miami and defensive back Antwan Allen is from Tampa.
Miles, Paschal and Thomas are true freshmen who are redshirting this season.
Ferentz Pleased With Fans' Response
Ferentz said he's very happy about the way Iowa's fans have responded to the Orange Bowl opportunity.
Don't forget, some Hawkeye fans seemed disappointed immediately after Iowa received its first invitation in history to the game in Miami. They were the ones who had already bought plane tickets to Los Angeles, thinking Iowa would be going to the Rose Bowl.
"I've heard anywhere from 45,000 to 55,000 to 60,000 (Iowa fans) might be expected in Miami," Ferentz said. "I don't know how many are going to get into the stadium, but it's going to be a pretty good environment for us.
"From that standpoint, it sure beats going out to the West Coast and playing a West Coast team in their stadium with their fans. I remember in 1983, playing Florida in Jacksonville (at the Gator Bowl) in front of a predominately Florida crowd. That's one thing working on our side."
Vol. 2, No. 112
Dec. 26, 2002
[Ron Maly's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org ]