Iowa fell 21-14 in Wednesday's Outback Bowl against LSU, with a lethargic offensive performance and inability to stop the Tigers' ground game condemning the Hawkeyes to defeat. With the loss, Iowa falls to 8-5 on the season, and everyone gets free Bloomin' Onions at your local Australian steakhouse.
Iowa was unable to recover from a first half offensive performance that could be charitably described as sluggish. The Hawkeyes had just 88 yards of offense in the first half and trailed 14-0 at halftime, with LSU getting two rushing touchdowns. The Tigers ran a conservative, run-heavy offense throughout the first half, keeping the pressure off freshman quarterback Anthony Jennings. Aside from the opening series, an 8-play, 77-yard touchdown drive capped with a Jennings touchdown run, the Iowa defense responded. The teams had 12 total punts in the first half, and neither side got much traction offensively.
The Hawkeyes took the opening kick of the second half and went 58 yards in 12 plays, setting up a 35-yard field goal attempt. Mike Meyer missed right, though, and the shutout remained intact. Iowa finally got on the board in the third quarter, when safety John Lowdermilk picked off a Jennings pass and returned it for an apparent touchdown. Lowdermilk dropped the ball before crossing the goal line, though, and running back Mark Weisman was tasked with taking the ball the final half-yard for the score, narrowing the LSU advantage to 14-7.
The teams remained seven points apart through most of the fourth quarter. Quarterback Jake Rudock, who struggled mightily throughout the game, was injured late in the third quarter, and backup C.J. Beathard found more success against the Tigers' defense. That success did not translate into points, though. Iowa had an early fourth quarter drive stopped at the LSU 46, and a fake punt attempt on 4th and 3 came up short. On the next series, Iowa advanced to the LSU 16 yard line, but a Beathard sneak on 3rd and 1 was stuffed, and an attempted bootleg on 4th down ended in an interception.
LSU's run game took over again, with Jeremy Hill and Terrence Magee combining for 92 yards on six carries, culminating in a 37-yard touchdown run by Hill. Iowa kick returner Jordan Cotton, playing in his final game, returned the ensuing kickoff to the LSU 4 yard line, and Beathard connected with Kevonte Martin-Manley for a touchdown, but Iowa's onside kick attempt rolled innocuously into the arms of an LSU defender to effectively seal the game.
Iowa's offense never truly found its form Wednesday. Hawkeye quarterbacks Jake Rudock and C.J. Beathard combined to go just 13/31 for 157 yards, and each quarterback threw an interception. And while Iowa's defense was able to largely shut down LSU's passing attack -- Jennings went just 7/19 for 82 yards and a pick and was sacked five times -- the Tigers found enough success on the ground to make it largely irrelevant. Jeremy Hill finished with 28 carries for 216 yards and two scores, in contrast to the pedestrian 37 yards that Mark Weisman found on 18 carries. Iowa made important plays on defense and special teams to set up scores, but Iowa was simply incapable of sustaining a scoring drive from its own end of the field. That was the game.
Iowa ends it season 8-5, a surprisingly solid performance from a team that won just four games last season. Only three starters graduate from the offense, and though the Hawkeyes will have holes to fill on defense, there are ready-made replacements in those positions. Despite Wednesday's ugly loss -- and make no mistake, it was ugly -- the future of the program looks bright.