IOWA CITY | From the thorn of a stinging last-minute loss to Michigan State on Saturday night in the Big Ten Championship Game, a rose bloomed Sunday afternoon for the Iowa football team.
“The emotions over the last 24 hours, they’ve been all over the map,” free safety Jordan Lomax said. “The highs, the lows, it’s been tough to digest it all.”
Coach Kirk Ferentz plans to give his team a couple of days to let it all soak in before the Hawkeyes begin working toward their first appearance in the Rose Bowl in 25 years.
Iowa will face Stanford on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, California, the first-ever meeting between the Hawkeyes and this year’s Pac-12 champions.
“It’s a special opportunity,” center Austin Blythe said. “When I came here, one of things I wanted to accomplish was to get the chance to play in the Rose Bowl. When you play in the Big Ten, it’s what you want to do. We’ve had a great season, and as tough as it is to deal with (Saturday) night’s loss, this gives us a chance to finish it the way we want.”
Iowa received that opportunity because of the respect it earned from the College Football Playoff committee, both during the regular season but in particular because of the way the Hawkeyes competed during a 16-13 loss to Michigan State in a Big Ten Championship Game decided in the final 27 seconds on Saturday night.
The Spartans earned a spot in the national semifinals with the win but the 12-person committee opted to rank the Hawkeyes fifth in its final poll, one spot ahead of Stanford and two ahead of defending national champion Ohio State.
“We really thought Iowa proved more in that loss than throughout the rest of their schedule,” playoff committee chairman Jeff Long said.
Ferentz, who last coached in the Rose Bowl 30 years ago as the Hawkeyes’ offensive line coach, said the opportunity will help his program move forward following an all-out effort in the Big Ten title game he described as “draining.”
“As tough as the game was last night, this gives us something to refocus on when we get back together on Tuesday,” Ferentz said. “This team has been resilient and tough minded all season. They have been close knit and I think that’s what it is going to take to propel us as we get ready for our next big challenge.”
The Hawkeyes will only spend time on strength and conditioning work early this week before resuming a focus on football next weekend.
Quarterback C.J. Beathard said the team can use a break, physically and mentally, after playing 13 games over the last 14 weeks.
And then, Beathard welcomes the chance to prepare for a bowl game he is very familiar with.
He was in the stands in Pasadena with his family when his uncle, current Illinois State offensive coordinator Kurt Beathard, was coaching wide receivers on Illinois’ 2008 Rose Bowl team, and his great uncle, Pete Beathard, shared most valuable players honors with Wisconsin’s Ron Vander Kelen after quarterbacking USC to a 42-37 win over the Badgers in the 1963 Rose Bowl game.
“It’s the Granddaddy of them all, as they say, and I feel blessed to be a part of it,” Beathard said. “To have a chance to be part of a Rose Bowl team, that’s about as good as it gets for a college football player.”
That is especially true following the disappointing conclusion to the 2014 season, which saw Iowa lose its final three games and settle for a 7-6 record which provided offseason motivation and drive which led to the Hawkeyes’ current 12-1 record.
“When you look at where we were in January and where we are now, we’ve come a long way,” Beathard said. “We had a tough loss in Indy, but we left everything we had on the field and that has given us a great opportunity.”
Ferentz said he was most pleased for his players, as well as for assistant coaches and staff members who have never had the chance to experience a Rose Bowl before.
“I’m so pleased that everybody in our program’s going to get that experience that I’ve been fortunate to have myself,” Ferentz said. “It’s a tremendous bowl game and we’re honored to be part of it.”
And while Iowa had its focus on being one of four teams in this year’s college playoff field until Michigan State ended those hopes Saturday night, Ferentz believes the Hawkeyes came out just fine.
“If this is the consolation prize, what a deal it is for both of us, two outstanding teams getting a chance to play together in the best bowl,” Ferentz said.
IOWA BEGINS TICKET SALES
Iowa is allotted 22,000 tickets for the Rose Bowl and fans are encouraged to order their seats through the Iowa athletics department to help the school fulfill purchase requirements for participating in the game.
Tickets ordered through Iowa are priced between $150-185 and are located in sections 11-18 of the Rose Bowl.
All orders will be processed through the tickets link at hawkeyesports.com.
There is a limit of eight tickets for Kinnick Gold and Kinnick Society members, six for Champion Hawks, four for Golden and Silver Hawks and two for remaining I-Club members and season ticket holders.
Iowa students will be limited to one ticket and can request to be seated with up to eight other students.
Fans who are not current I-Club members of season ticket holders may go online at hawkeyesports.com and request to be placed on a waiting list.
The Iowa athletics ticket office will assign seat locations based on the ticket orders received by 5 p.m. on Thursday. The office will continue to accept orders beyond the priority deadline as long as tickets remain available.
Fans will be notified at noon on Monday, Dec. 14, about the status of their ticket orders and requests.