2017 Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa 17, Boston College
In 60 minutes of football in the Pinstripe Bowl on Wednesday at frigid Yankee Stadium, Iowa surprised, frustrated, stunned and won.
Mostly, the Hawkeyes simply persevered to end a string of five consecutive bowl losses, outscoring Boston College 17-3 in the second half to rally for a 27-20 victory.
Drake Kulick, a senior fullback from Muscatine, scored the game-deciding touchdown on his second carry of the season, plowing his way into the end zone on a 1-yard run with 3 minutes, 9 seconds remaining to break the 20-20 tie the Eagles had forged five minutes earlier.
"We stuck to plan, believed in ourselves and kept working," Kulick said. "Brian (Ferentz, the Iowa offensive coordinator) called my number, and I was like, ‘OK, let’s get this done.’ It’s a heck of a last carry for me, a heck of a memory."
In a game played in 23-degree weather with a wind chill hovering around 12, the Hawkeyes managed to cram an entire season of football into 60 minutes in front of a crowd of 37,667.
"In a lot of ways, this game was reflective of our season," said coach Kirk Ferentz, who earned his 143rd victory at Iowa to tie Hayden Fry as the program’s all-time wins leader.
"We’ve had some ups and downs this year, some turbulence along the way, that type of thing but the guys pushed through it and that is certainly what happened today."
In many respects, Iowa beat Boston College at its own game.
The Hawkeyes, playing turnover-free football, took the ball away from the Eagles three times on a turf slickened by the frigid conditions.
"The turnover battle has been our weapon all season," Boston College tight end Tom Sweeney said. "It’s been our difference maker, but they took that away from us."
The Hawkeyes set that tone early.
Jake Gervase, a junior safety from Davenport Assumption, intercepted Eagles quarterback Darius Wade on the third snap of the game and returned the ball 29 yards to the Boston College 6-yard line.
Iowa settled for the first of two field goals by Miguel Recinos on the ensuing possession, but the tone had been set.
"We talked a lot about takeaways and how in a game like this they could be big," Gervase said. "We knew it was going to be a physical, hard-hitting game, and we felt like there could be a few chances there to help us out."
The lead changed hands five times before Kulick reached the end zone, a score that followed a fumble recovery by Parker Hesse that came on an Anthony Nelson sack of Wade with 4:22 to play.
Akrum Wadley, named the game’s most valuable player, followed with a 27-yard carry that set up a 17-yard pass to Nate Wieting to the 1-yard line to set up Kulick’s second score of the season.
The Hawkeyes didn’t give Boston College a chance to answer.
Josh Jackson ended the Eagles’ next drive with his school record-tying eighth interception of the season. His pick at the Boston College 44-yard line with 1:18 remaining positioned Iowa to earn its first bowl win since a 2010 victory over Missouri.
"We wanted to send the seniors on this team out with a win," Jackson said, adding that his own future with the Hawkeyes following a record-setting junior year will be determined at a later date. "That was the motivation from the start, whatever it took to get it done and get that eighth win."
Finishing the season with an 8-5 record proved to be a bit of a challenge.
Boston College running back A.J. Dillon gained 126 of his 157 rushing yards in the first half, carrying 18 times to send the Eagles (7-6) on their way to a 17-10 advantage by halftime.
The Hawkeyes struggled to gain much traction offensively at all through two quarters despite taking a 10-7 lead in the opening minutes of the second quarter when Stanley hit Noah Fant with an 8-yard touchdown pass.
As Boston College piled up 281 yards in the first half, Iowa mustered just 56.
A 39-yard touchdown catch by Sweeney and a 30-yard field goal by Colton Lichtenberg pushed the Eagles to a lead that didn’t last as Iowa’s defense held Boston College to one first down in the third quarter.
"I don’t think any of our adjustments were major. I thought we just came out and played tough, gritty football in the second half," Ferentz said. "Starting up front, the intensity seemed to move up a notch after halftime."
Wadley, who ran for 88 of the 101 yards Iowa managed on the ground, scored the only points of the third quarter on a 5-yard carry that Stanley helped set up with a 32-yard pass to Nick Easley on a third-and-seven play.
The Hawkeyes had been 0-for-5 on third down conversions up to that point and didn’t convert on another until Wadley caught a 17-yard pass on a third-and-eight play that helped set up a 38-yard field goal by Recinos to give Iowa a 20-17 edge with 11:32 to play.
"We held them to 200 yards of offense, but they hit us with a couple of big plays that came back to haunt us," Boston College coach Steve Addazio said. “In a game as close as this, that can make all the difference and it did."