They could have called this the Purple Heart Bowl Monday afternoon because the Florida defense was playing with so many new faces and fresh troops while numerous wounded players watched from the sideline.
It really didn’t matter. The combination of veterans and newbies that Florida threw against Iowa’s smashmouth offensive unit played ferociously and turned the Outback Bowl into a rather unexpected rout.
The final score read Florida 30, Iowa 3 and it could have been worse except the Gators more or less shut things down on offense after they stretched the lead to three touchdowns early in the fourth quarter.
“Well documented obviously how beat up we were but we never once all year used that as an excuse in any way, shape or form,” said Florida coach Jim McElwain. “It was always next man up.”
Playing without five of their six tacklers, the Florida defense bent a few times against Iowa’s power running game, but never surrendered a touchdown. Put in a bad situation twice in the first quarter when deflected passes resulted in Iowa interceptions, the Gators only gave up a first quarter field goal. The rest of the way it was a shutout punctuated by an impressive goal line stand in the second quarter, weathering a 13-play drive that took up half the third quarter and then three fourth quarter interceptions – one that was run back all the way for a TD and two that set up field goals.
In the second quarter, with the score tied at 3-3, the Hawkeyes drove from their own 35 to the Florida 7 and seemed on the verge of taking the game over but Marcell Harristook matters into his own hands with big hits on third and fourth downs. On third down it was his hit that knocked Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard sideways. Instead of running over Harris for a TD on a scramble from the UF 7, Beathard was knocked off his feet and his lower torso touched the ground well before he could stretch the ball over the goal line. On fourth, Harris smelled sweep all the way and cut through the blocking entourage leading LeShun Daniels Jr. for the initial hit that was followed by Rayshad Jackson and three other Gators who stuffed Daniels back at the 3.
The Gators pulled ahead, 10-3, in the second quarter on a screen pass from Austin Appleby to Mark Thompson that was turned into an 85-yard touchdown. On its opening possession of the third quarter the Hawkeyes seemed bound and determined to tie the score as they hammered away a the Florida defense for four first downs to move the ball to the UF 18. Convinced they could simply overpower the Gators, Iowa went between the tackles three straight plays only to come up four yards short. On fourth down, Keith Duncan missed a chipshot, 30-yard field goal.
Florida answered that long drive with a long drive of its own, going 12 plays and 80 yards for a TD the Gators had to score twice. Florida drove to the Iowa 9 for a first down and got a TD throw from Appleby to DeAndre Goolsby on first down that was nullified by a motion penalty. Another penalty followed, then a 3-yard running play and a 10-yard Appelby to Antonio Callaway pass. On third down from the 6, Appleby once again found Goolsby for a TD. That made it 17-3 with 48 seconds left in the third quarter.
Then came the fourth quarter when Iowa was forced to throw the football against one of the nation’s best secondaries. Game MVP Chauncey Gardner came up with an interception and a 58-yard runback for a TD that gave the Gators a 24-3 lead. His second interception set up Eddy Pineiro’s second field goal of the game and Daniel McMillian’s pick set up the third Pineiro field goal, this one from 48 yards out to finish off the scoring.
The Gators played the game without linebackers Jarrad Davis, Alex Anzalone and David Reese, but in their place, McMillian came up with 7 tackles and an interception, freshman Vosean Joseph had 6 tackles and a pass breakup, and walkon linebacker Cristian Garcia had 5 tackles. The Gators also played without starting safeties Marcus Maye and Nick Washington. True freshman Gardner had 2 tackles and his 2 interceptions while Harris led the Gators with 9 tackles including 7 solos. Freshman defensive tackle Jachai Polite came up with two tackles including one for a third down stop that snuffed out an Iowa drive.
The win allowed the Gators to finish the season at 9-4 and broke a 2-game end of the season losing streak. Iowa had its 3-game winning streak snuffed out and finished the season at 8-5.
1. Iowa tried to muscle the Florida defense on its first two offensive plays, but the UF defense stuffed, forcing a third down incompletion for a 3-and-out.
2. Facing a third and 12 from the Florida 18, C.J. Beathard tried to hit tight end George Kittle at the UF 8 but Jalen Tabor and the ball arrived at the same time. The incompletion forced the Hawkeyes to settle for a 36-yard field goal by Keith Duncan.
3. The Gators finally got something going offensively on their third possession. On first down, Appleby connected with Antonio Callaway for a 34-yard gain. This was the third pass deep over the middle in the first quarter.
4. With second and 12 at the UF 26, Iowa tried to set up a screen to Arkum Wadley but Vosean Joseph smelled it out and made a hard tackle to drop Wadley for a 2-yard loss.
5. Marcell Harris came up big defensively on consecutive plays to deny Iowa a touchdown after the Hawkeyes had driven from their own 35 to the UF 7. On third down from the 7, Iowa QB C.J. Beathard rolled left and turned upfield. Harris met him at the 1 and delivered a hard blow that turned Beathard sideways and denied him the end zone. The Hawkeyes went for it on fourth down, but a sweep to the left side was met by Harris, who led a host of Gators in stopping the Iowa runner for a 2-yard loss.
6. The Gators finally got their running game going in the second quarter. Starting at their own 3, Jordan Scarlett found a crease on the left side for a 9-yard gain and followed that up with a 46-yard run on the right side to take the Gators from the shadow of their goalposts into Iowa territory.
7. Florida got a big play from an unexpected source to take a 10-3 lead. Taking over after an Iowa punt at the UF 15, Appleby threw a screen pass to the left side to little used Mark Thompson, who sidestepped a couple of tacklers and broke free at the 25. At the 50, Thompson broke a tackle then outran three Iowa defenders into the end zone to complete the longest touchdown pass play in Outback Bowl history (85 yards).
8. Harris came up big once again. Iowa tried a screen pass from Beathard to Wadley on third and 12 but Harris made an excellent open field tackle to stop the play for no gain, forcing a punt.
9. At halftime, the Gators had accumulated 227 total yards. In their three previous games, the Gators had four quarter totals of 270 yards against LSU, 207 against FSU and 261 against Alabama.
10. Iowa racked up four first downs and controlled the football on its opening possession of the second half to drive from their own 25 to the Florida 18, but the Gators stuffed three straight running plays to force a field goal attempt. Keith Duncan missed the 30-yarder. On the drive Iowa came up empty even though it controlled the ball for 7:25, going 13 plays and 63 yards.
11. The Gators simply wore out the Iowa defense on their only possession of the third quarter. After the UF defense held Iowa scoreless after the Hawkeyes controlled the ball for half a quarter, UF answered back with a 12-play drive of its own. Appleby completed 4-4 passes on the drive for 61 yards, hitting Freddie Swain for 24, Goolsby for 21 and 10 to Callaway prior to the touchdown.
12. Chauncey Gardner intercepted a C.J. Beathard pass and returned it 58 yards for a TD on the first play of the fourth quarter. The pass was thrown behind the Iowa receiver who got a hand on it and tipped it to Gardner, who ran to the left sideline and had clear sailing for a TD.
13. Gardner came up with his second interception in the fourth quarter. The Florida pass rush chased Beathard out of the pocket to his left. Instead of throwing the ball away, Beathard tried to throw back across the middle but the ball sailed high and into the waiting arms of Gardner, who ran the ball back to the Iowa 7.
14. Daniel McMillian gave the Gators their third interception of the fourth quarter when he picked off a pass that floated because the UF pass rush was in Beathard’s face just as he released the ball. McMillian looked like a center fielder waiting for the ball to come down but once he corralled the throw, he rambled 23 yards to set up a Pineiro field goal.
1. Appleby tried to go deep to Antonio Callaway on Florida’s first offensive series, but even though Callaway was behind the secondary, the ball was overthrown.
2. The Gators had a third and 5 on the Iowa 26 on their third possession. Callaway beat Desmond King badly on a corner route but Appleby’s pass was wide and high to the right for an incompletion.
3. The Gators gave Iowa a free first down on the Hawkeyes’ third possession. Taven Bryan jumped offside to negate what would have been an incomplete pass that would have forced a punt.
4. Iowa ran a simple stretch play on first and 10 from the Hawkeye 36 on its first possession of the second quarter. Akrum Wadley was stood up in the hole, but not wrapped up. He broke free, made a nice cut and wound up with a 27-yard gain to the Florida 35.
5. The Gators gave up a first down on Iowa’s first possession of the third quarter on a play that should have been stopped for a 5-yard gain. Iowa faced third and 15 at its own 20, but at least four Gators missed tackles on the little dump off pass from Beathard to Wadley, who turned the play into an 18-yard gain for a first down to the 38.
1. On second and 20 from the UF 33, Appleby went deep down the middle. His pass hit Ahmad Fulwood in the hands but was deflected and Iowa’s Brandon Snyder made a diving interception at the Hawkeye 28.
2. On third and three from the UF 29 on the Gators’ second possession, Appleby’s pass was batted into the air at the line of scrimmage. Iowa’s Desmond King made a diving interception at the Florida 27.
3. On third and 7 from the UF 40 early in the second quarter, tight end DeAndre Goolsby had sole responsibility for the edge rusher. Anthony Nelson beat him badly and got a sack for -7 yards on Appleby.
4. On Florida’s first possession of the third quarter, the Gators had first and goal at the Iowa 9. Austin Appleby threw a strike in the end zone to Tyrie Cleveland but the TD was nullified by a motion penalty. On the next play the Gators were flagged for illegal formation.
Iowa 3, Florida 0; 8:56
Iowa came up with great field position on the King interception but after a first down run gained 11 yards, the Hawkeyes were stuffed on three straight plays. Keith Duncan came on to kick a 36-yard field goal with 8:56 to go in the quarter.
Florida 3, Iowa 3; 5:42
The Gators tied the score after sustaining the first drive of the day. Going 49 yards in 8 plays with the big play a 34-yard Appleby to Callaway hookup, the Gators settled for a 44-yard Eddy Pineiro field goal with 5:42 remaining in the first quarter.
Florida 10, Iowa 3; 1:46
The Gators took the lead before halftime on a screen pass from Appleby to Mark Thompson that went 85 yards for a touchdown. Thompson caught the ball behind the line of scrimmage, maneuvered through traffic and broke a tackle at midfield before outrunning the rest of the Iowa defenders the final 50 yards for the score. Pineiro cam on to kick the extra point for a 10-3 Florida lead.
Florida 227 total yards (68 rushing, 159 passing); Iowa 114 total yards (88 rushing, 26 passing).
Austin Appleby 8-16 for 159 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Jordan Scarlett 8 carries for 75 yards
Antonio Callaway 4-43 receiving
Mark Thompson 1-85, 1 TD receiving
Marcell Harris 6 tackles
Florida 17, Iowa 3; 0:48
Florida answered Iowa’s long possession by controlling the ball for 12 plays to go 80 yards for a touchdown, a 6-yard pass from Appleby to DeAndre Goolsby, who was the fourth progression on the route. Pineiro added the extra point to give the Gators a 2-touchdown lead. The Gators took up 6:47 off the clock on the drive.
Florida 24, Iowa 3; 14:44
Chauncey Gardner gave the Gators a 3-touchdown lead with a 58-yard touchdown return of a Beathard pass. The throw was intended for George Kittle over the middle but was thrown behind and tipped. Gardner took the carom in for Florida’s fourth pick 6 of the season.
Florida 27, Iowa 3; 9:46
Pineiro kicked his second field goal of the game from 25 yards out after Gardner’s interception gave the Gators first and goal at the Iowa 7.
Florida 30, Iowa 3; 5:57
Pineiro’s third field goal of the game was a 48-yarder, set up by Daniel McMillian’s interception of a Beathard pass and a 23-yard return to the Iowa 36. The Gators ran three conservative plays, then brought in Pineiro, whose 21st field goal of the season would have been good from 55 yards out.