IOWA CITY, Iowa — Desmond King knows a good thing when he sees it. Three Iowa wins to close the regular season, two over Top 25 foes, certainly qualifies.
That’s why he wants to keep going. Playing a bowl game this weekend wouldn’t be a bad option for a peaking team.
“We are on the right track,” King said. “We had it where we want to be.”
How does Iowa maintain it? It’s one of this team’s most pressing postseason questions.
Five weeks separate the end of the regular season from the Outback Bowl on Jan. 2 (1 p.m. ET, ABC). If the Hawkeyes are to pick up their first bowl win since 2010 they’ll need to come up with an answer for their momentum question.
“(We) know that we kind of played well there at the end and hopefully we remember what it felt like and remember how we played and how we came out and approached each game,” quarterback C.J. Beathard said. “Now, if we can do that day in and day out at practice leading up to the game (we’ll be fine.)”
Iowa found its identity through a defense that took away the run, third-down conversions and points. A rushing attack averaging 230.0 rushing yards the last three weeks provided enough scoring to grind out victories.
The muscle memory Beathard refers to is a good thing, especially for a team that outscored its last three opponents 82-23.
But the Hawkeyes practice schedule is disjointed. They put helmets on this past weekend, but will take next week off for finals. There will likely be a few days off to celebrate the holidays before heading to the Outback Bowl on Dec. 26.
“It’s almost like another season,” running back LeShun Daniels said. “It’s like you are kind of going through spring ball kind of and trying to get back in the swing of things. It’s going to take us preparing really well in this entire month to get ready for the game.”
The postseason is unlike anything else the Hawkeyes go through. Bowl preparation is a lot of starting and stopping.
There is no magic blueprint to success and Iowa didn’t stumble upon it the last two years. Tennessee obliterated Iowa in the 2014 TaxSlayer Bowl 45-28. Stanford jumped out to a 38-0 lead and won the Rose Bowl by 29 points last season.
“Overall maybe our approach was getting a little stale,” Ferentz said. “Maybe we needed to change and look at some things differently.”
The Hawkeyes altered their schedule. They left for California nine days before the Rose Bowl. The team will spend less time in Florida this season, arriving on Dec. 26 and practicing for a week before taking on No. 17 Florida.
“We’re going to shorten the trip down,” Ferentz said, “make it a little bit more of almost like a business trip or a Super Bowl week, if you will, and just try to keep in our game routine once we get down there.”
Before then Ferentz will try to keep his players off-balance. Practices in Iowa City can be a little random over the next few weeks.
Iowa will prep for various game simulations each day. It could be two-minute work one session, responding to quick change from turnovers the next period or a red zone session the following day. Tight end George Kittle never knows what’s coming. He likes it and believes it’s vital for keeping the team sharp.
“That element really helps us because you don’t really have time to prepare for it,” Kittle said. “(Ferentz) just tries to keep it like a game.”
It could be just what Iowa needs. Games were the easy part in November. It’s on Iowa to ensure it stays that way come January.