NEW YORK — From the second of acceptance to the final seconds of the frigid nightcap Wednesday, nothing was easy — or perfect — for the Iowa Hawkeyes and their trip to the Pinstripe Bowl.
They barely sold any tickets, and they were mistakes galore from start to finish. But a win’s a win, and this 27-20 victory against Boston College is a mighty big one for Iowa and for coach Kirk Ferentz.
The Hawkeyes (8-5) ended a five-game bowl losing streak and the stink that hovered over the program nearly every January through August. The tired and painful narrative ended in one of the coldest games in college bowl history, one more than 60 degrees cooler than the Hawkeyes’ Outback Bowl defeat last season.
The game featured almost every element of Iowa’s season. Aggravating play calling and offensive execution marked the first half. Iowa struggled to take advantage of a first-possession interception that took the ball down to the Boston College 6, netting only a field goal.
Boston College’s A.J. Dillon (32 carries, 157 yards) ran all over the Hawkeyes, who couldn’t get off the field on third down. The offense couldn’t convert on third down. It was the same old storyline as almost every other Iowa game.
But then the positives reappeared for Iowa. Like consensus All-American cornerback Josh Jackson tying a school record with his eighth interception. Like quarterback Nate Stanley throwing his 26th TD pass this season, which is tied for second in school history. Like tight end Noah Fant, who hauled in his 11th touchdown reception, which is one shy of the school record. Like running back Akrum Wadley, who scored his 35th career touchdown, one shy of the Iowa record. Wadley was named the game’s most valuable player with 283 total yards.
There was defensive end Anthony Nelson forcing a sack and fumble that set up Iowa’s game-winning touchdown. Then it was two big plays from unheralded players that won it. Stanley connected with backup tight end and designated blocker Nate Wieting for a 17-yard pass that put the ball inside the 1. Then it was walk-on, fifth-year fullback Drake Kulick — who suffered a gruesome broken leg in the regular-season finale last season — rallying back for the clinching 1-yard touchdown run.
Then there was Ferentz. The victory was No. 143 for him as Iowa head coach, tying the school record set by Hayden Fry, whom Ferentz succeeded.
As the Hawkeye Marching Band played The Iowa Fight Song, there were throngs of Iowa players in their Pinstripe Bowl champions stocking caps taking team pictures around designated leader Miles Taylor, who was injured against Nebraska. Ferentz blubbered up after the accomplishment. The small but loud Iowa crowd made enough noise to fill cavernous Yankee Stadium as the band repeatedly belted out The Victory Polka.
In an imperfect season, it was as perfect as it could be for the Hawkeyes. Good riddance bowl losing streak and don’t come back.