Hawkeyes, Tigers looking for positive ending
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP)
A neighborly rematch 100 years in the making will take place half a country away in the desert.
Iowa and Missouri are playing in the Insight Bowl at Arizona State's Sun Devil Stadium on Tuesday, bringing together two former rivals that haven't played each other since 1910 despite being less than 250 miles apart.
Payback? It's hard to even remember what happened it has been so long.
''It is kind of random and very, very strange that we're not playing a border state that's Big 8, now a Big 12 member,'' Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
Neither team figured to end up here, and certainly not against each other.
Missouri (10-2) had its sights on a BCS game and a Big 12 championship was within its grasp. The Tigers fell just short, consecutive losses to Nebraska and Texas Tech knocking them out of the Bowl Championship Series and into a second-tier game.
Disappointing? In a sense, but it's hard to knock a season that could end with 11 wins, a school-record sixth straight bowl appearance and in a warm-weather place while everyone back home is freezing.
''This is a reward to your players for a great season,'' said Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, who has led the Tigers to bowl berths seven of the past eight seasons. ''So I want them to appreciate that and enjoy the great things Phoenix has to offer and hopefully play our best game.''
The Hawkeyes (7-5) are looking to finish off a season that started with so much promise and went awry under a wave of injuries, missed opportunities and, of late, suspensions.
Iowa opened the season ranked ninth, eyeing a Big Ten championship and a second straight BCS bid. A road loss to an Arizona team that turned out to be mediocre put a dent in those chances, and a three-game losing streak to end the season landed the Hawkeyes in the Insight Bowl - not exactly where they had hoped to be at the start of the season.
''We need to stop the three-game losing streak and hopefully get some momentum going into next season,'' Iowa defensive lineman Karl Klug said. ''We need a win.''
They'll have to do it without a few key players.
Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, the school's career leader in catches and yards receiving, was suspended for the Insight Bowl after he was arrested on drug charges following an investigation that found cocaine, prescription drugs, marijuana, a digital scale and $3,000 in cash in a home he shared with roommate Brady Cooper Johnson.
Ferentz also suspended leading rusher Adam Robinson for violating team rules, lost running back Jewel Hampton to a transfer and dropped another runner last week, when Ferentz said fullback Brad Rogers will be out while undergoing cardiology testing.
Combined with defensive coordinator Norm Parker's health problems - he was hospitalized and had a foot amputated during the season - it's been a rough year for the Hawkeyes.
''Unfortunately, it happens in college athletics,'' Ferentz said. ''It happens in all segments of life. We've moved on, certainly. The team's attitude has been great.''
Back to the rivalry.
These two neighbors weren't the typical bragging-rights rivals. They literally hated each other. In 12 games from 1892 to 1910, Iowa and Missouri engaged in vicious games filled with dirty plays, riots and racial discrimination, according to accounts of the series.
The tensions and incidents built until 1910, when a particularly brutal game in excessive heat - won by Missouri, 5-0 - led Hawkeyes coach Jesse Hawley to say his team would never play the Tigers again.
They never did. The teams were scheduled to play a four-year series from 2005-08, but it fell though. So now, after a century, the Hawkeyes and Tigers will resume their rivalry - in the desert, no less - with a chance to put an exclamation point on their seasons.
''Everybody wants to end their season with a victory,'' Pinkel said. ''You want to finish. We use that term a lot: You want to finish.''
And perhaps re-ignite a long-dormant rivalry while they're at it.