Hawkeyes take down Purple Eagles for 27-20 Pinstripe Bowl Victory
New York – On the morning of our Game 557, I watched a small hawk in my front yard attack and take a small woodpecker hard to the ground, locking it in a death grip before whisking off with its limp prey into the snow-covered trees to eat its breakfast. It must have been an omen of what was in store that evening at Yankee Stadium where the Iowa Hawkeyes took on other birds of prey, the Boston College Purple Eagles, in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. The Hawkeyes scored a touchdown with 3:09 left in the game to win, 27-20, but not before S Josh Jackson sealed the victory with an INT to take away any life left in the Eagles’ faint hopes of a comeback. After running the clock down to 54 seconds, BC took the ball back and the Hawkeyes defense held on to swoop away with its first Bowl Trophy in its last five attempts.
New Game Experiences
For Collegefootballfan.com. it was a unique college football experience on several fronts. Guest Game Analyst Frank Scarpa and I avoided New York traffic and parking challenges by using Uber from Hackensack, NJ to The Bronx and back. It offset parking fees and toll costs while avoiding typical New York traffic hassles. We “tailgated” in overcrowded Yankee bars packed with fans from Boston College bundled up in layers several times over, like us, to embrace the frigid elements predicted for the evening. We also visited NY Yankee Monument Park in Yankee Stadium at Game 557 to view historical markers of Yankee greats and other historic events at the famous ball park before ascending to the upper deck over center field. There we stood throughout the game near an outdoor concession stand with a bar and bathroom nearby for our convenience. It made lot more sense for us to have a shelf in front of us for our beers and better than sitting on cold aluminum bleachers and a night when the temperature and wind chill hovered near single digits. Oh, what a night for college football!
On the field below as the paid crowd of 37,667 either freezing or who never showed up, the two teams tied the score twice and exchanged the lead six times. Though the game was well-played despite the frigid temperatures, the frozen playing surface hindered solid footing for the players. Early slips played a factor in the abilities of players to keep their feet and even risked injuries. At some point, players for both squads changed from spikes to sneakers.
Lopsided, but close
At the half, Boston College led 17-10 before both teams went to get warm in the locker rooms. To open the scoring, Iowa S Jake Gervase intercepted a pass and took it down to the BC six. The Eagles only gained three more yards before Miguel Recinos converted for three. Boston College RB A.J. Dillon (32 carries for 157 yards, one TD) ran in for a four-yard TD to give the Eagles a 7-3 lead going into the second period.
Nathan Stanley’s eight-yard TD pass to Noah Fant following a 72-yard kick-off return by Akrum Wadley gave Iowa a 10-7 lead in the second. BC countered with Darius Wade’s 39-yard TD pass to TE Tommy Sweeney (seven catches for 137 yards, one TD), and Colton Lichtenberger’s 30-yard boot gave the lead back to the Eagles. With :02 left, Lichtenberger had a chance to extend the lead by three, but his 36-yard attempt went wide and his team maintained a 17-10 edge in Game 557 despite dominating in total offense – 281 yards to 66 in the first half.
Before the game, as I picked up my game program and turned around, Guest Game Analyst Frank Scarpa introduced me to a camera crew from the YES (Yankee) network. He told the young reporter and cameraman that I was here attending my 557th collegiate football game. “You have to interview this guy,” he told them. I wasn’t as ready as I thought I was. The interviewer asked me the worst question he could ever come up with under these circumstances. “What do you enjoy about coming to Yankee Stadium to see a college football game?” Bad question.
Yankee Stadium? Didn’t he realize that there wasn’t much of a choice on a December evening when you’re living in Jersey and there’s what, only two or three other games being played in far parts of the country where it was warm? He was asking a guy who was very happy when Army and Rutgers decided not to play each other at Yankee Stadium in November 2015 because of poor field conditions (as BC and Iowa found out tonight). When they announced they would meet at West Point instead, it was perfect. That change allowed me to plan our Game 500 celebration at a place where we could have a great tailgate! No way was I ever going to plan this at Yankee Stadium. I nixed a plan for a fund-raising bus/tailgate party this past year when Rutgers and Maryland were supposed to meet here in November (they changed that plan two weeks before the date because the field wouldn’t be ready because of the Yankees’ playoff run. It still wasn’t). Had it originally been scheduled at High Point Solution Stadium, there would have been our traditional Big Tailgate at RU for the first time.
I started to ramble hoping to come up with something positive. My mind focused on high prices; horrible tailgating facilities; bad sight lines; seating a mile away from the field; a stadium built only for baseball; bad playing surface; heavy, rush-hour traffic; excessive beer prices; crowded, over-priced bars. Why would I come here? Good match-up on the field, and I eventually remarked about “history” and/or “tradition” of college football at Yankee Stadium. Weak answer, I knew my “enthusiasm” for coming to see a game at Yankee Stadium was a crock. We all knew it. My chance to promote CFF.com, my book, my website, my game-watching records, my love of college football – all to be talked about on the YES network all blew away on the wind chill factor.
It’s a horrible “football” venue. I’m not taking that back. I came to watch a competitive football at Game 557. I didn’t come because it was being played at Yankee Stadium. What a set-up. As we walked away, Frank grumbled and paraphrased my “interview”. “Your stadium sucks, you’re over-priced, tailgating is better anywhere but here, and I’m a pissed-off Mets fan. Thanks for the opportunity to talk to you. I don’t care if you put me on your program or not.” I can’t help it. I call it as I see it.
And I’m not kidding
Yankee Stadium is not a football venue. It just happened to be convenient to attend to start my three-day bowl tour this season since it’s about an hour from my house. It would be better if they played this in The Meadowlands, but I’m not in love with the new stadium there either. Been to 147 stadiums now to see college football games. Of the major stadiums I’ve been to across the country, for a football game, this is the worst. No doubt.
Back to the second half
Q3 started and the teams continued to slip and slide. Iowa started a drive from its 40. A 32-yard completion by Nathan Stanley (8 for 15, 99 yards, one TD) to Nick Easley put the Hawks on the 13. RB Akrum Wadley (Newark, NJ, Weequahic HS) took it in from the five to tie it up at 17 each. The Hawkeyes and Purple Eagles went into Q4 tied with Iowa driving at their 46.
Miguel Recinos made good with his 38-yard FG to put the Hawkeyes up, 20-17. On BC’s next drive, Wade completed a 48-yard past to TE Tommy Sweeney (Ramsey, NJ) to the seven. Iowa held BC to a net of one yard and Lichtenberger came in to finish the drive with a 24-yard FG to even the score. On the Eagles’ next possession, a sack by DE Anthony Nelson forced Wade to fumble and DE Parker Hesse from the other side recovered to give Iowa the ball at BC’s 48. Wadley ran it 21 yards to the 27 before Stanley connected with TE Nate Wietting who bounced in at the one warranting a review. From there though, FB Drake Kulick took it in the old-fashioned way with a power drive through the middle to give Iowa (8-5) a 27-20 lead that the defense would never give up in the remaining minutes. S Josh Jackson’s eighth pick of the season and tight defense similar to the clutch of that hawk in my front yard earlier in the day stopped any chance of an Eagle come back in the final minute of play.
It was a great game on a frigid night on the frozen turf of a baseball stadium. The Hawkeyes struggled with the Eagles (7-6) all evening and held on until the end to put them down before absconding back to Iowa City with the victory hardware. Wadley, the kid from just across the river in Jersey who had never been to Yankee Stadium before, took home the MVP award. He ran for 88 yards on 22 carries including a touchdown, caught two passes for 24 yards, and returned kickoffs five times for 171 yards including a big 72-yarder to get into scoring position. Draft analysts tag Josh Jackson as a first-round pick in next year’s draft. As for CFF.com, we headed south after this game with a plan in place to meet fellow Navy tailgaters the next morning to head to Annapolis for the Military Bowl between Navy (6-6) and Virginia (6-6) the next day at 1 pm. We forged on to attend three bowl games within 48 hours!