TAMPA, Fla. – Fourteen is the number as 14th-ranked LSU opens up 2014 by making its 14th straight bowl appearance and seeking its 14th 10-win season in school history when the Tigers take on Iowa in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Kickoff is set for noon CT from Raymond James Stadium, and the contest will be televised by ESPN with Mike Tirico, John Gruden and Lisa Salters calling the action.
Jim Hawthorne, the Voice of the LSU Tigers, along with color analyst Doug Moreau and sideline reporter Gordy Rush will have the call on the LSU Sports Radio Network that can be heard on Eagle 98.1 FM in Baton Rouge or online at www.LSUsports.net/live.
The number on the Tigers’ mind is 10 as a victory against the Hawkeyes would give LSU its 10th win of the season. A victory would also set a new school record with four consecutive seasons with at least 10 wins.
LSU (9-3) is making its 45th all-time bowl appearance (22-21-1 record), and ninth straight in nine seasons under head coach Les Miles, but this marks only the second appearance in the Outback Bowl in school history.
LSU's Outback Bowl GameDay Info
#14 LSU (9-3, 5-3 SEC)
Ticket Will Call and student/player pickup for LSU fans opens at 11 a.m. ET at gate C of Raymond James Stadium.
LSU will be the designated home team and wear white jerseys.
Kickoff: 12:02 p.m. CST/1:02 p.m. EST
Driving Directions (Baton Rouge to Tampa, Fla. -- 716 mi.; 10h, 6m)
In fact, it has been so long since the Tigers played in this bowl that when LSU made its first appearance in 1989, it was still known as the Hall of Fame Bowl.
LSU and Iowa (8-4) square off for only the second time, and the Tigers are seeking to avenge a last-second loss, 30-25, against the Hawkeyes in the 2005 Capital One Bowl.
The Tigers expect a stiff challenge from an Iowa squad, under the direction of 15-year head coach Kirk Ferentz, that enters the game riding the momentum of three straight wins to end the regular season and a defensive unit that ranks seventh nationally in total defense, giving up an average of 303 yards per game.
“We’ve enjoyed the preparation to play a quality Big Ten opponent in Iowa,” Miles said. “Watching the film we have great respect for the discipline of their program and the style of team they put on the field. We’re looking forward very much to the competition.”
LSU became the first team in SEC history to feature a 3,000-yard passer in quarterback Zach Mettenberger (3,082), two 1,000 yard wide receivers in Jarvis Landry (1,172) and First-Team All-American Odell Beckham Jr. (1,117) and a 1,000-yard running back in Jeremy Hill (1,185), but the Tigers are forced to play without their senior signal caller after Mettenberger went down with an injury against Arkansas.
Instead, LSU will turn to true freshman Anthony Jennings, who is expected to make his first start under center against Iowa. Jennings is 6-of-10 passing for 99 yards and one touchdown this season, and he led LSU on a 99-yard game-winning drive against Arkansas. Despite his limited snaps in actual competition (he has also rushed 14 times for 49 yards and one score), Miles believes the offense is in capable hands in the bowl game.
“The greatest characteristic of Anthony Jennings is poise,” Miles said. “He’s always had it. The confidence of the team when he went under center didn’t change. We expect him to play well.”
Defensively, LSU is led by All-SEC performers in linebacker Lamin Barrow (team-high 86 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks) and defensive tackle Anthony Johnson (33 tackles, team-best 7.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks).
Defensive back Jalen Mills (61 tackles, 3.0 sacks, team-best three interceptions) leads a Tigers unit that ranks 16th nationally in pass defense, allowing 200 passing yards per game.
LSU will look to send 14 seniors out as the first class of Tigers to achieve 10 or more wins in four straight seasons, and Miles said the team is motivated to play against a tough Iowa squad.
“I think the motivation for playing this game, if you’re a competitor, is playing a quality team,” Miles said. “Victory is really motivation enough. You have to play well; you have to play smart, play tough. We have worked hard at practice with great attention to detail, and now we have to bring it to the field on Wednesday.”
OUTBACK BOWL HEAD COACHES NEWS CONFERENCE
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
LSU COACH LES MILES
“We’ve enjoyed our preparation. The facilities have been great. The transportation and the hotel have been convenient. We enjoyed the most recent beach outing. What a beautiful affair that was. It’s always the case that the bowl will be either maximized or minimized by how you play in the game. Your memory of the beach event will be in some way be enjoyed more fully based on how we played the game. If, in fact, it went a little bit like you would like it not to go, you don’t quite remember the beach event.”
On motivating factors for victory in the Outback Bowl:
“The opportunity to win 10 victories four straight years for the first time at the school. The opportunity for a team to finish in a top 10 position or a highly-ranked position. Frankly, for seniors, the upperclassmen, this is the last time this team will be put together. For us to do anything other than go out and play our very best would be inappropriate.”
On whether the playbook will change with Anthony Jennings at quarterback:
“I think the playbook is kind of as it’s been. I think the interpretation will be different. I think with Jennings we’ll see that in some instances better and some instances different than Zach (Mettenberger) would have. The great thing about a young quarterback that practices as well as Anthony has is we expect him to interpret it very well.”
On Anthony Jennings and how he handles the pressure of a bowl game:
“I think he’s a very cerebral guy. I think he knows exactly where he’s at and what’s going on. I think certain athletes have an ability to lower their heart rate, relax, have poise, and understand this is where I’ve been before in any number of events. That great youth pitcher that stepped on the mound for the first time that said, ‘No, this is how you do this. You throw the pitches that you can throw.’ You learn how to handle some of those peak positions in athletics and I think Anthony Jennings has that.”
On Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz:
“He’s a big, tall athletic man, real ball skills player. I think he’s going to draw attention. I think the good news is we have some height in our safety position and our linebacker spots. We feel like we can content with a pass when a ball is attempted.”
On Iowa running back Mark Weisman:
“He’s a big, strong capable man. You better get in there and pound him and his friends alongside him because he’s a physical back.”
On whether the Hawkeyes remind him of other teams they faced this season:
“I think they’re a very disciplined team on offense, defense and special teams. I think they have earmarks of any of the very fine football teams we’ve played. Those teams are playing to win and do the right things.”
On whether he considers the Iowa offense capable:
“Absolutely, they don’t turn it over. They rush the football. They have a wonderful play action that compliments that. They keep the ball and move it and score. They won the last three in a row for a reason.”
On injured quarterback Zach Mettenberger’s role in the Outback Bowl:
“I think that’s something that needs to be worked out. He might try to get on the field and throw one. I don’t know if you guys saw the bowling event, but I just happened in late. He had an iced tea in his hand, he had a backpack on, he limped up with a bowling ball in his hand and delivered a strike. I just sit there going how in the world does anyone do that with that knee. Just think about your bowling style with a backpack on. Zach, game day, I want him talking to our quarterback. I want him on the sideline. He was voted team captain; he’ll go out for the coin flip. Other than that, we’ll need to keep a young coach monitoring him at all times.”
On getting his team motivated to play in the Outback Bowl:
“I promise you this, victory and the feeling is something that an organization and a team thrives on. We come to work, we practice hard, we stay on the field; we get it done. When you get to the game, when you work as hard as we work, you truly deserve to finish in front. The motivation and the feeling of victory, the deep breath of fresh air that you get after you accomplish victory, it’s unique to sport and it’s something that two teams will fight for on the first.”
On the progression of the LSU defense:
“I expect the defense is looking forward and has prepared extremely well. They are much more seasoned. If you look at the guys, I think the defensive front certainly has improved. I think the linebackers we mix and match a little bit. At safety, our corners are really prepared. I think they’ve improved routinely. With any quality team, that has to happen.”
On the keys to victory in the Outback Bowl:
“Stop the rush and rush the football are the two things. The team that does not turn that ball over will have a great chance of success.”
On safety Craig Loston:
“Craig has given real stability back here this year. He’s a guy that has a pension for making big plays, he seems to always come up with a pick that’s pretty significant in games that we’ve been very competitive, and he’s a tackler. Besides that, he’s a leader and a very quality person. We’ve watched him mature and contribute, just what you’d want.”
IOWA COACH KIRK FERENTZ
“First of all I just want to thank the Outback Bowl committee and everyone at the bowl just for a fantastic experience for our players. We’ve had a great week. The hospitality here has been second to none, even better than the previous games we’ve been at, so I really appreciate that. It’s just been a good week. We’ve worked hard to prepare, our team is healthy and fairly rested and ready to go tomorrow.”
On preparing for the Outback Bowl:
“The thing we’re all trying to do right now is just finish this season off in a positive way. What that comes down to is playing our best football, and that’s what it’s going to take to have a chance to beat LSU tomorrow. We feel good about the way the guys are working right now, the way they’re thinking. Certainly the seniors are leading us and really setting a great example on how to do things. I just hope all the young guys are paying attention and they’re willing to show that same kind of leadership moving on.”
On LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings:
“Like I said the other day, the one thing he did do, and it’s evident on tape, is he moved his football team probably in about as bad a situation as you can put a young guy into, a ball at the one foot line and 99 plus yards. He did it in a multitude of ways. He threw some very nice passes, made some plays with his feet. He’s still got 10 other really good players on the field as well. We don’t have a lot of tape to base things on, but I don’t think they’re going to wholesale change their offense. They’ve got a lot of other good players on the field too.”
On Iowa’s offensive attack:
“The first thing that comes to mind is we try to be balanced. I don’t think you can be good offensively if you can’t do both things, run and throw. The exception is unless you’re an option team and bring a different dimension. We try to be balanced. If people are going to load it up on you, you’ve got to be able to throw the ball successfully and vice versa the other way too. That’s kind of our goal each and every year. It helps to be productive up front. I think we’ve grown obviously. We’ve got a new quarterback this year, so we weren’t quite sure how that was going to go. We were really young at receiver, very inexperienced. A year ago we had a tough season, we really didn’t know if we had Big Ten back on our roster. So at least we’re further down the road that we were a year ago.”
On the Iowa secondary matching up against LSU’s offense:
“We play against good receivers during the season as you might imagine. I think they remind me a lot of a good NFL team where they have two really good wideouts. They actually have more than that, but they have two that start. If you’re going to tilt your coverage one way, you’re going to get burned on the other side. If you load up to stop the pass they’re going to run it right down your throat. They had a potential first round quarterback, now they’ve got a guy that threatens you a different way. It’s going to be a challenge.”
On the LSU defense after previously losing several players to the draft:
“Sometimes early graduation doesn’t hurt people because they have better guys waiting. You put on the film and they’ve got a lot of good players at every position. They’re strong inside, quick and athletic on the outside. They look like a really tough SEC-type defense.”
On the strength of the LSU defense:
“It’s a combination that they’re very strong and physical inside. They’ve got big strong guys that look like NFL defensive tackles and they’ve got more linear, quick guys on the outside. They get the push inside with the pass and try to beat you with speed and quickness on the outside. They’re very crafty. It’s going to be a big challenge for us.”
On playing in the Outback Bowl after missing a bowl last season:
“I don’t think there’s any question it was a long winter. It’s like losing a game. You lose a game, until you play the next one it sits with you. It’s the same thing with this. Probably the best, I think John Fox said it about the way their season ended last year, he said it’s kind of like a scar, it’s heals but you still notice it. You come off a tough year, you just don’t want to go down that road again.”
On the success of Iowa’s defense:
“I’ve been at Iowa 15 years plus nine as an assistant. For us to have a good year health factors into it. They’re talking about losing guys to the draft; we don’t have a lot of guys sitting on the shelf typically. Our best players typically develop during the course of their careers. We don’t get all the six star recruits. I don’t think any of us in August would have predicted that Desmond was going to come in and play the way he did on defense. You just can’t predict that with a high school kid coming in. But he did a great job. For us to have success continuity sure helps and having our best guys on the field most of the year sure helps too.”
On running back Mark Weisman:
“We lucked into him. Again, talking about what it takes to be successful, we have to have a couple of good stories too. A year ago, I can’t tell you why, but we found out he was a pretty good fullback. I encouraged the guys to take a look at him at running back, mainly because we didn’t have a lot of running backs, we’re really thin. Sure enough that next game our top two running backs got hurt and Weisman went in and did a nice job. He’s a different kind of runner. I think any good running back gives a team a spark, tends to lift the team a little bit too. He’s really done a nice job of that. There’s not a more humble, appreciative guy on our football team. He’s finally on scholarship now too.”
On keys to a victory in the Outback Bowl:
“Again, just play our best football. That’s what we have to do. We have to play clean football, play as hard as we can. Somehow, some way we’re going to have to manufacture a couple plays and that’s easier said than done.”