Chauncey Gardner

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No. 17 Florida defense dominates Iowa in Outback Bowl blowout, 30-3

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Austin Appleby may not have been able to beat Iowa (8-5) while he was at Purdue, but he was able to do that on Monday in the Outback Bowl with the No. 17 Florida Gators (9-4). Appleby had early mistakes with a pair of turnovers on the first two drives of the game, but Appleby ended his day with 222 yards and two touchdowns to help the Gators pull away from the Hawkeyes in Tampa in a 30-3 victory.

The story of the game was Florida’s defense, which came up with three interceptions of Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard and held the Iowa offense to just 55 passing yards. Iowa was limited to just 226 yards of offense and went 4-of-16 on third down. Even a 100-yard day from Akrum Wadley (115 yards) was not enough to keep the Hawkeyes within reach once the game snowballed out of control.

Florida scored the first touchdown of the game on an 85-yard pass play to Mark Thompson with multiple missed tackles along the way. Chauncey Gardner padded a comfortable 14-point lead early in the fourth quarter with a 58-yard interception return for a touchdown, and the Gators tacked on two more field goals from there to pile on in the 27-point victory. Considering how Florida was embarrassed last season by a Big Ten team in the bowl season (Michigan), this must have been a little extra sweet to do the same to another Big Ten team.

The loss by the Hawkeyes clinches a losing bowl record this season for the Big Ten. At 3-6 and just one game remaining to play (Penn State in the Rose Bowl), the Big Ten had a rough postseason that included two New Years Six bowl losses by Michigan and Ohio State (in the College Football Playoff). A Penn State win would at least give the Big Ten a split in NY6 bowl games if it can beat USC in the Rose Bowl. The SEC is now 6-5 in the bowl season with two more games to play. Auburn faces Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl later tonight and Alabama will face Clemson in the nationla championship game next week.

Iowa has now been outscored 172-75 in its last five bowl games, which has culminated in a five-game bowl losing streak for Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes. Florida head coach Jim McElwain picked up his first bowl victory of his career.

Iowa’s 2017 season will get underway on September 2 at home against Wyoming from the Mountain West Conference. Iowa will play key division game son the road against Wisconsin and Nebraska next fall, as well as on the road against Big Ten East opponent Michigan State (who can’t possibly be as bad in 2017 as they were in 2016, right). The Hawkeyes also host Ohio State in early November next fall.

Florida’s 2017 season will start in Arlington, Texas against the Michigan Wolverines on September 2 in the Cowboys Kickoff. Other non-conference games will include home games against UAB (the Blazers are back in 2017!) and rival Florida State. In conference play, the Gators host Tennessee as well as LSU and Texas A&M.

As a reminder, the Florida victory means you get a free bloomin’ onion at your local Outback Steakhouse tomorrow, January 3.