The last couple of trips to the Outback Bowl have not been kind to Iowa, but the first college football game to played in 2019 had a much more enjoyable outcome for the Hawkeyes. Iowa (9-4) used a big second quarter and a strong defensive showing in the fourth quarter to hold on for a 27-22 victory over No. 18 Mississippi State (8-5).
Mississippi State had a chance to take the lead early in the fourth quarter with a first-and-goal from the Iowa one-yard line, but three straight runs by Nick Fitzgerald were stuffed by the Hawkeyes and the Bulldogs settled for a short field goal by Jace Christmann to cut the Iowa lead to 24-22. Fitzgerald got one final chance to deliver a win for Mississippi State with the Bulldogs down 27-22 in the final minutes of the game, but an incomplete pass on fourth down allowed Iowa to run out the remaining seconds of the clock to wrap up the win.
Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley completed 21 of 31 pass attempts for 214 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. The running game had a rough afternoon against the Mississippi State defense, however, as the Hawkeyes combined for a loss of 14 yards running the ball, including sacks of Stanley. Mississippi State had a much more productive day on the ground with 190 yards as a team, fueled by 103 yards by Fitzgerald, who also passed for 152 yards on 14-of-32.
Nick Easley caught two of the touchdown passes thrown by Stanley. And although it took until the second half of the game to get him in the box score, T.J. Hockenson had three catches for 43 yards that came in important moments.
The win by Iowa was the first for the Big Ten this bowl season against the SEC after dropping the previous two matchups on the bowl calendar. The Iowa win also put the Big Ten above .500 this bowl season, pending the results of other bowl games being played on Jan. 1. The loss by Mississippi State at least temporarily dropped the SEC to .500 with other games still being played.
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz is now 8-8 all-time in bowl games and has won two consecutive bowl games after snapping a five-game losing streak in bowl games a year ago in the Pinstripe Bowl. This was the first bowl game for Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead as a head coach, so his search for a bowl victory will continue in the 2019 season.
This, of course, means Outback Steakhouse will be giving away free coconut shrimp to customers as the Big Ten won the Outback Bowl. A win by the SEC would have awarded customers free bloomin’ onion.