Iowa dominates USC In Holiday Bowl

Iowa dominates USC Holiday Bowl

The 2019 Holiday Bowl is one of nine bowl games that featured two opponents. The #16 Iowa Hawkeyes and the #22 USC Trojans came into this game looking for a huge head start for the 2020 season. It was a match-up of Iowa’s ground and pound offensive mentality versus USC’s high-power air raid offense. After coming back after halftime, the Trojans hit a wall in terms of production due to injuries, turnovers, and mistakes. The Hawkeyes capitalized on those mistakes by USC as they beat the Trojans handily 49-24. The victory gave Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz his sixth 10-win season in his 21 seasons with the Hawkeyes.

Iowa dominates USC In Holiday Bowl

Iowa Dominated In Every Area Of The Game

In the first half, Iowa scored on all three of their possessions with two drives lasting more than six minutes. Their first score was a 23-yard touchdown reverse run from wide receiver Tyrone Tracy Jr. The next three scores came from wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette. Iowa’s second score came from a reverse trick play under center from a six-yard touchdown run from Smith-Marsette. After a touchdown from the Trojans, Iowa answered back quickly with a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Smith-Marsette. Finally, the last touchdown of the first half for Iowa was a 12-yard pass from quarterback Nate Stanley to Smith-Marsette.

The Hawkeye’s offense didn’t need to air it out every play. They won consistently through small match-ups. Winning these small match-ups,  decimating the Trojans’ defense throughout the entire game. Iowa accounted for 328 total yards with 213 coming in the passing game. The 49 points was more than they scored in any game all season, after averaging 23 points per game.

Iowa didn’t turn the ball over, and their defense forced three turnovers from USC. Defensively, the Hawkeyes got in the face of the Trojans early and often. The Iowa defense accounted for four sacks, eight tackles for loss, and five pass deflections. The Hawkeyes forced two fumbles from the USC offense and an interception late in the fourth quarter. Star defensive end A.J. Epenesa was a one-man wrecking crew against the air raid offense of USC. Epenesa accounted for four total tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 1.5 tackles for loss. The secondary for the Hawkeyes were key in locking down the top receivers especially in Michael Pittman Jr. The Hawkeyes’ defense only allowed one touchdown from the Trojans at the beginning of the second half.

USC Offense Unproductive

The defense for Iowa pushed the Trojans’ air raid offense to their limit in the first half. This was evident when the Trojans recovered an onside kick after their only score in the second half. With 12:50 left in the third quarter, Epenesa sacked Trojans quarterback Kedon Slovis on a first-down play. Slovis was taken out of the game with a shoulder injury, which began the massive production decline of USC’s offense. Junior quarterback Matt Fink took over for the injured Slovis. By that time, the Trojans had accounted for 298 total yards. Slovis had kept the Trojans in the game by passing for 260 yards, two touchdowns, and an 86.2 QBR on 22 completions (out of 30 attempts). Overall, Fink was not ready for the aggressive pass rush and key lockdown coverage from the Hawkeyes’ defense.

The Trojans encountered a fumble early in the third quarter, which Iowa capitalized on. In the fourth quarter, USC’s drives ended with a fumble, a punt, a missed 39-yard field goal, and an interception by Hawkeyes linebacker Nick Niemann from Fink returned for a 25-yard touchdown. Afterward, Iowa only allowed 60 total yards on offense in seven and a half drives with Fink in at quarterback for USC. The Hawkeyes benefitted from two key mistakes from the Trojans in the second half. The Trojans’ offensive line was overwhelmed in the entire run game as they only rushed for 22 yards. Hawkeyes cornerback Michael Ojemudia accounted for five solo tackles and two pass deflections in locking down Trojans star receiver Pittman. The future NFL receiver accounted for six receptions for 53 yards and lost a key fumble.

Top Players Of The Game

Many Hawkeyes played key roles in the dominance over the Trojans. Stanley accounted for 213 yards, two touchdowns, and a QBR of 84 on 18 completions (out of 27 attempts). He didn’t need to be the high-power pocket passer like the Trojans needed Slovis to be. Stanley made the efficient throws needed especially with the Hawkeyes’ run game suppressed significantly. Middle linebacker Kristian Welch was consistent for Iowa as he accounted for seven total tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. Epenesa’s pass rush and Ojemudia’s tight coverage were the most instrumental defensively for the Hawkeyes.


Holiday Bowl Main Photo:

SAN DIEGO, CA – DECEMBER 27: USC Trojans running back Vavae Malepeai (29) is about to be tackled by Iowa Hawkeyes players during the Holiday Bowl game played on December 27, 2019 against the Iowa Hawkeyes at SDCCU Stadium in San Diego, CA. (Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)


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