Written By: Merrissa Vault
(Tampa, FL)-- It was football in paradise in Tampa, Florida as the Florida Gators and Iowa Hawkeyes went head to head in the 2017 Outback Bowl. With a stadium attendance of 51,119, 83-degree weather, and clear skies, the stage was set perfectly for a highly anticipated SEC-BIG 10 match up.
Unfortunately for Iowa, the Florida Gators ended up chomping the Hawkeyes to bits with a dominating victory of 30-3.
If you love defense, the 2017 Outback Bowl was the game for you. The 1st quarter was a slow start for both teams. Neither team’s offense was productive and relied on their defense heavily to make something happen on the field. Iowa’s Desmond King and Brandon Snyder each picked up interceptions to help the Hawkeyes, while both quarterbacks continued to have difficulty finding openings. Iowa was the first to move the chains far enough down the field to send kicker Keith Duncan on for a 36-yard field goal. Florida followed suit soon after with kicker Eddy Pineiro, who tied up the game 3-3 with a 44-yard field goal attempt.
Going into the 2nd quarter with a tied game, both teams continued to have the same offensive difficulties. Florida quarterback Austin Appleby was 3 for 7 on completions and Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard was 2 for 3 on completions into the 2nd quarter. Appleby broke the QB drought first when he found Mark Thompson for an 85 yard pass into the end zone for his first career receiving touchdown. The touchdown was recorded as an Outback Bowl record for the longest catch and the longest touchdown pass, and the second-longest passing play in UF bowl history.
The 2nd half was completely Florida’s game. The team turned up on both sides of the ball to attack the Hawkeyes.On offense Appleby found Deandre Goolsby in the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown pass. Appleyby went 13 for 22 on completions and 221 yards in the 3rd quarter. On defense the Gators defense continued to hold up their end and Chauncey Gardner Jr picked off Beathard and rushed for a 58-yard touchdown to increase their lead 24-3.
Gator’s Gardner Jr. collected his 2nd interception in the 4thquarter and returned it for 30 yards. Gardner Jr. was deservingly named the Outback Bowl MVP and spoke on his coverage on the field today post game.
“First pick six, really just is a credit to the D-line again because they put up phenomenal pressure, and the linebackers. And the second interception, it was just keep your eyes on your reads because you never know if the pocket breaks down, and again, the D-line got more pressure, caused an error throw, and we picked it off and just got another one.”
The Florida defense allowed for Iowa to complete just 7 of 24 passes for 55 yards. Safety Marcell Harris recorded nine tackles today to bring him over 100 career tackles.
After the interception the Florida offense failed to complete passes and settled for a 25-yard field goal attempt by Pineiro, which brought the score to 27-3. Beathard continued to struggle terribly. With a power house Florida defense coming at him on all sides, he struggled to release the ball, and threw his 3rd interception of the quarter. Florida used this to their advantage and addedanother 3 points to the board to increase their lead further 30-3.
With only several minutes left, that concluded the game and the Florida Gators were titled the 2017 Outback Bowl champions. Florida was recorded in the Outback Bowl records as having the least points allowed.
With a Florida Gator victory at the 2017 Outback Bowl, the SEC now leads 15-9 over BIG-10 opponents.