SAN DIEGO, CA — No. 16 Iowa (10-3, 6-3 Big Ten) defeats No. 22 USC (8-5, 7-2 Pac 12), 49-24 during their first Holiday Bowl appearance since 1991 on Friday night at SDCCU Stadium.
With 50,123 people in attendance at the 42nd-annual San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl, the Iowa Hawkeyes took control of the Trojans defense to take an early lead.
During Iowa’s opening drive senior quarterback Nate Stanley, completed a pass to wide receiver Nico Ragaini for 30 yards that put the Hawkeyes in USC territory.
On the very next play, wide receiver Tyrone Tracy took a reverse handoff and rushed 23 yards into the endzone. Iowa’s offense was able to move the chains efficiently and spread the ball around well enough to strike first on the scoreboard.
Iowa commanded the momentum of the game for a brief moment until USC struck back.
On the Trojans’ opening drive true freshman quarterback, Kedon Slovis was able to find wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown for a 30-yard completion to convert on third down.
A few plays later Slovis finds freshman wide receiver Drake London for a 4-yard receiving touchdown. This was London’s fifth touchdown of the season and the Trojans answered right back with a score.
There were a few momentum changes throughout the first half with back-to-back scores on both sides.
Although the Hawkeyes took a 28-17 lead at halftime, the Trojans were still in it.
The Trojans began the second half with the football after the Hawkeyes won the coin toss and opted to receive the ball to begin the game.
During the drive Slovis finds wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown again but this time for a 55-yard pass completion to set up first and goal for the Trojans.
On the ensuing play USC running back Stephan Carr rushes it 3-yards for the go-ahead score decreasing the Hawkeyes lead 28-24. That scoring drive only took four plays and 1:31.
Following the score, USC surprises Iowa with an onside kick, which they recovered to put their offense back on the field. As fans began to roar and jump out of their seats, the Trojans were ready to take control and earn their first lead of the night.
Unfortunately, the Trojans could not execute during that following drive and their offense went three and out.
The Hawkeye defense stood their ground and put the ball back into the hands of their offense.
“You don’t ask who started the fire, you just put it out,” Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa said when asked about the surprise onside kick and ensuing drive. “That’s our mentality on the field no matter where we’re at. Play your hardest. The goal is three-and-out. We want to get the offense back on the field to score points.”
The Trojan offense also went downhill after quarterback Kedon Slovis, who threw two touchdown passes, was knocked out of the game with an injured right elbow.
Iowa took control of the momentum and never let it go.
Iowa quarterback, Nate Stanley remained solid for the Hawkeyes as he threw for 213 yards and two touchdowns. He is also just the second Iowa quarterback to be 3-0 in bowl games after this victory.
“Extremely special,” Stanley said after being asked what it meant to be 3-0 in bowl games. “Just goes to show the work that this team has put in. 3-0 in those bowl games wouldn’t happen without my teammates, especially the defense.”
Another Iowa player who showed out tonight was wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette who scored on a 6-yard run, a 98-yard kickoff return (tied Holiday Bowl record) and a 12-yard reception — all in the second quarter.