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The scene as the Rose Bowl ended. Chad Leistikow/HawkCentral.com

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PASADENA, Calif. — A chant of “Let’s go Hawks!” rang out from thousands in the south end zone stands as the Iowa football players congregated into their swarm, preparing to leave Rose Bowl Stadium after Friday’s 45-16 loss to Stanford.

“Best fans in the nation,” Iowa senior center Austin Blythe said afterward.

The Hawkeye faithful then roared as the team entered the tunnel to cap a 12-2 season with back-to-back, big-stage losses. That was a consistent theme in the fourth quarter, even as Iowa trailed 38-3.

“I-O-W-A” even got started after Matt VandeBerg’s 36-yard touchdown catch cut it to 38-9.

“I saw that, looking back at the end of the game,” sophomore linebacker Josey Jewell said. “We have the best fans in the nation, so it’s great to see them staying there even though we’re getting our butts thoroughly kicked. You know you’re going to have (those) people who are going to stay behind you and never give up on you.”

Though there’s no way to officially count Iowa vs. Stanford fans, the appearance was that it was 2-to-1 in the Hawkeyes’ favor on a perfect day in front of an announced attendance of 94,268. It’s safe to say that at least 50,000 wearing black and gold were here for Iowa’s first Rose Bowl appearance in 25 years.

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Unfortunately for the bumblebees, it ended the way the previous three did — with a sizable loss: 28-0 to Washington in 1982, 45-28 to UCLA in 1986 and 46-34 to Washington (in a game that was 33-7 at halftime) in 1991. Give them credit, they found something to cheer about in another humbling loss Friday.

“All of them traveled here in the first place,” senior linebacker Cole Fisher said. “But the number of them that stayed till the end, despite the outcome of the game, it was really nice to get sent out that way.”

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Cole Fisher, Jordan Walsh, Tevaun Smith, Macon Plewa and Austin Blythe speak after the Rose Bowl.

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