TAMPA, Fla. — Fairly or not, the last impression a team makes is often the most lasting.

For the 2016 Iowa Hawkeyes football squad, it was another tortured exit after another desultory January bowl game appearance.

No. 18 Florida punished Iowa for every mistake Monday and romped to a 30-3 victory in the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. It left the Hawkeyes with an 8-5 record, again facing an offseason of soul-searching after a fifth consecutive bowl defeat.

“There’s a few plays here and there that changed the game drastically, and once those happened we couldn’t get out from under the bus,” Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard said after a three-interception fourth quarter that was a lowlight of a career that also produced 21 victories.


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Gone was the elation of a three-game winning streak to end the regular season for the Hawkeyes. In its place was a painful reminder of the team’s previous 27-point defeat, at the hands of Penn State on Nov. 5.

Those losses will be forever a part of this team’s permanent record. But so will some stirring victories over its biggest rivals, and one grand upset with the eyes of the college football world trained on Kinnick Stadium.

Here are 10 moments that defined Iowa’s season:

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A bargain with the Bison

You actually have to flash back to September 2011 to find one of the key decisions for the 2016 season. It was then that Iowa athletic director Gary Barta agreed to send $500,000 to his alma mater, North Dakota State, to secure what appeared to be an innocent non-conference home game against an overmatched FCS foe.

This transaction occurred one year after the Bison had beaten Kansas and in the same month that they handled Minnesota. By the time their date with the Hawkeyes rolled around, NDSU had also vanquished Colorado State, Kansas State and Iowa State, won five consecutive FCS national titles and was no longer welcome in most FBS stadiums.

The athletic director who talked Barta into playing the game — Gene Taylor — was now an assistant on Barta’s staff, hired away in 2014.

"I told him, 'Look, if you're not going to give a ton of cash personally to your alma mater, at least give us a guarantee check,'" Taylor recalled of that 2011 discussion with Barta in an article for the UIowa website.

Barta and Taylor would come to regret it. The Bison, poised by years of competition in large stadiums, outplayed Iowa throughout the fourth quarter of a 23-21 upset in Week 3. It snapped a nine-game winning streak at Kinnick and punctured the aura of a Hawkeye team coming off a 12-0 regular season and positioned to repeat as Big Ten West champions.

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An August decision

A veteran Iowa team entered August training camp with few questions about starting spots. But a big one was at weakside linebacker. Sophomore Aaron Mends had seemed to earn the job in spring practices, but a onetime starter on the strong side impressed the coaches with his persistence.

By the end of the month, it was junior Bo Bower who was joining Josey Jewell and Ben Niemann in the starting unit. Bower had started on the opposite side as a freshman but lost that spot to Niemann in 2015.

“His preparation is very good. I think he’s very tough, he’s a very physical guy. He’s improved his footwork,” Hawkeyes defensive coordinator Phil Parker said of Bower. “What we saw was his dedication to come out every day and go to work.”

With Bower in place, Iowa had a trio of linebackers it would lean on almost exclusively throughout the year. Jewell remains the clear star of the group, but Bower grew into his role as the season progressed, coming up with 91 tackles and four pass breakups.

Of most importance, though, is that all three players will return as senior incumbents, giving the Hawkeyes an experienced group at a vital position.

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Five more years

Cy-Hawk week dawned with a news flash out of the Hawkeye athletic department. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz had signed another contract extension, this one totaling $49.5 million over 10 years and taking him through the 2025 season.

It was a reward for the Hawkeyes’ 12-2 2015 campaign and Rose Bowl appearance. It was also another signal that Barta values continuity and wants Ferentz to retire as a Hawkeye. The 17-year head coach will be 70 when the contract expires.

But the contract, with its favorable buyout terms for Ferentz, inevitably became a lightning rod for a contingent of the Iowa fan base, particularly whenever the team suffered a loss.

Barta defended the length and terms of the deal.

“That’s a fair question,” he told reporters when reminded of the fan backlash against the buyout terms in Ferentz’s previous contract extension, in 2010. “But I get negative attention no matter what I do.”

Storming the Cyclones

The negative attention was kept at bay for at least one week when Iowa promptly dominated Iowa State 42-3 that Saturday under the lights at Kinnick. Beathard passed for 235 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score — all before halftime.

The victory enabled Iowa to retain the Cy-Hawk Trophy for a second consecutive year and ran its record to 2-0.