Leistikow's First Word: No-quit Hawkeyes earned satisfying season finish

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

NEW YORK — In the last game of his college career, Akrum Wadley kept running hard. Man, did he run hard.

In the last games of their college careers, Iowa’s trio of three-year starting linebackers, led by Josey Jewell, didn’t quit.

And the entire Hawkeye roster kept on fighting to the finish of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.

Iowa senior running back Akrum Wadley runs into the end zone for a touchdown against Boston College during the 2017 Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in Bronx, New York on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017.

The much-needed result: Iowa 27, Boston College 20.

And finally, after seven long years, the bowl losing streak is over.

The Hawkeyes have ended their season with a win for the first time since 2010, finishing 8-5 in what was a pseudo-rebuilding year.

"In Heaven There Is No Beer" in Yankee Stadium sounded pretty good for the folks wearing black and gold.

On a frigid day on the rock-hard grass made for big-boy football, it was big plays — not the grind-it-out stuff — that got it done for the Hawkeyes.

There was a key first-quarter interception by Jake Gervase. A 72-yard kickoff return by game MVP Wadley. A long pass connection from Nate Stanley to Nick Easley.

But the biggie came from brainy Iowa defensive ends Anthony Nelson and Parker Hesse.

On a key third-and-8 with the clock winding down and the score tied 20-all, Nelson swatted the ball out of Boston College quarterback Darius Ward’s left hand as he arrived for the sack. And there was Hesse, his fellow academic all-American, to pounce on the loose ball.

After another big Wadley run, the first catch of Nate Wieting’s career and a 1-yard touchdown plunge by fullback Drake Kulick, Iowa was inexplicably ahead with 3:09 to play.

It was hard to believe, considering the Hawkeyes were outgained by a 281-56 margin in a one-sided first half.

But they kept fighting.

Fittingly, all-American cornerback Josh Jackson practically finished off the Eagles. His interception of Ward with just over a minute remaining put the brakes on Boston College's attempt at a tying drive. That gives him eight this season, tying a school record. Not a bad way to head to the NFL, if he chooses that path.

Wadley, too, delivered an equally fitting finish in a homecoming game. The Newark, New Jersey, native racked up 283 all-purpose yards and scored his 35th career touchdown, one shy of Tavian Banks' school record.

And finally, the talk of five straight bowl losses (most of them outright flops) can be muted. 

The Hawkeyes gained only 200 yards for the game, compared to the Eagles' 383. But no matter.

They are coming home a bowl winner.

Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 23 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.