One final chance for Hawkeye seniors to win a trophy game

Chad Leistikow

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Motivation is always a big factor in bowl-game outcomes.

That won't be a problem for the 16 Hawkeye seniors who suit up for Friday's TaxSlayer Bowl matchup against Tennessee at EverBank Field.

"We want our last memory to be the one holding that trophy," left tackle Brandon Scherff said, "and celebrating in the locker room."

While Tennessee's youth is well-documented, Iowa's got a core group of veterans in its starting lineup.

This is the last game for three-fifths of the Hawkeyes' offensive line: Outland Trophy winner Scherff, Tommy Gaul and Andrew Donnal. The last game for running back Mark Weisman, tight end Ray Hamilton and receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley. The last game for four key guys in the middle of Iowa's defense: tackles Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat, linebacker Quinton Alston and strong safety John Lowdermilk.

"I try not to think about it," said Weisman, the No. 6 rusher in Iowa history with 2,592 yards. "It really hasn't settled in for me at all, that this will be my last game wearing a Hawkeye uniform."

For Alston, the reality set in on the way to a team meal when he saw a sign counting down the days to the 2:20 p.m. CT kickoff. For Scherff, it happened during a Tuesday drill at practice.

"We were doing our last nine-on-seven drill," Scherff said. "We all talked about it. Coach (Kirk) Ferentz said this is the last one you'll ever do. I never thought about (the finality) until after he said that."

Iowa went 0-for-4 in trophy games this season, with losses to Iowa State, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Nebraska.

These 16 seniors don't want to end their careers 0-for-5.

"It's all the emotions all mixed together. You're anxious. You're nervous," Alston said. "You're ready to get to the game and play football. At the end of the day, you have to focus on what you have ahead of you."