Bulldogs head to Tampa for Outback Bowl


Joe Moorhead

Joe Moorhead


Kirk Ferentz

Kirk Ferentz




Brett Hudson


The contents of this article have been modified since its original posting.


STARKVILLE -- One of many advantages to bowl games is they bring together teams that often would not run into each other otherwise. The Outback Bowl matchup with Mississippi State and Iowa is no different, as the two programs have never met on the football field. 


The coaching staffs, however, may be experiencing some deja vu. 


MSU coach Joe Moorhead and his running backs coach/run game coordinator Charles Huff were both on Penn State's staff in 2016 and 2017, when the Nittany Lions beat Iowa 41-14 and 21-19. Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz and defensive coordinator Phil Parker were present for both of those meetings and will be for the next one, when the No. 18 Bulldogs (8-4, 4-4 Southeastern Conference) meet the Hawkeyes in the Outback Bowl 11 a.m. Jan. 1 (ESPN2). 


"I think the familiarity will help a little bit, but certainly Coach Parker does an excellent job," Moorhead said on the Outback Bowl teleconference. "They're physical and strong up front, the linebackers do a great job of playing downhill and attacking the run -- I believe they're top 10 in the country in run defense and up there in scoring defense, too -- and they're very athletic on the back end. 


"They're very sound. They don't do a ton of things schematically but what they do, they do well." 


Moorhead is right: Iowa is seventh in the nation in allowing 102.83 rushing yards per game and is 11th in scoring defense (17.4 points allowed per game). Iowa (8-4, 5-3 Big 10) has been top 20 in scoring defense in each of the last three seasons -- but it hasn't stopped Moorhead from getting the best of the Hawkeyes. 


Moorhead's offenses put 599 yards of offense on the Hawkeyes in 2016 and 579 in 2017; two turnovers and two missed field goals are the primary reasons the 2017 point total (21) didn't look more like the one from 2016 (41). 


Moorhead's Nittany Lions even did it in different ways. Its production in the 2017 game was almost perfectly balanced, 295 rushing yards to 284 passing yards and 51 carries compared to 48 pass attempts; the year prior, Penn State leaned on 359 rushing yards (52 carries to 18 pass attempts) to blow out Iowa. 


Having seen it at its best in person, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz knows what to expect in the Outback Bowl. 


"The one thing I know about Coach Moorhead -- as I understand it, their quarterback is a tremendous player -- he's going to utilize the quarterback position," Ferentz said. "(Penn State quarterback Trace) McSorley at Penn State was very difficult to defend; I understand these are different body types, but still an excellent leader and a dual-threat type guy. 


"When you play teams with running quarterbacks it's kind of like playing a 12-man offense, that's how I look at it. I know it's going to be a great challenge." 


On all fronts, both coaches believe the familiarity with one another will play a role, but only to a certain degree. 


"Certainly there will be some common themes. The other point of that is (Moorhead) has a different team than he had at Penn State and a different group of players, so I'm sure there will be some variance," Ferentz said. "Philosophically, I'm guessing there will be parallels." 


Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson 


NOTE: Tickets for the Outback Bowl are on sale at HailState.com/bowltickets and start at $80. MSU's ticket allotment is located on the east side of Raymond James Stadium. The NFL's clear bag policy will be in place. 


Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson 




2019 Outback Bowl 


■ WHO: Mississippi State  


vs. Iowa  


■ WHEN: Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019 at 11 a.m. 


■ WHERE: Tampa, Florida 


■ HOW TO GO: Tickets on sale at HailState.com/bowltickets and start at $80 





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