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Iowa defeats Boston College to win Pinstripe Bowl

MVP Akrum Wadley returned five kicks for 171 yards during the win at Yankee Stadium.

Iowa running back Akrum Wadley returns a kickoff

Iowa running back Akrum Wadley returns a kickoff during the Pinstripe Bowl against Boston College at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017. Photo Credit: Daniel De Mato

There was no argument from either side that they were on hallowed ground, going up and down the field at Yankee Stadium. The tricky part was that it also was frozen ground, what with the game-time temperature at 23. So, it was that much more rewarding for Iowa to have found its footing toward the end.

The Hawkeyes outscored Boston College by 14 points in the second half and won a teeth-chattering Pinstripe Bowl, 27-20. It was especially sweet for all-purpose running back Akrum Wadley, who was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. He was, after all, running on home turf, in that he is from Newark.

“It’s a great feeling for him. He’s probably what, 30 minutes away from his house? He had a whole bunch of family and friends here,” teammate Noah Fant said, “and being able to do that in front of his hometown . . . He had a couple big runs.”

None was bigger than the chunk of 27 yards that brought his team (8-5) 27 yards to the Boston College 18-yard line with less than four minutes remaining in a game that was tied at the time. It ensured that the Hawkeyes maintained momentum that they gained on the previous play — Anthony Nelson’s sack of quarterback Darius Wade and Parker Hesse’s fumble recovery.

Two plays later, Drake Kulick powered in from the 1-yard line — his only carry of the day — and Iowa had the lead for good. It sealed the victory with 1:18 left as Josh Jackson intercepted a Wade pass at the Iowa 47.

All told, Wadley, a senior, gained 88 yards from scrimmage, caught two passes for 24 yards and returned five kicks for 171 yards. “Akrum has always been a great guy to work with, great attitude, great personality. And he loves football,” said winning coach Kirk Ferentz, who tied Hayden Fry for most wins in school history (143).

“He had some loose edges, loose ends in the early part of his career. His career has really propelled upward. I’m just happy for him to be home like this and do it in front of so many family and friends.”

Nostalgia always is in the air at the Pinstripe Bowl, by design. Yankees president Randy Levine mentioned before the game that it was at the original Yankee Stadium that Knute Rockne gave his “Win one for the Gipper” speech. But this year’s edition was reminiscent of an event at the nearby Polo Grounds, the 1934 NFL Championship Game, also known as the Sneakers Game.

That was the occasion when the Giants were playing the Bears on a frozen field and got the idea to import sneakers from the Manhattan College basketball team rather than staying in cleats. Sure enough, Boston College (7-6) tight end Tommy Sweeney said, “I was wearing basketball sneakers. One of the things that was a weapon coming into the game was our speed and [the field] kind of negated our speed.” He added that, “I felt like I was running on ice.”

Then again, teammate Isaac Yiadom said, “They were playing in the same game that we were playing.”

Iowa was better at the end. Fittingly in Mariano Rivera’s old digs, the Hawkeyes showed why they have outscored opponents 123-60 in fourth quarters. They were closers.

“The footing wasn’t the best,” said Fant, who scored his team’s first touchdown. “There was nothing that anybody was able to do about it. We had to acclimate ourselves to it and it ended up working out.”

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