|Ground games key when Iowa clashes with BC|
NEW YORK -- While teams desire a balance between the run and passing games, the ground game will be emphasized when Boston College and Iowa get together in Wednesday's Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.
The game is one of two bowl games played in the Northeast, where conditions are cold and often windy, forcing offenses to move via the ground game.
Neither of these 7-5 teams are in the top 20 in rushing yards per game, but the last two teams to win the Pinstripe Bowl gained huge chunks of yards and five running backs have been named MVP or co-MVP in the first seven editions of this game at the new Yankee Stadium that opened in 2009.
Last season, Northwestern running back Justin Jackson recorded three rushing touchdowns and accounted for 224 of the Wildcats' 248 rushing yards in a 35-28 win over Pittsburgh. Two years ago, Duke rushed for 373 yards in a 45-44 overtime win over Indiana.
Boston College enters its second trip to Yankee Stadium looking to establish a ground game that averaged 224.2 yards, good for 26th nationally and third in the ACC behind Georgia Tech (310.4) and Louisville (249.9). Despite a rushing attack that gained the third-most yards in the conference, the Eagles were balanced in terms of scoring with 23 rushing touchdowns and 24 passing scores.
"I think we're very similar that way," Boston College coach Steve Addazio said. "We'll probably both be fighting to accomplish that. I will say this to you, though, we've worked really hard. We'll be balanced in that game. But for us, it all starts with the ability to run that football.
"From there, it really starts to set off our throw game, then from there we can do the things that we have planned for this game. But our plan in this game is to be quite balanced, but that run game needs to be strong."
Boston College is experienced with rushing the ball at Yankee Stadium. The Eagles gained 289 yards in the 2014 Pinstripe Bowl but blew a 21-7 lead in a 31-28 overtime loss to Penn State. Senior Jon Hillman gained 148 of those yards and finished with 622 this season.
Leading the way this season for the Eagles was freshman AJ Dillon, who gained 1,432 yards and scored 13 rushing touchdowns. Dillon benefited from an offensive line that allowed 13 sacks and was penalized 11 times to set the school's freshman rushing record.
The Eagles won five of their last six games starting with a 45-42 win at Louisville on Oct. 14. In the Louisville game, Dillon gained 272 yards, scored four touchdowns and finished the season by getting 1,099 yards in the last six games, including 200 against Connecticut at Fenway Park.
"I can't do anything without them," Dillon said. "When I started to do better towards the second half of the season, they were also getting a lot better each week, too. It's all a credit to them."
Iowa owns the Big Ten's fifth-best scoring offense at 28.3 points per game but its 142.4 rushing yards ranked 11th in the conference. The Hawkeyes were eighth in the conference with 197.8 passing yards but their 26 passing TDs were third in the league behind Ohio State and Penn State.
Still, expect Iowa to lean heavily on senior Akrum Wadley, who gained 1,021 yards and scored eight touchdowns.
Wadley will get handoffs from quarterback Nate Stanley, who completed 56.7 percent of his passes for 2,162 yards with seven of his 25 touchdowns coming in the final quarter. Stanley threw five touchdowns in a 55-24 upset over Ohio State on Nov. 4 but struggled in losses at Wisconsin and Purdue.
"In a lot of ways, the style of football they play is like ours," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "It should be an intriguing matchup. They have done an excellent job and have good football players on their team.
"For us to win this game, we're going to have to be focused, detail-oriented, and work hard on the game field to bring home a victory."