Iowa outlasts BC in chilly Pinstripe Bowl
NEW YORK — Akrum Wadley knew he had 40 tickets to give out to family and friends to watch him serve as Iowa’s top running threat.
Those close to him might not have anticipated watching him dash through tacklers on special teams as well.
Performing as a kick returner for the first time since the second week of the season, Wadley produced 283 all-purpose yards, helping Iowa to a 27-20 victory over Boston College on Wednesday at frigid Yankee Stadium.
Wadley finished with 171 yards on five kickoff returns, including a 72-yard return that set up Iowa’s first touchdown early in the second quarter. He also gained 88 yards on the ground, including a 27-yard scamper down the left sideline that set up fullback Drake Kulick’s tiebreaking 1-yard plunge with 3:09 remaining in the fourth.
“Slippery field, but I had some really good blockers,” Wadley said. “It was easy to run behind guys that you know they really want to block for you and they really believe that you can make a big play.”
Wadley, who is from Newark, N.J., finished his four-year career at Iowa (8-5) by stepping in for regular return man Ihmir Smith-Marsette, who was injured during a practice last week.
“It was priceless man,” Wadley said of his performance in front of friends and family.
Wadley’s showing helped the Hawkeyes snap a seven-year gap between bowl wins on a night when the temperature at kickoff was 23 degrees and the wind-chill factor made it feel like 12.
“Coach always stresses special teams and to swing that field position,” Iowa right tackle Levi Paulsen said after the Hawkeyes snapped a five-game losing streak in bowl games. “If you’re on that side of the ball, then you already have an advantage.”
Iowa finished with 101 rushing yards and 317 yards on kickoff returns thanks to Wadley, who entered the game with four career kickoff returns totaling 100 yards.
The ability to create favorable field position earned Wadley MVP honors. He also broke the school record for kickoff return yardage in a bowl game, surpassing the mark of 169 yards set by C.J. Jones in the 2003 Orange Bowl against USC.
“Just happy for him, for him to be home like this and do it in front of so many family and friends, that’s even better,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Just really happy for him.”
Wadley’s performance on the ground wasn’t even the best in the eighth edition of the game at the current Yankee Stadium. Boston College freshman AJ Dillon gained 157 yards on 32 attempts but only 11 in the final 15 minutes.
The Eagles (7-6) committed three turnovers, leading to 10 Iowa points.
“It’s on all us,” Boston College tight end Tom Sweeney said. “It’s been our weapon all season, to win the turnover battle.”
Dillon (1,589 yards) finished with the third-highest single-season rushing total in school history. However, his performance was negated by an uncharacteristic showing from a team, which came in ranked 19th nationally in turnover margin and couldn’t contain Wadley on special teams.
“When you turn the ball over, you put yourself in harm’s way, and when you don’t control the field position through your special teams, you put yourself in harm’s way, and those were things that were uncharacteristic of our football team, and those are things that we did today,” Eagles coach Steve Addazio said.
Iowa’s Nate Stanley completed 8 of 15 passes for 99 yards, connecting with Noah Fant on a first-half touchdown. Miguel Recinos added a pair of field goals for the Hawkeyes.
Wade finished 16 of 27 for 208 yards for Boston College. Sweeney caught seven passes for 137 yards and a touchdown, and Colton Lichtenberg kicked two field goals for the Eagles.
Boston College took a 7-3 lead after the opening quarter when Dillon barreled in from 4 yards out with five seconds remaining. Dillon’s TD occurred five plays after the Eagles gained 12 yards on a fourth-and-8.
Wadley returned the ensuing kickoff 72 yards and the Hawkeyes took a 10-7 lead an 8-yard pass to Fant less than two minutes into the second. The Eagles regained the lead at 14-10 on a 39-yard pass to Sweeney about four minutes later, and took a 17-10 lead on a 30-yard field goal by Lichtenberg with 1:29 remaining in the half.
Iowa tied the game at 17 midway through the third quarter when Wadley rushed to the left side from 5 yards out. The Hawkeyes settled for a 38-yard field goal by Recinos with 11:32 left in the fourth moments after T.J. Hockenson dropped a potential TD pass, but Boston College tied at 20 nearly 3 1/2 minutes later on a 24-yard field goal by Lichtenberg.
NOTES: Boston College DE Harold Landry did not play due to an ankle injury. He also missed the final four games of the regular season after recording five sacks. ... Iowa CB Josh Jackson recorded his eighth interception of the season with 1:18 remaining. He tied the school record shared by Desmond King (2015), Lou King (1981) and Nile Kinnick (1939). ... Iowa LB Josey Jewell recorded 11 tackles, marking his 22nd game with at least 10 tackles. ... Boston College fell to 0-2 in the Pinstripe Bowl. The Eagles also lost 31-30 in overtime to Penn State in 2014.