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MIAMI - They paused to touch the trophy, the Orange Bowl trophy, there on the field platform. It was real. It was theirs. The season of dreams, and sometimes nightmares, was now indelible. And there was the hardware, golden and shiny and permanent, to confirm it. -GAME PHOTO GALLERY-
From national punching bag when they were 9-0 and threatening to inflict Big Ten on the BCS to Orange Bowl winner. -ORANGE BOWL GAME REPORT-
In several implausible leaps. Iowa. Yes, Iowa.
Freshman running back Brandon Wegher's 32-yard TD run with 1:56 left sealed a 24-14 victory Tuesday night over Georgia Tech before 66,131 mostly Iowa fans at Land Shark Stadium. -HAWKS GO TO HIGHER GROUND-
Quarterback Ricky Stanzi tossed two touchdown passes. Iowa's defense pulled the plug on the Yellow Jackets' heralded triple-option offense. And the Hawkeyes (11-2) won their first major bowl game since the 1959 Rose Bowl.
WATCH: Ricky Stanzi Talks to Media After Orange Bowl Win:
Iowa's defense should've been the Orange Bowl MVP. Defensive end Adrian Clayborn won it after two sacks, but it was the defense that held Tech to nine first downs and 155 total yards that earned it.
"It feels good," Clayborn said. "I give all the props to coach Norm Parker for putting together a great game plan."
WATCH: Adrian Clayborn on Orange Bowl Victory:
They touched the trophy. They righted the wrong that rankled Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz so much after the 38-17 thud against USC in the 2003 Orange Bowl. They carried the Big Ten banner, clinching a 4-3 record for the league and two BCS bowl victories.
Stanzi, who had not played since suffering a sprained ankle against Northwestern on Nov. 7, completed 17 of 29 for 231 yards, two TDs and a pick six that kept Tech (11-3) in the game. "It was great having Rick back," Ferentz said.
Tech came out of the locker room storming after falling behind 14-7 in the first half. The Jackets marched 12 plays and ate 7:10 off the clock. Their drive stalled at Iowa's 24 after a false-start penalty on offensive tackle Austin Barrick. And then, kicker Scott Blair, normally very reliable, sliced a 41-yard field goal wide right.
WATCH: A.J. Edds Post-Orange Bowl Victory:
So, 12 plays and more than seven minutes for nothing. Iowa then found the rhythm it lost in the first quarter. Facing a second-and-19 after a holding call on left tackle Bryan Bulaga, Stanzi hit tight end Tony Moeaki for a 23-yard gain to the 50. Moeaki (6-4, 250 pounds) basically posted up safety Morgan Burnett (6-1, 210).
Iowa came this close to a first-and-goal, but Sandeman dropped a pass that would've given the Hawkeyes first down inside the 10. The Hawkeyes settled for Daniel Murray's 33-yard field goal and a 17-7 lead with 2:17 left in the third quarter. Tech's big shift after a first half in which it produced its fewest yards in 20 years was attacking the perimeter. Quarterback Josh Nesbitt started pitching the ball to the outside and running a speed option right at Iowa's defensive ends, who were left in the dust in the third quarter after a brilliant first half.
Tech narrowed Iowa's lead to 17-14 on an 11-play, 71-yard drive that was all rush, including 32 yards from star back Jonathan Dwyer. A-back Anthony Allen bashed in from the 1 with 12:30 left in the game.
On Georgia Tech's next series, outside linebacker A.J. Edds stepped in front of a Nesbitt pass and returned it to Tech's 15. Edds followed A-back Embry Peeples perfectly on his wheel route.But Tech, dancing through arrows all night, dodged yet another one.
WATCH: Pat Angerer Post-Orange Bowl Victory:
On fourth-and-4 from the 4, holder Ryan Donahue pitched to Murray, who took off around the right end. Tech safety Morgan Burnett sniffed it out and tackled Murray inside the 10. Murray fumbled and Tech recovered at its 12 with 6:46 left.
Again, Tech had a chance to take the lead.
The Jackets didn't want it, though.
This time, Dwyer got spun by safety Tyler Sash and run backwards into the end zone. He dodged Clayborn and another Iowa defender before just barely getting the ball over the goal line. Tech ended up going three-and-out for the fifth time. Iowa took over at its 37 with 4:54 left. -GAME STATS-
Drain 4:54 off the clock and win the school's first major bowl since 1959 and secure Iowa's second 11-win season.
They did better than that. Just as they had all night.
Iowa ran left, behind Bulaga and Wegher broke it wide for a TD. He finished with 16 carries for 113 yards.
"These guys have just fought hard each and every game," Ferentz said. "This is a great night."
WATCH: Kirk Ferentz Talks to the Media:
The Hawkeyes ran the road gamut this season, winning at Iowa State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan State. When they won, they ran around the stadium rail, high-fiving fans.
They did that again Tuesday night. Then they went and touched an Orange Bowl Trophy.
Iowa. Yes, Iowa.
WATCH: Hawkeyes Celebrate with Fans After Orange Bowl Win: