Shreveport, La. Miami of Ohio has the emotion and Iowa State has the motivation.
Maybe it's only the Independence Bowl, a minor player in the multi-million-dollar world of the BCS, but for these two teams, Tuesday night's game is a big deal.
How big? Just listen to Erik Anderson, a senior linebacker at Iowa State.
"It doesn't matter to me where we're playing, this means as much as anything considering what we've been through, the adversity we've hit, how far we've come this year," Iowa State linebacker Erik Anderson said. "I'd run through fire for these teammates and all these coaches."
Of more immediate concern for Anderson and the Cyclones will be whether they can douse the fire of a Miami team determined to send coach Terry Hoeppner out as a winner.
Hoeppner was hired as Indiana's coach on Dec. 17 but stayed with the RedHawks (8-4) to coach in the bowl game, with the blessing of Indiana athletic director Rick Greenspan.
"He said I don't think I'd have a coach who didn't want to coach in the bowl," Hoeppner said Monday.
Still, it has been a difficult time for the players, especially the underclassmen who had assumed Hoeppner would be there for the rest of their careers. And why wouldn't they? This is his 19th year on the coaching staff at the Oxford, Ohio school. No other coach has been at Miami that long.
"He's done so much for the university, but it was tough to take," said junior quarterback Josh Betts, who has thrown for 3,255 yards and 22 TDs as Ben Roethlisberger's successor. "He's always been there for us as a players' coach and we wish him the best. We're going to go out and win a game for him and for the seniors."
Hoeppner said he hasn't divided his time between the two jobs, insisting that all his efforts have gone into getting Miami ready for Iowa State (6-5), the Big 12 North co-champion.
"I pledged to the players that we were going to do everything we could to prepare them for the game," he said. "It hasn't been distraction for me."
There have been enough of those this season for the RedHawks.
Martin Nance, who caught 90 passes for last year's 13-1 team, was lost for the season after five games with knee injury. Starting safety Steve Burke missed much of the season with a hand injury, special teams player Jerome Bennett broke his jaw when he fell out of bed and wide receiver Michael Larkin was stabbed earlier this month.
Larkin has been practicing and wants to play, but Hoeppner isn't sure how much he'll be able to do.
Then there was the 2-3 start that put the RedHawks in the position of needing to win the rest of their games to reach the Mid-American Conference championship game. They made it and lost to Toledo 35-27.
"For us to go on the run we went on, to go to the championship game for the second straight year, no one expected us to do that," Hoeppner said.
No one expected Iowa State to be here, either. The Cyclones were 2-10 last season, ending a run of three straight bowl appearances, and stood 2-4 in mid-October of this year. But they won four straight to move into first place in their division, then lost to Missouri 17-14 in overtime, keeping them out of the Big 12 championship game.
That loss still stings, as did the 14-13 loss to Alabama in the 2001 Independence Bowl. A 47-yard field goal attempt by Iowa State's Tony Yelk with 38 seconds left in that game was ruled wide right, and to this day, the Cyclones contend the kick was good.
"It feels great to know you have a second chance after we came up a point short in what I think was a bad judgment," defensive back Ellis Hobbs said. "This time we're going to make sure none of those calls affect this game. We're going to take our destiny into our own hands."
|Today's GameIndependence BowlIowa State vs. Miami of Ohio,5:30 p.m. (ESPN)Wednesday's GamesHouston BowlColorado vs. Texas-El Paso,3:30 p.m. (ESPN)Alamo BowlOklahoma State vs. Ohio State,7 p.m. (ESPN)Thursday's GameHoliday BowlTexas Tech vs. California, 7 p.m. (ESPN)Saturday's GamesCotton BowlTexas A&M; vs. Tennessee, 10 a.m. (FOX)Rose BowlTexas vs. Michigan, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)Tuesday, Jan. 4Orange BowlSouthern Cal vs. Oklahoma, 7 p.m. (ABC)|