TAMPA, Florida (Ticker) -- Iowa took another step forward in its resurgence under coach Kirk Ferentz.
Fred Russell rushed for 150 yards on 21 carries, including a back-breaking 34-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter, as the 12th-ranked Hawkeyes routed No. 17 Florida, 37-17, in the Outback Bowl.
Iowa (10-3) recorded its first January bowl win since 1959 and has posted back-to-back seasons with at least 10 wins under Ferentz. The Hawkeyes also won their first game in the state of Florida after going 0-5 in their previous visits.
"It was one more hurdle that we climbed. No one had a good taste in our mouth after last January and it stuck with us," said Ferentz, refering to Iowa's 38-17 setback to Southern California in the Orange Bowl.
The loss likely will put more heat on Florida coach Ron Zook, who completed his second straight 8-5 campaign after Steve Spurrier led the Gators to 12 straight double-figure win seasons. Florida fans likely will be clamoring for the return of Spurrier, who is out of a job after resigning his Washington Redskins' post earlier this week.
"I felt like we were prepared," Zook said. "We had great practices but we didn't play like we were prepared and that's my responsibility. I apologize to the Gator fans. My responsibility was to get this team ready to play and we weren't ready to play."
Russell's TD completed a dramatic turnaround that broke open the contest. Florida appeared to close within 27-17 on Dallas Baker's lunging 33-yard TD grab in the end zone. But the play was nullified due to offensive interference and the Gators were forced to punt. Russell's TD staked the Hawkeyes to a 34-10 cushion with 4:37 left in the third period.
"I think the coaches would get mad at me but I didn't really watch the films," Russell said. "The offensive line did a really good job opening up the holes."
Getting continued stellar play from its special teams, the Hawkeyes dominated after Chris Leak's 70-yard TD strike to Kelvin Kight gave the Gators a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Nate Kaeding, Iowa's all-time leading scorer, kicked three field goals and Matt Melloy recovered his own a blocked punt in the end zone to make it 27-7 just 54 seconds into the second half. It was Iowa's fifth blocked kick this season and the third for a touchdown.
"Things happened so fast," Melloy said. "I saw the ball laying there, so I just jumped on it. Early in the game, I was getting close (to a block) but I was missing it by a split second."
Nathan Chandler was steady, if not spectacular, in his final game for Iowa, completing 13-of-25 passes for 170 yards with no interceptions.
"Coach did a really good job calling the game plan," Chandler said. "It was huge for us to mix it up like that. I felt really confident, really calm. It's the most fun I've had all season."
After a solid freshman season, Leak struggled in his first bowl game, completing 22-of-41 passes for 268 yards.
"I could see some (Florida) guys start to give up a little bit," Russell said.