IOWA CITY - For once, Iowa found itself rooting against a fellow Big Ten school.
About 25 Iowa football players gathered in the cramped training room to watch Penn State lose to Virginia on Saturday and fall out of bowl contention.
Several hours later, those players were celebrating Iowa's invitation to the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio on Dec. 29, a spot that would have been Penn State's if the Nittany Lions had won.
"We were cheering against Penn State," defensive back Benny Sapp said. "It was an exception. That was something that we needed and we got it."
The Alamo Bowl had the first pick of the three remaining Big Ten teams that were bowl eligible, Iowa, Purdue and Michigan State, and took the Hawkeyes.
Purdue lost to Notre Dame on Saturday to fall to 6-5 and that also might have helped Iowa's cause. Purdue accepted a bid to the Sun Bowl.
"It was like we beat two teams and we didn't even break a sweat," wide receiver C.J. Jones said.
Athletic director Bob Bowlsby noted, "This might have been the most successful Saturday we've had without playing a game."
Derrick Fox, the Alamo Bowl's executive director, called Bowlsby on his cell phone Saturday night to extend the invitation. Bowlsby took the call while watching Iowa's basketball game with Southern Methodist.
The bid was announced to the crowd of 15,500 a few minutes later and prompted a standing ovation. Football coach Kirk Ferentz, sitting courtside with eight recruits, stood and clapped along with the fans.
"It was fantastic," Ferentz said. "The fact we had some recruits here doesn't hurt."
Ferentz has been saying he felt his team deserved a bowl bid, but admitted he wasn't sure if the Hawkeyes would get one after they lost to Iowa State 17-14 in the season finale.
"After a loss, you always think the worst about everything," Ferentz said. "Just losing the game hurt. This certainly helps take the sting out of it."