Hawks hope to build on Alamo Bowl victory.
SAN ANTONIO - Iowa got everything it wanted from its trip to the Alamo Bowl.
The returning players should benefit from the additional practice time, the program received some national exposure and, best of all, everyone got a lift going into next year because the Hawkeyes won the game.
Iowa beat Texas Tech 19-16 last Saturday to finish 7-5.
"It feels real good going into next year," defensive back Bob Sanders said. "We've done some things this year and we plan to do more next year."
Iowa fashioned its first winning season since 1997 and got its first bowl victory since beating Texas Tech 27-0 in the 1996 Alamo Bowl. That's significant progress for a team that two years ago finished 1-10.
The challenge for coach Kirk Ferentz is to continue that progress next year. The Hawkeyes must replace key players in the defensive line and the offensive skill positions, but seven starters return on defense and key members of the offensive line will be back.
"I think the biggest thing I feel good about is we're building a foundation," Ferentz said. "The way we won the football game is based on our foundation.
"We're trying to be a tough, physical, hard-nosed team that plays hard for 60 minutes. I really think we took a major step in that direction."
Iowa clearly was the more physical team and it showed in the Hawkeyes' ability to control the clock, the best defense against Tech's pass-happy offense. The Hawkeyes rushed for 178 of their 339 total yards and had the ball for 35 of the game's 60 minutes.
Sophomore Aaron Greving, filling in for injured starter Ladell Betts, showed he can carry the load as the team's No. 1 ball carrier. Greving ran 25 times for a career-high 115 yards and scored Iowa's only touchdown on a 1-yard run.
"I hadn't done anything like that since high school," Greving said. "I didn't know what it was like to carry the load in a Division I game like this. It was a lot of fun."
Betts, a senior who had rushed for 1,056 yards this year, has been bothered by a hamstring injury and took himself out after playing half the first series.
The offensive line made it easy for Greving to step in and four of those starters could return if tackle David Porter is granted another season of eligibility. The Hawkeyes also have some promising young linemen, including freshmen Blake Larsen, Ben Cronin and Brian Ferentz, the coach's son. All were held out this season.
"They're coming along," senior defensive end Aaron Kampman said. "They've learned a lot over the course of the year. They've had to or they were going to get killed in practice.
"I don't know if they'll be ready next year or not, but some of those guys are going to be real rocks on the offensive line for a couple of years."
Another good sign for the Hawkeyes was their ability to finally win a close game, which also could pay dividends next season. Four of Iowa's losses were by six points or fewer.
"It just comes down to resolve and determination," Ferentz said. "Maybe this will help lift us to the level we want to be at."
Iowa won the game on Nate Kaeding's 47-yard field goal, his fourth of the game, with 44 seconds left. But victory wasn't assured until Sanders leaped in the end zone to intercept Kliff Kingsbury's desperation pass from midfield on the final play.
"When the ball was in the air," Iowa center Bruce Nelson said, "I was hoping the Lord was a Hawkeye fan."