ORLANDO, Jan. 1 -- Time ran out on the Nick Saban era at Louisiana State, leaving the Iowa Hawkeyes not a second to spare.
Drew Tate threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to Warren Holloway on the final play Saturday, a miracle ending that denied Saban a triumphant sendoff to the NFL. Instead No. 11 Iowa stunned No. 12 LSU, 30-25, in the Capital One Bowl.
Iowa defensive back Sean Considine celebrates in the end zone after returning a blocked punt for a touchdown.
(Phelan Ebenhack - AP)
"You always dislike losing a game, especially losing a game like this," said Saban, who will become the Miami Dolphins' coach next week.
Making the finish all the more improbable: Fifth-year senior Holloway scored the first touchdown of his career.
"It really hasn't hit me yet," he said. "Maybe in a month or so."
His score capped a wild fourth quarter and spoiled a comeback by the Tigers, who overcame a 12-point deficit with 8 1/2 minutes left.
Freshman JaMarcus Russell came off the bench to spark LSU's rally, throwing two touchdown passes to Skyler Green. When they connected for a three-yard score, the Tigers led 25-24 with 46 seconds to go.
After Tate completed two passes, a penalty pushed Iowa back to its 44 with 14 seconds left. Tate wound up and threw long to Holloway, who was open because of busted coverage. He caught the ball in stride at the 10 and dashed to the end zone as time expired.
"I though I overthrew him," Tate said. "Once Warren caught it, he wasn't going down."
"The last 14 or 20 seconds of this game somewhat tarnish the things that this team has accomplished in its four years," Saban said. "I only feel badly that I could not do more to help the players play better. . . . Mental errors are a terrible way to lose, because that means the other guy didn't really physically beat you. You really beat yourself."
While Saban heads for the NFL, Iowa fans are glad Coach Kirk Ferentz has turned down overtures from the pros. The Hawkeyes (10-2) won their eighth game in a row to reach double digits in victories for the third consecutive year under Ferentz.
"I don't know if you could write a better script," Ferentz said. "Nobody would believe it if you did."
Aside from the fourth-quarter rally, LSU (9-3) struggled on offense and looked sloppy on special teams playing one week after Saban announced his resignation. He finished 48-16 in five years with the Tigers, leading them to a bowl game every season and to the BCS national championship in 2003.
"This has probably been the best experience I've ever had as a coach -- the five years I spent at LSU," he said.