Middle linebacker Fred Barr was among the Hawkeyes who had questioned USC's toughness, saying the Trojans weren't accustomed to the weekly pounding that Iowa inflicted while posting an 8-0 record in the rugged Big Ten.
After the Trojans scored touchdowns on their first three second-half possessions and finished with a season-best 247 yards rushing, Barr could do little but retract his original assessment.
"They were a physical football team," Barr said. "I still feel we didn't come to play, but I've got to give them all the credit. They beat up on us tonight."
Iowa began the Orange Bowl ranked second in the nation in rushing defense, giving up an average of 68.2 yards per game. Barr said a near-seven-week layoff and the humid weather in Miami hurt the Hawkeyes.
"I was out there huffing and puffing," he said. "But everybody's got to suck it up. I don't feel like our guys were sucking it up."
Barr was left sucking the Pro Player Stadium turf after reserve running back Sunny Byrd ran over him on his way to a five-yard gain late in the game. Two plays later, Byrd ran six yards for a touchdown to give USC a 38-10 lead with 2:36 to play.
Iowa center Bruce Nelson didn't blame the long layoff between games for his team's ineffective play. The Hawkeyes' last regular-season game was Nov. 16 against Minnesota.
"We're not going to make excuses like that," said Nelson, a senior All-American. "That's part of the college season and you have to learn how to deal with it."
USC dominated time of possession in the second and third quarters, when it outscored Iowa, 17-0. Being on the field for lengthy periods of time eventually took a toll on the Hawkeye defense.
"I'd say we wore down a bit because they did have us out there a lot," defensive tackle Colin Cole said. "They were better than we expected. We didn't come out in the second half thinking they'd be as good as they were.
"It hurts, but you've got to swallow it and move on."
It didn't help the Hawkeyes that they were penalized a season-high 13 times for 85 yards. USC had six penalties for 45 yards.
"We made a lot of mistakes that we shouldn't have," Cole said. "We just weren't the Iowa Hawkeyes tonight. Too many penalties."
USC linebacker Melvin Simmons said the Trojans were offended by the comments of some Iowa players, who said they intended to injure quarterback Carson Palmer in order to take the Heisman Trophy winner out of the game.
"They underestimated us, and it showed tonight," said Simmons, who had three tackles and a pass breakup.
Palmer was sacked three times, but the Trojan offensive line did a good job of providing protection despite losing starting guard Eric Torres to a broken left ankle in the first quarter. Palmer picked apart the Hawkeye secondary, completing 21 of 31 passes for 303 yards and one touchdown, with no interceptions.
"Our motivation was enough to keep them away from Carson," said Norm Katnik, who played guard after Torres was injured. "We didn't come down here just to hang out in the sun on the beach."
If Iowa didn't know that before, it does now.