This Hawkeye headline was written with a pair of items in mind.
First, the understanding that there’s still work to be done at Minnesota and versus Nebraska to turn this Iowa season into what most would view as a success: a Big Ten West title and return trip to Indianapolis.
Secondly, and this part is important, Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz isn’t due an apology from fans that expressed outrage earlier this season when the Hawkeyes fell at Ohio State resoundingly, 54-10. That frustration all made sense. It was the boiling over of the Hawkeyes’ then-current state of affairs.
Iowa had the nation’s dead last total offense, the Hawkeyes had lost three straight and it was reasonable for fans to believe that it wasn’t about to change overnight.
Ferentz then compounded the situation by getting into a public back-and-forth with Cleveland.com reporter Doug Lesmerises after Doug asked pointed questions about Kirk’s son and Iowa offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Brian Ferentz.
Frankly, Kirk was onto something about the tone in which the questions were presented and I’ll never have a problem with coaches or players firing back at reporters within reason, but it just wasn’t a good look given where the Hawkeyes were at. And Kirk was due some appropriate blame for Iowa’s continued offensive failures.
Following that beatdown from the Buckeyes, Ferentz preached optimism that his group could turn it around.
“Well, that part’s easy. Yeah, I not only think it’s possible, I believe it is possible and I believe it’s going to happen, but it’s up to us to make it happen. So, yeah, absolutely, no doubt, I believe it’s possible and that’s our job, that’s our goal.
“That’s what you try to do any time you compete is get yourself in a position where you can go out and be successful. We weren’t able to do it today, but, we’re going to keep pushing hard and again we’ve got quality people. That’s a big part of it, big component of this whole thing,” Ferentz said at the time.
The next week ahead of Iowa’s date against Northwestern, Kirk said he hoped Iowa’s urgency wouldn’t change heading into the game against the Wildcats and beyond. He wanted the team’s approach to remain the same. Trust that the process was correct.
“I hope not. I hope everyone has a sense of urgency, purpose, whatever. I prefer to call it purpose. That’s something that we try to encourage all of our players to have each and every time we’re practicing, whether it’s a light workout or a heavy workday like today. If you’re going to get something accomplished, you better have something on your mind you’re trying to get done.
“So I don’t think it changes. I hope it doesn’t change. And just to tell you this, one thing that doesn’t change, too. Losing. Losing doesn’t feel good. It affects you. There’s nothing good about it. I can say the converse about winning. Everything is pretty good when you’re winning. Hopefully our guys, hopefully everybody involved in this organization is tired of losing. It’s just not fun,” Ferentz said.
Now, after three straight wins, Kirk’s due his appropriate praise. This was discussed as one of the Wisconsin game’s big takeaways, but it merited a longer look here. On multiple fronts, Kirk was right about Iowa (6-4, 4-3 Big Ten).
He was right to believe that his group would turn it around, right to believe that the Hawkeyes had the approach correct and it appears he was right about starting personnel, too.
Though we’ve still only seen a glimpse of Alex Padilla under center and it came against the Buckeyes in less-than-ideal first rep circumstances, it’s hard to argue that Ferentz didn’t have the right man starting all along. Spencer Petras delivered his two best performances against Northwestern and Purdue, completing 34-of-53 passes for 412 yards and three touchdowns.
For the first time all year, there were signs of offensive life. A tweak with Connor Colby’s position helped the offensive line look vastly improved in each of those two games, though it definitely took a step back in the other direction this week against Wisconsin.
Now, things are rolling along so great, Iowa went ahead and won a game where it averaged just 2.14 yards per play on the backs of its defense and special teams. That isn’t sustainable, but the Hawkeyes don’t have to care how they got into the win column again until this coming Saturday against the Gophers.
Ferentz was under siege earlier this season from his own fan base, from the local media and from national voices for obvious reasons. In a year where the Hawkeyes’ 24-year head coach certainly heard the criticism on himself, his staff and his team’s performance, it can’t be ignored what this team is doing right now. He and his team have answered the call.
With some exceptions to the rule, head coaches are judged based on the bottom line: wins and losses. Right now, Ferentz has Iowa’s arrow pointed squarely up. All of a sudden, the Hawkeyes can dream about that successful season and a return trip to Indianapolis. Credit to Kirk for getting this team back on the right track.
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