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Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz has 143 wins under his belt at the University of Iowa, one away from the all-time record.

The Gazette will count down each win, as ranked by writer Marc Morehouse.


The Ball State suspension game, kind of Brady Hoke in a nutshell

No. 11 Iowa 56, Ball State 0 | Sept. 3, 2005

Iowa's Jovon Johnson (26) is led down the field by Marcus Paschal (25) and Adam Shada (19) as he returns a punt 90 yards for a touchdown during Iowa's 56-0 victory over Ball State in the season opener Saturday, Sept. 3, 2005 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. (The Gazette)
Iowa's Jovon Johnson (26) is led down the field by Marcus Paschal (25) and Adam Shada (19) as he returns a punt 90 yards for a touchdown during Iowa's 56-0 victory over Ball State in the season opener Saturday, Sept. 3, 2005 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. (The Gazette)

Three cool things:

1. This was the Ball State suspension game. Scene: Brady Hoke’s 2005 Ball State team learned like the week of the first game that 13 players would be suspended.

The 2005 season fits into the “weird” category in the Kirk Ferentz “game-li-ology.” Iowa put this out and then crashed hard the next week at Iowa State, falling 23-3. Iowa wasn’t outmanned at Ohio State, which should’ve been an NFL affiliate in 2005.

Iowa won three straight going into Michigan. That was an OT loss at Kinnick and Iowa’s season officially lost steam. That also was a game where Ferentz ripped me pretty good for questioning the passive (hey, in my opinion) play-calling at the end of the game. Back in those days, he remembered your name when he was pissed. (Hey, no skin. How it goes. Ferentz used to call the media a necessary evil. I just don’t want to be a caricature. I don’t have a lot to say on the “battles.” I’ve never looked at any of this as a battle. When I’ve need the cattle prod, I’ve gotten it out.)

Anyway, the 2005 season. Huge missed opportunity to sustain success. If that onside kick counts at the Outback Bowl, we’re not even having this convo.

2. Jovon Johnson had a punt return touchdown off a quick kick in this. Someone on Ball State called a quick kick with five O-linemen on the field. Johnson cashed it in. Brady Hoke defined. I’m sorry if that comes off as harsh, but what do you want me to say? So painfully outmanned in every step at Michigan. If you’re coaching a blue blood, it’s the Game of Thrones and you’re taking heads or dead. You know which one Hoke was.

3. Let’s blow out the No. 3 cool thing and focus on Jovon Johnson (feature story below).

Quote: Kinnick was a grass field in 2005. There’s another 2005 game that will punctuate that point.

“There were a lot of divots,” Tate said. “I don’t really know anything about it other than there were a lot of divots.”

Note: I can’t remember why this was a “record crowd 70,585,” but it said so in the story, so you know it’s true.

[Editor’s note: Our night sports editor Sam Paxton reminded me the south end zone was done for this game and wasn’t completely to capacity before this, including the press box.]

Why No. 109? — Ball State was babytown frolics.


Game story from 2005

IOWA CITY — Let’s face it. If this were a marathon, the Hawkeyes had a 25-mile lead going in. Then Friday night, Ball State lost its shoes.

And let’s face it, the 13 Ball State players suspended for Saturday’s season opener at Kinnick Stadium probably wouldn’t have mattered in the No. 11 Hawkeyes’ 56-0 romp.

A record crowd of 70,585 watched Jovon Johnson return a punt 90 yards for a touchdown when a punt return wasn’t even called. They watched five freshmen break the seal on their college careers. They watched the biggest blowout in Coach Kirk Ferentz’s seven-plus years at Iowa and the Hawkeyes’ first shutout since a 51-0 stroll against Kent State in the 2001 season opener.

They watched quarterback Drew Tate get a sunburn after taking his helmet off for good in the second quarter. Running back Marcus Schnoor also could have used some sun screen.

“Yeah, I got a little bit (of a sunburn),” Schnoor said. “I had a lot of time with my helmet off.”

It was open mic night in the huddle, with center Brian Ferentz leading the way with the jokes. The field crew replacing the numerous divots on the Kinnick turf broke more of a sweat than some of Iowa’s first-string defense. “There were a lot of divots,” Tate said. “I don’t really know anything about it other than there were a lot of divots.”

Ball State Coach Brady Hoke might have wanted to crawl under a divot when he learned Friday afternoon that 13 Cardinals players would be suspended Saturday because of a continuing NCAA investigation into improper use of a textbook loan program.

Forty-three Ball State athletes in six sports were suspended.

“It’s about this game today,” Hoke said. “I’m not going to talk about that (the investigation). It’s not my job.”

The Hawkeyes probably didn’t learn a whole lot about themselves. Iowa gained 241 yards on 47 carries, a 5.1-yard average. Freshman Shonn Greene led with 18 carries for 116 yards and a touchdown, the first freshman since Tony Stewart to rush for 100 yards in a game, according to Iowa sports information.

Sophomore Albert Young gained 61 yards on five carries. The Hawkeyes had five rushing TDs, half of the 10 they had last season.

Junior Sam Brownlee, last season’s fifth-string savior, scored the first two touchdowns of his career.

“Offensively, we’ve been really scattershot all through preseason camp,” Ferentz said. “This was one day where it looked like we were playing together. It’s something to start with at least.”

Tate completed 9 of 10 for 99 yards and two TDs before leaving with more than 10 minutes left in the second quarter. Tate’s incompletion was Iowa’s only one. Second-stringer Jason Manson completed 9 of 9 for 92 yards, and No. 3 Cy Phillips completed his only pass.

“It wasn’t `easy’ easy,” Tate said. “We stuck to our game plan. They didn’t quit. We did what we needed to do on offense.”

Iowa’s quarterbacks spread the ball to 10 receivers. Freshman tight end Tony Moeaki led with three catches for 28 yards. Sophomore Herb Grigsby’s first career catch was a 33-yard TD from Tate that gave Iowa a 35-0 lead early in the second quarter.

Senior wideout Clinton Solomon twisted his right knee on his first catch of the season but returned to catch a 7-yard TD from Tate. The Hawkeyes outgained Ball State, 441-144, scoring on six of their first seven possessions.

The one they didn’t score on — a Tate fumble — ended in Johnson’s 90-yard punt return, the fourth longest in Iowa history.

Ball State quarterback Joey Lynch tried a quick kick on fourth-and-13 from Iowa’s 39. In taking a 49-0 halftime lead, Iowa outgained Ball State, 302-22. The Cardinals didn’t cross the 50-yard line on their own until 6:40 was left in the third quarter.

And then they made it only to Iowa’s 41.

The punt bounced and Johnson snagged it. He spun and darted to his left. The Hawkeyes walled off the Cardinals (0-1) as if they’d called a punt return.

“Nothing was called, that’s just how it turned out,” linebacker Chad Greenway said. “It was tough on them. They had five O-linemen in there. O-linemen don’t cover too many punts.”

Iowa’s defensive line — the obvious question mark going into the season — picked up two of Iowa’s three sacks and had four tackles for loss and a forced fumble. But, really, all Iowa can take from Saturday is 1-0, no injuries and a little game film.

Ball State gave little or no insight into what to expect when the Hawkeyes travel to Iowa State next week. The Hawkeyes will have a lot more on their minds than sunburn and huddle humor.

“They don’t share the jokes with me,” Kirk Ferentz said. “There won’t be a lot of jokes next week, I know that.”

Feature from 2005

Here’s a post October 2005 about players and their numbers.

By the numbers

IOWA CITY — Jovon Johnson wanted No. 2.

That was his high school jersey number and it happens to be his birth date. Then he wanted No. 21, following in the footsteps of Deion Sanders, the patron saint of defensive backs.

He offered a trade with teammate Albert Young for 21. No deal. Johnson is stuck with No. 26, which is probably a good thing.

His vanity University of Iowa license plate “PABOY26” — the “PA” is for his home state Pennsylvania — wouldn’t make sense, otherwise.

“Sometimes guys feel like they want the numbers that they’ve worn. Sometimes, coaches make the mistake of promising guys numbers,” Johnson said. “A lot of things come into play, but a number doesn’t signify the player you are. We can play with any number. As long as we make plays, it doesn’t matter.”

Football is a numbers game. And in a sport with faces rarely seen behind helmets, jersey numbers become the defining characteristic for the fanatical masses. And, in turn, an identity for the players.

Young, a running back, has a necklace with a No. 21 pendant. Wideout Ed Hinkel has a herd of little cousins who sport his No. 11. Defensive end Bryan Mattison’s girlfriend wears a No. 99 jersey.

And you can’t go anywhere in Cedar Rapids/Iowa City without seeing quarterback Drew Tate’s No. 5 jersey.

“If I’m out with friends or out with my girlfriend or my family and you see a 5 jersey, it feels good,” Tate said. “I don’t know who wouldn’t want that. It feels good. But with that came a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication. And with it comes a lot of responsibility. Everyone focuses on you with your jersey out there.”

A jersey number carries a hint of superstition, players believe. One day, Hinkel forgot to turn in his No. 11 practice jersey and had to wear a No. 2. He didn’t feel like himself.

“Everybody on the field noticed. It was weird,” said Hinkel, who wore No. 11 while leading Erie (Pa.) Cathedral to a state championship in high school. “I felt like a different person wearing a different number. People definitely associate you with your number. You hear it on the field all the time. You hear a number before you hear the name.”

No. 3 had some negative karma associated with it for a couple of seasons. It’s the number troublesome defensive back Benny Sapp wore before he was dismissed in 2002.

“We thought there was a curse on No. 3 for a while here,” Hinkel said. “A couple guys who’ve worn it didn’t last very long here.”

Young got cold feet with No. 21. He suffered back-to-back season-ending injuries and thought about pitching it.

“It definitely crossed my mind,” Young said. “I wasn’t getting anything done in this number 21. It’s working good now. There’s no jinx to it.”

Iowa isn’t above promising a recruit a certain jersey number. Iowa told Young that No. 21 would be waiting for him.

But coaches would rather the player make the number than the number make the player.

“There are very few things I hate about my job, one of them is dishing out numbers in the spring,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I’m happy to say this year I heard less about numbers than any year since I’ve been here. That’s really good news. It’s a little bit of a pain.

“I think for the most part, guys understand that this is a new start. To me, everybody should be happy to have a number, that’s the most important thing.”

Tate didn’t make a specific request for No. 5, his high school number. It was there for him when he showed up the summer before his freshman season. He picked 5 because his brother, Lake, is five years older.

Linebacker Chad Greenway wore No. 8 as a high school quarterback. He picked 18 at Iowa because it was the closest to 8 and Iowa coaches didn’t know what position he’d play, linebacker or safety.

He likes the fact that he’s a linebacker who wears No. 18. Linebackers are usually in the 40s and 50s.

“It’s not like I’m number 50 like every other linebacker in the country,” Greenway said. “There aren’t too many linebackers who are number 18. It’s kind of cool.”

At first, Mattison didn’t want to have anything to do with No. 99.

“I always thought 99 was a cocky number. Kind of like 1 and 99, the first and last numbers,” Mattison said. “I wasn’t too pumped about it. But then I thought, I don’t care, it’s just a number. It doesn’t mean anything to me.

“I guess it will, and it does now because it’s my number and I’ve had it for three years.”

Linebacker Abdul Hodge was a linebacker from the day his high school coach handed him No. 52. When the Hawkeyes played LSU in last season’s Capital One Bowl in Orlando, a small army of Hodges made the trip from Fort Lauderdale. Most of them wore an Iowa 52 jersey, including Abdul’s brother, Elijah, now a Wisconsin linebacker and wearing No. 52.

“It’s just a number. If I had to switch, I’d switch,” Hodge said. “It’s not the number that’s so important, but it’s the person who’s wearing the jersey.”

Whether they’re aware of it or not, their number intertwines with their lives.

All Johnson’s email addresses end with 26. When Greenway thought about changing to a traditional linebacker’s number, his mom, Julie, put the kibosh on it. The family had too much money invested in No. 18 jerseys.

In high school, Tate had his ear pierced with a No. 5 earring.

“That was pretty stupid,” he said.

No Hawkeye has traded his ride or X Box or iPod for a jersey number, as far as Ferentz knows. Only at the NFL level do guys like Jeff Feagles actually profit from trading their number.

Feagles, a punter, sold No. 10 to Eli Manning for a family vacation. Then Plaxico Burress bought No. 17 from Feagles in exchange for a new kitchen in his home.

“College kids don’t have any money,” Ferentz said.

Johnson wanted No. 2, but former Iowa running back Fred Russell was in the process of making it his, with back-to-back seasons of 1,200 yards rushing in 2002-03.

Johnson wanted No. 21, but wasn’t about to pay for it. He got 26. He also got a license plate, email addresses and his own identity.

“They gave me 26 and I made the most of it,” he said.