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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.


Funny how Iowa's offseason isn't existential dread when the bowl game isn't a total disaster

Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa 27, Boston College 20 | Dec. 28, 2017

Iowa running back Akrum Wadley (25) raises the George M. Steinbrenner Championship Trophy with linebacker Kevin Ward (26), linebacker Josey Jewell (43) and offensive lineman Sean Welsh (79) after the Hawkeyes defeated Boston College, 27-20, in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in New York on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017. (Manish Gosalia/Freelance)
Iowa running back Akrum Wadley (25) raises the George M. Steinbrenner Championship Trophy with linebacker Kevin Ward (26), linebacker Josey Jewell (43) and offensive lineman Sean Welsh (79) after the Hawkeyes defeated Boston College, 27-20, in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in New York on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017. (Manish Gosalia/Freelance)

Three cool things:

1. In my head, I keep a catalog of what each player has done and, hopefully when I interview them, I keep the story straight.

So, when Nate Wieting caught his one pass ever, I knew it was his first ever catch. I knew it was maybe his second or third target. I knew he had injuries.

OK, I kind of knew he had injuries. Wieting wasn’t around a lot in the beginning of the season. Iowa doesn’t announce injuries to starters when it doesn’t have to, so I had no idea Wieting had three surgeries last season.

I know, the game is brutal and the idea of having three surgeries to make it back for one catch seems crazy. It takes wild-horse riders to play football. Injuries just aren’t easy. The rallying cry doesn’t get immediate results. It takes time and patience and when the clock is ticking on your college football career, you can hear the hands move.

I also know this was one catch by the blocking tight end and I know bigger, cooler things happened in this game, but I stayed with this because how can you not appreciate Nate Wieting’s fortitude?

Kirk Ferentz has wedged the word “fortitude” into my vocabulary. Hey, maybe he’s using “sweat sock sandwich.”

The Pinstripe Bowl was really the Resiliency Bowl.

Boston College went through injuries in 2017 that would ashen any head coach’s face. Senior center, two linebackers, starting quarterback and all-American defensive end missed multiple games in 2017.

You know the Iowa story a little better. The Hawkeyes lost senior offensive tackles Boone Myers and Ike Boettger really by Week 2. Safety Brandon Snyder suffered a torn ACL in April and October. Linebacker Josey Jewell missed a game, and so did junior center James Daniels. Safety Amani Hooker, whose two TD-saving tackles helped keep eight points off the board for the Eagles, missed three games after suffering a bruised knee against Ohio State.

This also is how Iowa’s 27-20 Pinstripe Bowl victory played out. The Hawkeyes were held to a field goal after reaching BC’s 6 on safety Jake Gervase’s interception during the game’s initial series. They fell behind 17-10 in the first half and allowed 281 yards, but, you know, Resiliency Bowl.

Iowa running back Akrum Wadley piled up 283 all-purpose yards and took home the MVP. That was for the Pinstripe, though.

Resiliency Bowl is going another direction.

Wieting came up with that huge catch in Iowa’s game-winning, fourth-quarter drive. The 17-yard gain ended with Wieting straddling out-of-bounds and the pylon. After review, the ruling was down inside the 1. Fullback Drake Kulick then pushed in for the winning points.

Quarterback Nate Stanley got a little help from the sideline and eventually saw Wieting on a crossing route.

“I didn’t see him right away,” Stanley said. “I actually heard everybody on the sideline yelling his name. That’s when I saw him and hit him.”

It was Wieting’s third career target. He had two targets as a redshirt freshman last season, including one in the Outback Bowl against Florida.

“That one went for a pick-six for Florida,” Wieting said. “This one turned out a lot better for us, and I’m happy that it did.”

So, finally, Wieting has as many career targets as surgeries. He fought through shoulder and knee injuries in 2016, but the following spring, he needed surgery on both. He also had foot surgery. Yes, three surgeries.

“I had a pretty rough spring,” he said.

Stanley had a class with Wieting that semester.

“He had his arm in a sling most of the time,” Stanley said. “He’s had a long road to come back and play. He did everything he could in the training room to rehab and just be ready to play for the season.”

Wieting obviously missed spring practice. He hit the reset button and was ready for fall camp until ...

“First week of fall camp, I dove for a ball and I landed on my shoulder in an awkward position,” Wieting said. “I ended up separating it. That probably took me out for a month or two.”

So, he hit the re-reset button.

Wieting gave Iowa medical and training staff a standing ovation. They’re all probably on a first-name basis.

“Coaches, trainers and everyone who worked with me made sure I was progressing well and feeling good with everything,” he said. “They didn’t put me in any situations where I felt like I couldn’t get the job done.”

That’s the story of one reception and everything that went into it. You never know, right?

“I’m proud of him,” Wadley said. “I know that reception, that touchdown ... well, close and feel like they, you know. I feel like that’s going to carry momentum into next year for him.”

Wieting couldn’t stifle his smile.

“For me personally, it’s an incredible experience,” he said. “That’s a lot to overcome.”

No one will debate that with the Resiliency Bowl MVP.

2. I expect a big year out of Anthony Nelson. He’s such a different-looking defensive end at 6-7, 270-ish. If he gets his telephone pole arms into an O-lineman, the race is over and the OL is probably helping the QB up.

You know this was Yankee Stadium. And you know by now that I’m not disciplined enough to pass up using a baseball metaphor to write about a football game.

The Pinstripe Bowl was tied. It was the bottom of the ninth, two outs, two strikes and do or let the other team drive for a potential game-winning field goal. OK, so the baseball doesn’t hold up very well here, but Nelson did.

The Iowa sophomore sacked Boston College quarterback Darius Wade on a third-and-8 from the 50-yard line with 4:22 left.

You have to allow some giddiness here. Nelson was just kind of hanging out with safety Jake Gervase in the postgame.

You guys really needed that play.

“Yeah,” Nelson said.

“It was huge,” Gervase said.

“Lucky, but we’ll take it,” Nelson said with a laugh.

Just like almost everyone who stepped foot on the Yankee Stadium turf, Nelson said he was slipping and losing his balance when he slapped the ball out of Wade’s hands. Junior Parker Hesse, in at tackle for the third-down rush package, scooped up the fumble.

It set up fullback Drake Kulick’s go-ahead TD. The Hawkeyes scored 10 points off three BC turnovers.

“I kind of slid when I was coming in to hit him,” Nelson said. “I was just trying to keep my balance and I didn’t really realize the ball was out right away. Then, I saw it on the ground and Parker on top of it.”

Nelson called his play “lucky.”

“That was big time,” linebacker Josey Jewell said. “He’s done that a couple of times in his career so far and he’s pretty young still. It was cool to have him do that.”

It basically was a defensive end touchdown. It also was right on time and kind of out of nowhere.

“I didn’t start that series in, but I was telling the other D-linemen, Anthony is about due for a big play right now,” Hesse said. “Usually, this time in the fourth quarter is when he catches fire. We needed a big play and he hadn’t had one so far in the game.

“I was saying that and sure enough, we brought the sub package in on third down. I saw the ball at my feet and I knew he came up with the play when we needed it.”

Nelson now has 13.5 sacks in his first two seasons. He also led the Hawkeyes the last two years in QB hurries and hits.

There’s always chaos after the strip/sack. That’s mostly born out of simply finding the ball. Nelson didn’t spend a lot of time on that. There’s also the inevitable review.

Nelson actually had a plan for that.

“I didn’t really know, I was kind of hoping,” Nelson said. “I tried to sell it, I guess ... Once I saw Parker on it, I thought, ‘All right, well, I’m going to sell it. I don’t really know what happened, but we’ll go with it.’”

He’s 6-7, 270-ish and can think on his feet.

3. You guys, remind me to write a really good Amani Hooker piece this year. I want to get that in before it’s too late. (Sigh, I’m sorry, James Daniels, I really thought there would be one more year.)

Iowa would’ve lost by one without Hooker.

With 3:58 left in the second quarter, Boston College running back A.J. Dillon broke loose for a 66-yard gain. Hooker, who was initially blocked on the play, caught Dillon from behind at Iowa’s 21. The Hawkeyes defense held BC to a field goal.

With 10:26 left in the fourth quarter, Boston College tight end Tommy Sweeney caught a short pass and broke open. Sweeney kept his eyes to the inside of the field. He never saw Hooker coming.

“I thought he was in the end zone on that last one, but he got caught there at the end,” Boston College head coach Steve Addazio said.

The 6-foot, 210-pound junior safety dropped Sweeney for a 48-yard gain to Iowa’s 7. Again, the Iowa defense held BC to a field goal.

“Coach Parker (Phil Parker, defensive coordinator) always stresses hustle plays,” Hooker said. “I just tried to make one and I got him down both times. I just tried to do my part the best I can.”

That’s eight points in a game decided by seven. And obviously it showed Iowa has something to work with in Hooker.

“Very good athlete, has very good skill,” Parker said last October. “He has the ability to move and run, and he has a great feel for the ball, where it’s at, obviously, and obviously last week’s game, understanding how to get underneath that route and picked that interception off.”

“Last week’s game,” by the way, in this context was Iowa’s 55-24 victory over Ohio State. On the first play of the game, Hooker picked off OSU quarterback J.T. Barrett and returned it 30 yards for a TD.

Hooker finished that game, but suffered a bruised knee and missed the final three games of the regular season. Just when he finally hit ...

“It hurt, but I didn’t want to rush it and hurt it even more,” said Hooker, who finished 2017 with two interceptions and 56 tackles, including 12 in the Pinstripe. “We took time with it and got back for the bowl game and that was my goal.”

Quote: Speaking of stories I didn’t get to the way I like ...

“It was a nice Christmas gift, I guess. It landed right in my hands, easy pick.” — CB Josh Jackson

Note: Iowa snapped its five-bowl losing streak. That horrible Outback Bowl punched a hole in me. You guys were grouchy all winter. It was quiet enough for some decent ice fishing last winter.

Why No. 40? — This is too high. I totally cop to that.

The Yankees left us hanging. The midnight shuttle never showed, so stranded in the Bronx and waiting for an Uber with a security guy hanging in the back.

I really didn’t give a rip about the Yankees before this. Now I do. Die a painful death every season, Yankees.


Game story from 2017

NEW YORK — The only thing that saved the Hawkeyes from being buried in the first half was the frozen turf. Boston College couldn’t quite sink the shovel deep enough.

It got dark and cold fast at Yankee Stadium. That happens when you have 56 total yards and the other team has 281.

Still, Iowa is OK fighting from its back, like a totally confident MMA fighter.

So, running with that metaphor, Anthony Nelson’s strip/sack was the arm-triangle choke and Akrum Wadley’s overall yard-eating effort was the ninja choke, and in the end, the fight official held Iowa’s arm up in the air.

On the power of 200 yards of offense — OK, relative power — the Hawkeyes (8-5) ended their five-game losing streak in bowls with Saturday night’s 27-20 victory over Boston College (7-6) in the Pinstripe Bowl before 37,667 fans.

Fullback Drake Kulick turned Nelson’s sack and Parker Hesse’s fumble recovery into the game-winner when he crashed in from the 1-yard line with 3:09 left in the game.

Fittingly, in maybe one of the most Kirk Ferentz games ever, the Iowa head coach tied his predecessor Hayden Fry for career victories at Iowa with his 143rd.

“I was never a very good player, but one thing I have a lot of experience at is getting my ass kicked, so I’ve been through that several times professionally,” Ferentz said. “What you learn is you just go back and go back to work. Whether it’s a game we lost or whatever, you’ve got to turn the page and focus on what’s in front of you, and I think that’s what our team did at halftime.”

Wadley piled up 283 all-purpose yards, including 171 in kick returns, and took home the game MVP honors.

If you’re an Iowa person, this game was kind of gross until 4:22 left in the fourth quarter.

One minute, Boston College has a third down at the 50 with the game tied 20-20 and then Nelson’s sack, a 27-yard Wadley run to the BC 18, a 17-yard pass to tight end Nate Wieting for his first career reception and then Kulick gave Iowa the lead on a fullback dive.

Yes, Wadley could’ve gotten his number called and tied Iowa’s career touchdown record. He didn’t seem to give a rip.

“As long as we got the touchdown, that’s the most important thing,” said Wadley, who put on a show for his 43 family members who made it to Yankee Stadium from his hometown of Newark, N.J.

After allowing those 281 yards in the first half, Iowa held the Eagles to 102 for the rest of the game. Iowa rushed for 101 yards and passed for 99. Iowa averaged 32.6 yards a punt and the quarterback did a quick kick from BC’s 37.

Most Kirk Ferentz game maybe ever.

“We had the ball. We had a chance to get right back in it, but clearly we had to change our tempo and demeanor a little bit, and I think our guys just made up their minds to do that,” Ferentz said.

“That’s the good thing about sports, about life. As long as you’re alive, you get to fight another day.”

The decision to move Wadley to kick returns was spurred by an injury to wideout Ihmir Smith-Marsette. Wadley’s 171 kick-return yards ended up being an Iowa bowl record. The 283 yards were a career-high.

By the way, Wadley hadn’t returned a kick since week 2 at Iowa State and had just 100 return yards going into the game.

“I wasn’t in the special teams meeting and they sent someone to the locker room to find me,” Wadley said. “They said, ‘Hey, (special teams coach LeVar) Woods wants to talk to you, you’re up.”

From Nelson’s sack to Wadley’s 27-yard run to Kulick’s touchdown ... what prominent Hawkeye hasn’t been mentioned yet? Oh yeah, cornerback Josh Jackson picked off his eighth pass of the season, tying Iowa’s season record and taking the national lead in interceptions, giving Iowa the ball with 1:18 left.

Just like that, the “group jumping up and down,” stage, trophies, confetti cannon for the Hawkeyes, something the program hadn’t experienced since a 2010 Insight Bowl victory over Missouri.

“It was a nice Christmas gift, I guess,” Jackson said. “It landed right in my hands, easy pick.”

That was the only thing that was easy about this.