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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.


Kyle McCann was definitely standing at the end

Iowa 24, Penn State 18 | Sept. 29, 2001

Iowa quarterback Kyle McCann scrambles for the sideline just out of the reach of Penn State's Jimmy Kennedy on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2001 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. (The Gazette)
Iowa quarterback Kyle McCann scrambles for the sideline just out of the reach of Penn State's Jimmy Kennedy on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2001 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. (The Gazette)

Three cool things:

1. I’ve been a Kyle McCann apologist for a while now.

It wasn’t as easy as just putting Brad Banks in there in 2001. McCann played QB in game 1 of the Kirk Ferentz era. It was an awful beating at the hands of “Starter Jacket” Nebraska (you know, the ’90s, when Starter jackets were cool and Nebraska was a national power, it’s an old joke, where have you been?).

I remember writing that it was like “Whack-a-Mole.” I would’ve loved to get Ferentz’s candid final remark taking the field that day to the day this offensive line locked hands and jogged off the field together as seniors.

McCann had to walk through a lot of crap to get into mission control his senior season. The crap was real. You guys were impatient. The play wasn’t great. I don’t think anything was coming out the way anyone wanted it to come out at this point.

The rubble was still falling at some points in 2001. Or, I guess an optimist would say, the paint was still drying.

Remember when Ferentz got all “lecturey” when someone scoured the internet for the dumbest post ever about C.J. Beathard being a “game manager?”

“I want to say this in a respectful way,” Ferentz said. “Kyle’s attributes are more mental. It’s not the physical part of the game, although he’s playing really well physically right now.”

McCann dissected Penn State during the 24-18 victory, completing 16 of 25 for 225 yards and a touchdown.

“Anytime you have multiple guys, who can do things like we’ve been doing, it adds balance,” McCann said. “Everything works together, the schemes, the guys in the routes. There’s no one guy more important than the other.”

Well, except maybe McCann.

Ferentz admitted his first impression of McCann was less than impressive.

“I thought he was OK,” Ferentz said. “I don’t mean that in a smart alecky way. He didn’t just jump out at me.”

That was in 1999 when McCann was a redshirt sophomore. But at this point, McCann was in the fifth year of a five-year plan. And it showed.

”When you watch guys go from year 1 to year 4, or sometimes year 5, there’s so many changes. That’s one of the biggest lessons I learned in the ‘80s,” Ferentz said.

During his first stint at Iowa, Ferentz coached three offensive linemen who didn’t start until their fifth year but still ended up NFL draft picks. Ron Hallstrom was one, and he ended up a first-round pick in 1982.

“It starts with guys who have good work ethic, who are mentally tough and work at what’s important to them,” Ferentz said. “Those are things Kyle has. He’s had his opportunities and now he’s taking advantage.”

This was 2001 and Ferentz was stating the case for development within the program.

2. This was just three years in and you could argue there wasn’t a heck of a lot to be mad about in the first two years.

I guess this was one of the first times we noticed that, yeah, that Ferentz guy can get a little rambunctious when he needs to.

Now, here’s the argument that I’m not having, the passion argument. We used to have it quite a bit, does Ferentz have enough passion?

I guess if you’re around enough, you see it and you don’t question it. First, the entire notion is moronic. It’s football. There are no casual steps. These guys compete putting on deodorant.

Ferentz is a football coach. He cares deeply about the football product he puts on the field. That is him. And, now after 29 years, it’s Iowa, too.

I wish I had the video on this one. Must’ve been a doozy. I also had no idea how to cover a football game at this point. I’m sure that factored, too.

3. We have a little bit of an “in” for some Bob Sanders talk.

And this also is yet another reminder that this is a physical game played by people who want to play it.

Radio, car and football helmet. Benny Sapp had to remember the words “radio, car, football helmet” before Iowa trainers would allow him to continue his job on the football field.

Iowa’s sophomore cornerback timed a crushing tackle on Penn State fullback Sean McHugh in the third quarter of this one. The problem is that McHugh is a 257-pound SUV to Sapp’s 181-pound Porsche.

The SUV always wins.

“I got up, I looked, then everything went black. It was scary,” said Sapp, while cradling his son, Benny III, during postgame interviews. “The trainer came over and asked me to remember radio, car and football helmet.”

Sanders T-boned tailback Eric McCoo and sent McCoo’s helmet twirling 4 yards in the opposite direction. Middle linebacker R.J. Meyer left guard Greg Ransom helmetless after a scrum early in the second half.

“They’re fun to watch,” McCann said. “They come up and pop people and that’s fun to watch. I like seeing that as much as anybody else.”

Iowa’s first-team defense allowed its first points this season when Penn State’s Robbie Gould kicked a 37-yard field goal in the second quarter.

The Iowa film room certainly filled with hoots and hollers after this one.

“There should be a lot of giggling in there,” said Sanders, who might have had extra motivation. Coming out of Erie (Pa.) Cathedral Prep, Penn State ignored Sanders.

But Penn State wasn’t the only one. The only other offer the 5-foot-8 Sanders received was from Ohio University.

“I don’t want to say it’s a personal thing,” Sanders said. “They were at my school several times my senior year, but they were looking at other kids.

“I thought about it a little bit (this week). But it doesn’t matter. I’m here now. This is where I belong.”

After Sanders’ performance in this one — 10 tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack — here is what Penn State might have been asking itself:

Radio, car, Sanders.

Quote: “The coaches asked how hurt I was, I said I was fine. I said nothing serious. They trust my judgment. If I was seriously hurt, I’d take myself out.” — RB Ladell Betts (no, they don’t leave it up to the player anymore).

Note: Iowa had 10 penalties for 94 yards. Since 2008, Iowa has hit double digits in penalties just three times in games (Iowa State in 2017, Purdue in 2016 and Missouri State in 2013).

Why No. 49? — Do you remember this Penn State team? No, you don’t really.


Game story from 2001

IOWA CITY — His players noticed, the house noticed, and who knows, maybe the stone-faced ref whose ear he chewed noticed.

Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz lost it.

Big time and loud. Fists in air and foot a stomping.

“How could you not notice?,” senior receiver Kahlil Hill said.

Powered by the steam flowing out of their coach’s ears after a late hit call in the fourth quarter, the Iowa Hawkeyes out-jabbed, out-willed and out-footballed Penn State, 24-18, before 69,422 fans Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.

Leading 24-11 with a little less than seven minutes left, Iowa linebacker R.J. Meyer was called for a late-hit penalty on a punt. The linesman called the penalty from the opposite side of the field. He had to throw the flag twice before it entered Meyer’s zip code.

Ferentz called a timeout and did his mad dance. You know, the one we all pull out when we’re super-torked.

“That kind of sparked us. The crowd got into,” senior quarterback Kyle McCann said. “When you see coach like that, you know he means business.”

Iowa’s defense responded to Ferentz and the crowd with a Bob Sanders sack and a three-and-out.

You could say the Hawkeyes (3-0, 1-0 Big Ten) mean business. They’re 3-0 for the first time since 1997. They won their first Big Ten opener since ‘98.

You could say they’re legit. You could. They won’t.

As mad as Ferentz was at the officials — he’s promised a call to Dave Parry, the Big Ten director of officials, and an apology, if he’s wrong — he’ll likely be in full mad dance after breaking down Saturday’s film.

“We have a few things to clean up and address,” Ferentz said. “We didn’t play perfect football today. But we played a tough, inspired team and still won.”

Penn State (0-3, 0-2) might be tough and inspired. But the Nittany Lions, 0-3 for the first time since 1993, seem poised for unprecedented lows.

Three times Penn State forgot it is allowed to field 11 players. That’s as fundamental as it gets in football, in life, in kindergarten.

But for every Penn State gaffe, Iowa had one of its own.

The Hawkeyes had 10 penalties for 94 yards, many on special teams, which played more like “Blue Light” special teams Saturday.

The Hawkeyes grunted to rush for more than 100 yards against the Big Ten’s worst rushing defense. The defense allowed a monster 18-play, 90-yard touchdown drive against the Big Ten’s worst offense.

“It was ugly. There are a lot of things we need to work on,” said McCann, who completed 16 of 25 for 225 yards and a touchdown. “I don’t think after we look at the game film we’ll get too overzealous about what’s going on and what people are saying about us. By no means are we where we want to be.”

As sloppy as Iowa was at times, the Hawkeyes were gold when they needed to be.

Running back Ladell Betts gave the Hawkeyes a 14-3 lead on a 2-yard run with 6 minutes, 48 seconds left in the second quarter.

And after punter David Bradley fumbled a snap out of the end zone to let Penn State pull within 14-5, PSU safety Bruce Branch fumbled the ensuing kick, freshman walk-on Sean Considine recovered and the Hawkeyes took a 21-5 halftime lead on McCann’s 7-yard floater to Hill with 25 seconds left.

On pretty much one leg, Betts grinded out 33 carries for 95 yards and two touchdowns. He came into the game without a limp, but early in the second quarter, he tweaked his left knee and limped in and out of the game.

Betts is part mule, part armadillo. He’s durable, stubborn, impenetrable.

“Once I get the ball in my hands and the play goes, I don’t feel anything,” said Betts who angrily waved his sophomore replacement, Aaron Greving, out of the game just before his second-quarter TD. “I knew I could still play, even though I was limping. Nothing serious.

“The coaches asked how hurt I was, I said I was fine. I said nothing serious. They trust my judgment. If I was seriously hurt, I’d take myself out.”

Yeah, whatever.

Betts rushed for 31 yards on 11 carries in the fourth quarter, when everyone in a plain white helmet knew Iowa just wanted to run out the clock.

“Ladell knew he was going to get 11 helmets in his face,” Hill said. “He didn’t even blink.”

When Iowa couldn’t lean on Betts, there was Hill, who caught six passes for 83 yards and had 129 yards in returns, including a 76-yard kick return to open the game.

When Iowa couldn’t lean on Betts, there was tight end Dallas Clark, who caught seven passes for 116 yards. His most important catch came in the fourth quarter, when Penn State tried an onside kick after Omar Easy blocked a punt and Larry Johnson returned it 15 yards for a TD, pulling the Lions within 24-18 with 3:14 left in the game.

Clark outjumped a Penn State defender like he was going up for a rebound.

“You don’t get to practice that much,” Clark said. “They hit me pretty good, but it was in my arms.”

When Iowa couldn’t lean on Betts, there was a bone-crunching defense.

The Hawkeyes held Penn State to 33 rushing yards and 194 yards offense.

“Our trademark is being a physical defense,” said senior defensive end Aaron Kampman. “I think we did everything we could to keep that going today.”

When the Hawkeyes couldn’t lean on Betts, they pictured their mad-dancing Coach Ferentz, fists pumping, nostrils flared.

“That just shows how much he cares. He’s one of us,” Hill said. “When he’s fighting for us, it’s a camaraderie thing.”

It’s a mad dance thing.