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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.

66

Mitch King loved Laffy Taffy

Iowa 17, Iowa State 5 | Sept. 13, 2008

Iowa's Tyler Sash (9), Harold Dalton (2), and Mitch King (47) sing the Iowa fight song while holding the Cy-Hawk trophy following their 17-5 victory over Iowa State on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. (The Gazette)
Iowa's Tyler Sash (9), Harold Dalton (2), and Mitch King (47) sing the Iowa fight song while holding the Cy-Hawk trophy following their 17-5 victory over Iowa State on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. (The Gazette)
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Three cool things:

1. If you read or glance through the game story (please, tell me you’ve been doing that), you’ll catch on fairly quickly that Mitch King got down in his time at Iowa.

Is it “brash” or is it “plain talkin’”? I don’t know and I’m not parsing. I just loved the simple truths and honest, eyes-wide open moments from the Burlington native.

Having roomed with Burlington native Scott Dochterman for 10 years of Iowa football road trips at The Gazette, you Burlington people certainly have my attention. I’m from a weird Mississippi River town. You guys are from another planet.

2. WR Andy Brodell’s 81-yard punt return kind of brought the house down. It certainly gave Iowa breathing room in a game that began on the heels of a giant rainstorm the night before.

At the end of his run, Herky tackled Brodell. But it was OK. Herky got him at the 112-yard line or so.

Brodell froze the punter with a juke.

”As a returner, you don’t often get to the punter,” Brodell said. “When you do, you’ve got to make him miss.”

Herky got him. On the end line, doing what ISU couldn’t.

“I don’t think I’ve run 81 yards in a while, so I was pretty tired,” said Brodell, whose career long before this one was 78 yards in 2007 against Syracuse. “He knocked me down pretty good. He was the first one I saw in the end zone, so that was kind of interesting.”

3. The strife that this program found itself in during 2006 and a very ugly 2007 seemed to finally dissipate. (Quickly recapping, from April 2007 through summer 2008, 18 Iowa football players were either arrested for various crimes or cited for alcohol possession, the bulk coming before March 2008.)

That was part of the reason the players gave Kirk Ferentz the game ball after this one.

“It’s happened a couple of times and it’s very much appreciated,” Ferentz said. “I don’t know who was behind it. I had to make sure it wasn’t ticking and there was something in there for me.”

Iowa linebacker A.J. Edds said the seniors decided to give Ferentz the ball.

“(Center) Rob Bruggeman kind of presented it to him individually but it was the seniors kind of coming together,” Edds said. “Everything we’ve kind of been through as a team — not necessarily us per se — but the state of Iowa has been through a lot this offseason. With Coach, he’s been putting a lot of pressure on himself, not so much from anybody else, but Coach wanted to see things go well and get the trophy back here at home last week, and it was big for him.”

Quote: You know how Tennessee fans basically put a stop to the Greg Schiano hiring last year? You guys are allowed to express your feelings on whatever happens in any sort of fashion you want. I always find it a little surprising when Iowa players get booed at Kinnick. But, you know, it’s on them to win you back.

This was the one game where Jake Christensen relieved Ricky Stanzi. The next week at Pitt, this deal played out permanently and worked out the best it possibly could for all sides.

“It’s about time,” said Christensen when asked about the cheers he heard entering the game. “It feels good. I think the last time they cheered me was Northern Illinois my redshirt freshman year. It felt good. I don’t think we’ve had a better feeling since I’ve been here.”

Note: Shonn Greene went 55 carries in 2008 before he had an attempt that ended in negative yards.

Greene was great. So was that O-line.

Why No. 66? — Wow, I only have one more Iowa State game left. You know which one.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME

Game story from 2008

IOWA CITY — Mitch King arrived first to the party. He was 10 seconds early.

In life, 10 seconds early is right on time. In football, especially with the Cy-Hawk Trophy in reach, 10 seconds starts a civil war.

“I thought about taking it, but I thought I’d get mauled or get a penalty flag,” the Iowa defensive tackle said. “I figured I’d leave it alone.”

The Iowa Hawkeyes ran off the final 10 seconds and ran off with the Cy-Hawk, 17-5, before 70,585 fans Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.

Running back Shonn Greene rushed for 120 yards and a 5-yard touchdown and wide receiver Andy Brodell returned a punt 81 yards to help the Hawkeyes (3-0) break a 3-3 tie with 14 points in the fourth quarter. The Cyclones (2-1) held the ball for 20:11 in the second half, but the Hawkeyes held them to three points, a 43-yard Grant Mahoney field goal that tied the game 3-3 with 25 seconds left in the third quarter.

The home team has now won five straight in the series.

Iowa quarterback Jake Christensen tried to be the first one over to the ISU sideline for the Cy-Hawk grab. One problem.

“I couldn’t find it,” he said.

Booed loudly by fans last week, Christensen relieved starter Ricky Stanzi in the third quarter and led the Hawkeyes on a six-play, 65-yard touchdown drive. It was highlighted by an audible Christensen called on a 20-yard gain by Greene. Greene finished with a 5-yard TD, giving Iowa a 10-3 lead with 12:56 left in the fourth quarter.

Christensen bolted to the ISU sideline after taking a knee to run out the clock.

“It’s about time,” said Christensen when asked about the cheers he heard entering the game. “It feels good. I think the last time they cheered me was Northern Illinois my redshirt freshman year. It felt good. I don’t think we’ve had a better feeling since I’ve been here.”

Stanzi started and struggled, completing just 5 of 14 passes for 95 yards and two interceptions. His second pick got him pulled. He tried to force a ball to tight end Brandon Myers. Three ISU defenders could’ve picked it off. Linebacker Michael Bibbs called dibs.

Stanzi admitted nerves got the best of him.

“I was not ready to play today, I’ll be the first to admit that,” Stanzi said. “The first pass I threw over Brodell’s head. That’s not me. I could feel physically that I wasn’t settling down like I did last week. That’ll happen.”

On his first carry, Greene slipped for a 3-yard loss. He’s carried the ball 55 times for 359 yards this season and that was his first and only negative carry. He didn’t like it much.

“Yeah, first carry, but you’ve got to put that stuff behind you,” said Greene, who’s averaging 6.5 yards on 55 carries. “It’s a whole football game, which they found out.”

This was a jubilant Hawkeye. Last year at this time, Greene was hauling couches for McGregor’s Furniture in Iowa City. Saturday, he was hauling the Hawkeyes.

“Couches were the heaviest,” he said. “Maybe dressers.”

The Hawkeyes’ defense moved some couches and dressers and Cyclones, especially in the third quarter.

The Cyclones took the opening possession 12 plays and 60 yards to Iowa’s 20. There, strong safety Tyler Sash intercepted ISU quarterback Austen Arnaud but his momentum carried him out of bounds, putting Iowa at its 1. After a quick three-and-out, ISU had a first down at Iowa’s 26 when punter Ryan Donahue shanked a 25-yard punt.

Seven plays later, Mahoney pulled a 21-yard field goal off the left upright.

Three plays later, Stanzi threw his second pick, giving ISU a first down at Iowa’s 28. The Cyclones needed just 54 seconds to tie the game, 3-3, on Mahoney’s 43-yarder.

Mahoney, a Linn-Mar graduate, made one of four field goals, with misses from 38, 21 and 46.

Iowa State quarterbacks — Arnaud split time with Phillip Bates — threw for 252 yards, but the Hawkeyes picked them off three times. Iowa held ISU to 73 yards on 27 rushes.

“I felt in the third quarter we had the game where we wanted it,” Iowa State Coach Gene Chizik said. “In the fourth quarter, I thought we just let it slip away. That’s coaching and that starts with me.”

Ferentz said he went with Christensen late in the third quarter because “it just seemed like the thing to do at the time.”

“Nobody is down on Rick Stanzi. It was a tough circumstance,” Ferentz said. “I also think what we saw in the fourth quarter speaks volumes about Jake Christensen.”

Ferentz didn’t want to talk about who’d be the quarterback at Pittsburgh (1-1) next week.

Ferentz might’ve had laundry on his mind at this point. His white Iowa polo shirt had a few blood splotches on it, collateral damage from a robust celebration.

King came out of the mob looking like an extra from the movie “Braveheart.” On his way up the tunnel, he gently messed up a little kid’s hair, then slapped another fan on the shoulder as hard as he slapped any Cyclones.

And his helmet was gone.

“I gave it to the managers,” King said.

He might’ve been early to the party, but he partied responsibly.

Mitch King feature from 2008

Holding court

IOWA CITY — Yes, of course, one side of the coin is Shonn Greene and his 1,729 rushing yards and Doak Walker Award.

This is a talk with the other side of the 2008 Hawkeyes’ coin, defensive tackle Mitch King.

He’s a four-year starter at defensive tackle. Iowa’s records for tackles for loss and sacks don’t go beyond the leaders, but King is on those all-time lists with 55 career tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks. The 55 TFLs are second among active players.

King was named the Big Ten’s defensive lineman of the year. The fifth-year senior also earned second-team Associated Press All-American honors.

”A guy that’s as good a football player as we’ve had here is King,” Iowa’s venerable defensive coordinator Norm Parker said. “In terms of the National Football League coming in and looking at him and saying, ‘Wow, look at this guy,’ that’s not the case because he’s not 6-foot-5, 290 pounds and (doesn’t) run a 4.6. But he’s as good a football player as we’ve had, I think.

“He’s as good a college football player as we’ve had since we’ve been here on defense.”

Parker brushes more football out of his teeth than most people on the planet know. So yeah, that’s a big deal.

In a recent interview with The Gazette, King ran through topics ranging from family to the pregame end zone shout-fest he began with the entire team this season.

And no, he doesn’t know what he’s saying half the time during those things.

Iowa’s defense will say goodbye to a grand total of three seniors — King, tackle Matt Kroul and cornerback Bradley Fletcher. King found himself in a defensive huddle, meeting rooms and locker rooms with a young group that probably took a lot of their cues from the vocal senior.

“On the field, the guys would probably tell you I yell quite a bit and things like that,” he said. “But it was always trying to get everybody on the right page. But I feel playing with the younger guys, that helped me out a lot. They showed me it was still a game and that you’ve got to still love it and everything like that.

“That’s what helped me out the most this year, just seeing how much everybody still loved playing the game and how enthusiastic they were about going out there every day. That really helped me out all year long.”

Yes, you might’ve noticed. King plays the game with fire in his soul. If you followed Iowa football only on the radio, you’d feel it.

“I always try to play with enough passion not just for myself but for it to carry over to some other guys,” he said. “I do love the game. I love making plays. I love doing all the things that go along with big plays, but also just love the team camaraderie and just being a part of that all my life, it’s a good feeling that we ended so well.”

***

On the Kirk Ferentz show last season, the highlights rolled from Iowa’s loss at Wisconsin. A crowd shot focused on King’s dad, Lindsay. The intensity pouring out of the look on his face and body language could’ve melted steel.

Even though Lindsay and Tammy King divorced, Mitch says the entire family, including brother Vince and sisters Rachel, Emily and Reagan, remains close. Mitch is the baby of the bunch.

“That (the intensity) just doesn’t come from one side,” he said. “My mom is really an intense person. Loves coming to watch me play. I don’t think she’s ever missed a game. She’s there for me all the time. My dad, he’s always the first one to talk me down from a bad game and he always pumps me up after a good game. They’ve both been really supportive and that goes for my brother and sisters as well.”

***

The ownership King took in his senior year was apparent from Week 1. Before the Hawkeyes broke into their pregame stretch and workout against Maine on Aug. 30, King gathered the entire team in the south end zone and spit fire. Or spoke in tongues. Something like that. This went on the entire season and, barring laryngitis, will continue through the Outback Bowl.

“I wanted to be the guy to get everybody pumped up,” he said. “At that point and time, I’m usually pumped up and things. I just wanted to express how important each and every game was.

“A lot of it wasn’t chanting and me hurrahing. It was more just me talking and trying to get the guys focused and into understanding what the importance of the game was and what it meant to us as players and us as a program.”

It all looks pretty much 100 mph. What’s going through your mind?

“A lot of things I don’t ever really think about before they come out of my mouth,” he said. “That goes good and bad. Sometimes I don’t really express what I really want to, but the guys on the team understand that I’m pumped up. They understand the gist of it. I don’t really think about it much before it comes out.”

Probably something you can’t rehearse.

“Even if you do, it’s going to change on the whim,” he said. “It’s going to change when you do it. You’ve got to be in the moment.”

Can you remember anything specific?

“I don’t remember the game, but I was pretty much just stuttering,” he said. “Well, not really stuttering, but I’d say things backward and I’d miss words. I don’t remember the game, but it didn’t come out exactly the way I thought it would.”

Did anyone ask what you were trying to say?

“They all laughed and got excited and got amped up because I was so amped up.”

***

Defensive tackle Kroul, King’s running mate these four seasons, owns Iowa’s record for consecutive starts at 46. If it weren’t for a hamstring injury that cost him a couple starts his sophomore year, King would be right there, too. With 29 straight starts going into the Outback, King remembered the injury as a wake-up call.

“Before games, I stretched out, but during the week, during practice, I just stretched enough to get through it,” he said. “I really needed to take care of my flexibility and hamstrings and all that stuff. I bought some Culligan jugs and just drink water whenever I have the chance. I try to stay hydrated. We go through a lot and put our bodies through a lot. That’s something I didn’t do when I was younger. I took it for granted. I thought I was invincible and things like that. I didn’t take care of my body enough. That goes for eating and sleeping as well.”

Eating, is there anything you need to avoid?

“Not really. Eating is one thing I love to do. I probably shouldn’t eat as many Laffy Taffys as I do, but I love them.”

That’s the one striking thing about Iowa defensive linemen. The fitness they show any given Saturday is right there with Lance Armstrong.

“I’ve only missed one or two lifting sessions, but I’ve been able to make them up with coach (Chris) Doyle, sometimes doubling up in one day or coming back on a Saturday or doing something,” he said. “Aside from having a great strength coach, it’s got to come from your attitude. You’re only going to get as good as you want to.

“I’ve seen a lot of guys come through here and just go through the motions. They got stronger just doing the workouts, but they didn’t reach their potential. Some of those guys aren’t here anymore. It’s an attitude more than anything, especially when you’re going up against a bigger guy like offensive linemen are.”

So, is it a game-time intensity?

“It’s a different intensity,” he said. “You’re not screaming and hollering and running around. You’re focused on it. You try to get every ounce of productivity that you can.”

***

Back to leadership, is that a role you wanted? It’s not something you apply for, or do you have to earn it?

“I wanted it. I’ve started for four years,” he said. “I learned from really great players, (Chad) Greenway and (Abdul) Hodge, (Sean) Considine and all of those guys were great leaders. I always wanted to be in those shoes when I was their age or as soon as possible. People were looking for leaders. I just kind of fell into the role rather than me trying to do it.”

That’s a lot of eyes on you, both on and off the field.

“I’m not the perfect person. If you want to talk to someone like that, talk to Kroul. I’m not saying I’m a saint, but I keep my backyard clean for the most part. I have fun. I joke around about things. I know when to have fun, but that’s a small portion of our lives and we’ve learned to sacrifice it. I’ve been able to take that as it comes.”

There is an element of sacrifice to this. No one walks out there and does it. This is a yearlong deal.

“Sometimes when it’s hard with those December workouts, I wish I could go out and party and hang out and stay up until 3 or 4 in the morning and do what I want and eat what I want.” King said. “Being so close to home, all of my buddies who came up to school up here have lived that lifestyle.

“It’s tough seeing them have fun and live a normal college life, but at the same time, you’ve got to realize they’d die to be in your shoes. They’d die to run out in Kinnick in front of 70,000 on Saturdays. They’d trade with you in a heartbeat. It goes back and forth. I’m just lucky to be in the position I am with a family that’s helped me and supported me the whole time. I’ve changed from my first year to now. It’s been a huge jump from the kind of person I was back then. You’ve just got to learn and if you don’t, you wash out. I’ve seen it multiple, multiple times.”

***

Something clicked this year. Last season, the 6-6 record and no bowl, that was a low. Something went right this year. Can you compare and contrast?

“At that time, there was a lot of frustration,” King said. “I was one of them. We were a better team than the way we finished. We had a great defense last year, very comparable to this year. Last year, defensively we were on the field a lot. You get frustrated and things, but you just have to really buy into the system.

“You really have to trust your coaches. You have to trust that the guys around you are, sooner or later, going to buy into the system and be on the same page. That’s really what happened this year. A lot of guys sold out for one another and got on the same page.”

Is this a pinnacle or a starting point?

“Since I’ve been recruited, I’ve seen pinnacles in this program. You talk about the Robert Gallerys, the ‘02s, the Orange Bowl. There was a lot of success before I got here, so I wouldn’t call it a pinnacle by any means. But, I’ll tell you, I’ve talked to some of the seniors, we’re all really excited about coming back or watching on TV and watching the Hawkeyes. I’m really excited to see where it goes. We’re losing three guys on defense. It’s going to be a great defense next year. Our offense is going to be humming.

“It’s exciting. Everybody’s buying in. It’s been jump-started. I’m really excited for the next few years for Iowa.”

***

Last end zone pep talk — any thoughts?

“I haven’t even put thought to it. All my mind is on is winning a bowl game. I’ve never been personally a part of one. I was dressed for the Capital One Bowl, but I didn’t actually play. I lost the Outback Bowl. I lost the Alamo Bowl. They were all nail-biters and they sucked.

“I want to come out on top and win a bowl game. That’s all I’ve thought about so far. It’s so close yet so far away from a football guy’s standpoint. That’s the only thing on my mind right now.”