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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 B.J. Lowery interception game

Iowa 27, Iowa State 21 | Sept. 14, 2013

Iowa defensive back B.J. Lowery intercepts a pass intended for Iowa State wide receiver Jarvis West in the fourth quarter at Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013, in Ames. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Iowa defensive back B.J. Lowery intercepts a pass intended for Iowa State wide receiver Jarvis West in the fourth quarter at Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013, in Ames. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Three cool things:

1. OK everyone, this was a deadline game. I want to say it was a 5:30 p.m. kickoff. I don’t like to parade around my problems (why would you care?), but deadline is a challenge and that is most certainly why I didn’t make a bigger deal out of B.J. Lowery’s interception.

I think I got back to it and did it justice, but while writing this one, the clock was ticking and the way Iowa won this game was obvious. It played very physical football and won both sides of the line of scrimmage. By a lot.

Still, that Lowery play. You can see it in your head plain as day.

Lowery was a cool character. (See feature story below)

2. I’ve mentioned that “Pick ’Ems” thing we do in the paper. I got the score right on this one. I thought I was so cool, I tweeted about it shortly after the game.
Big mistake. Iowa State fans were still a bit raw.

Heard from a guy. Basically, he said, “Good job on the random guess, moron.” Well, he is right. I’ll say this, though, it is an educated guess.

3. Iowa rushed 60 times in this game and threw just 23. Kirk Ferentz talks about balance, but I think if he could win every game this way, he would. It’s just the pure physical grind. Iowa can play that and, maybe more importantly, sustain that.

Do you want to know how a 17-minute deficit in time of possession looks? The circle graph is two-thirds Iowa colors. The fact that Iowa State made this a game late was impressive.

Quote: Before Josey Jewell taught us the quiet humor of the Decorah region, OT Brett Van Sloten was clearing the path. Here he is talking trophy run (hey, it’s been 20 years, I don’t have any more moves).

“Scherff is faster than I am, so he beat me. I was top 20, but I knew I wasn’t going to be the first one with the guys I was running with.”

Note: When Iowa rushed 40 or more times in games last season it was 4-0. In 2016, it was 5-2 (Northwestern and Florida). In 2015, the number was 9-0. In 2014, it was 4-2.

So, 22-4 is a good record. The 40-rush-attempt number isn’t a perfect show of success, but that’s not bad.

Why No. 80? — The ground and pound is what Iowa wants to get the game to, but it can be kind of dull. Admit it, you kept this on the TV because you wanted to see the trophy run.


Game story from 2013

AMES — This was an offensive lineman’s game. From the 15-play drive that was a field-long headlock to the run for the Cy-Hawk Trophy, Iowa’s offensive line dominated.

The Hawkeyes (2-1) rushed 60 times for 218 yards and enjoyed the mad dash to the Cy-Hawk Trophy, fending off a late Iowa State (0-2) charge, 27-21, before 56,800 fans Saturday night at Jack Trice Stadium.

Running back Mark Weisman rushed 35 times for 145 yards and quarterback Jake Rudock threw two TD passes to help the Hawkeyes snap a two-game losing streak in the intrastate series.

Offensive tackle Brandon Scherff won the race to the Cy-Hawk Trophy. Scherff and tackle Brett Van Sloten somehow sent wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley the wrong way and made it an O-line celebration.

Kind of like the game.

“Scherff is faster than I am, so he beat me,” Van Sloten said. “I was top 20, but I knew I wasn’t going to be the first one with the guys I was running with.”

This was an O-lineman’s game from beginning to end for the Hawkeyes.

Iowa’s scoring could’ve been timed by the movement of glaciers. The Hawkeyes put together a pair of 15-play touchdown drives and added 10- and nine-play drives for points.

The quintessential drive came at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

Iowa held a comfortable 20-7 lead after trading big-play TDs with Iowa State. It was still a game with Iowa holding a 13-point lead and having given up one broken play for a 67-yard TD.

Iowa had first down at its 23 and just threw the game into headlock mode.

Running with two tight ends and a fullback, Iowa chugged down the field. It was inside and outside zone runs and pure power football. Iowa ran that heavy formation in 13 of a 15-play scoring drive and capped it off with Rudock’s 1-yard sneak to make the score 27-7.

“That was the flow of the game,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It wasn’t like a master plan or anything like that, it was just the flow of the game. It was working a little bit, so we wanted to stay with it.”

And stayed and stayed and stayed.

The 60 rushing attempts tied for the most in a game under Ferentz. Iowa ran 83 offensive plays for 378 yards. The Hawkeyes have taken 80-plus snaps in all three games this year, the first time they’ve done that under Ferentz.

The 13 runs in the fourth-quarter TD drive, which ate a monster 7:38 off the clock, even impressed Weisman.

“That’s awesome,” said Weisman, who’s rushed for more than 100 yards in all three games and now has seven for his career. “It’s physical play. We came into this game and wanted to run the ball. I think we did it pretty well.”

Iowa enjoyed a 38:03 to 21:57 advantage in time of possession, including 10:24 to 4:36 in the fourth quarter.

“You just feel comfortable with the O-line,” Rudock said.

Down 13-0 in the third quarter, the Cyclones buzzed Iowa with a 2:32 drive that quarterback Sam Richardson finished with a 26-yard TD to wide receiver Quenton Bundrage. Bundrage slipped through cornerback B.J. Lowery’s grip for a 67-yard TD to pull ISU within 13-7 with 5:28 left in the quarter.

Lowery wiped the slate clean after the Cyclones recovered an onside kick after pulling within 27-14. On second-and-10 from Iowa’s 46, Lowery leapt and made a one-handed interception on a pass intended for Jarvis West. That gave Iowa a first down with 4:13 left.

“That’s the life of a cornerback,” Lowery said with a laugh.

Iowa was held to a three-and-out. Iowa State had first down at ISU’s 41 with 3:46 left. Richardson hooked up with Bundrage again with 2:36 left in the game to make the score 27-21.

“A loss is loss, first and foremost,” Iowa State safety Jacques Washington said. “But we did fight back and at the end of the game ... we just ran out of time.”

B.J. Lowery feature from 2013

Long road

MINNEAPOLIS — It was a Dairy Queen on the way from Cincinnati to Akron. The long trip to the college football camp required sustenance.

Chris Sorrentino remembered turning around and seeing B.J. Lowery juggle four somethings that sat on the counter. He didn’t remember what they were. Lowery picked them up and juggled. Nothing to it. No big deal.

“I turned around and asked, ‘Is there anything you don’t know how to do?’” said Sorrentino, a teacher and assistant athletics director at Cincinnati’s Hughes High School. “He just said, ‘What, I just know how to juggle.’ I asked, ‘How do you know how to juggle?’

“That’s kind of how everything he did went.”

Sorrentino took a personal day from Hughes to drive Lowery north to the Akron football camp. He took another personal day to accompany a nervous Lowery on a recruiting visit to Iowa City in 2010.

“It was the first time he had ever been on an airplane,” Sorrentino said.

Before Lowery’s first camp his freshman year at Iowa, Sorrentino drove him from Cincinnati to Iowa City. Every day after practice at Hughes, Sorrentino would drive Lowery home to North College Hill, on the west side of Cincinnati, and then turn around and drive to his own home on the east side, going an hour out of his way.

Lowery, a senior cornerback for the Hawkeyes, never asked. Sorrentino wanted to do it.

“It’s his attitude, it’s his humility,” said Sorrentino, who’s been assistant athletics director at Hughes for seven years. “He never complained about anything. He always worked hard. He was always willing to help out. As an athletics director, I work events. We’d be at a volleyball game and I would need someone to do something, go get hot dogs, something like that. Without hesitation, it didn’t matter what it was, he did it.

“I’ve never heard the kid complain in the seven, eight years I’ve known him.”

Hughes High School is in the heart of downtown Cincinnati. The school lists 77.2 percent of its students as “economically disadvantaged” and doesn’t offer busing, so 100 percent of the student population depends on city buses (so, with sports on an evening schedule at times, athletic directors often find themselves driving student-athletes home).

The ABC show “Boy Meets World” used Hughes for the show’s exterior shots. It’s a public high school in the downtown of a metropolitan city, so not everything is sitcom material.

“We have students and athletes who come from complete dysfunction,” Sorrentino said.

Sorrentino quickly added that wasn’t the case for Lowery. He lived with his grandparents and seven sisters. His dad, Fernando Wright, watched nearly every athletics event Lowery participated in at Hughes. (Lowery’s real name is Fernando. No one calls him that. His dad’s nickname is “Boots” and so B.J. is “Boots Junior.”)

“His father is a wonderful person and was our biggest sports fan for four years straight,” Sorrentino said. “He was a big part of our community and was always there for B.J.”

Lowery, third oldest in his family of seven sisters and zero brothers, is a man of few words. On the topic of Cincinnati — a place he loves — “It’s a good place to be. Everybody has their struggles, that’s really all I can say.”

From the minute she met Lowery as a freshman, Hughes athletics director Jolinda Miller, a former University of Cincinnati basketball standout, was struck by his manners, personality and drive.

“He was just this scrawny kid,” Miller said. “He just had this smile about him. His smile would light up a room. He was so respectful. That’s what drew me to him. He was always, ‘Yes, ma’am,’ ‘No, ma’am.’ He was just a good kid to be around. He never bragged, never boisterous. He was just a great kid.

“I’ve always said, I have a daughter and I wish she was old enough to marry him. I would make that happen, for sure.”

Miller and Sorrentino were emotional recalling the B.J. Lowery days at Hughes. They had a front-row seat for an athlete who, as a junior, helped the Big Red defeat Western Hills.

Hughes is a Division III school in the Cincinnati Metro Athletic Conference. It was late in the year and Hughes had endured huge attrition (quitting and eligibility issues), but beat Hills, a Division I school, with 15 players.

They saw Lowery become a pretty good baseball player, good enough to consider it in college. He played point guard on the basketball team. He ran track his senior year and became the first athlete to be first-team all-league in four sports.

“How he did it was legendary,” Miller said. “They had to win the 4-by-400 on the last race of the night. It was pouring down rain and he came off the turn trailing this Withrow (University High School) kid, and Withrow is a state powerhouse. He’s 20 yards behind the kid off the turn.

“I was right there at the turn and I remember yelling at him, ‘Do you want to be a legend? Do you want to be a legend?’ I was just screaming and the next thing I know he’s 20 yards ahead of the Withrow kid. It was just incredible.

“There are a million B.J. stories we can tell and I’m sure the kids at Hughes get sick of hearing them, but I can’t impress upon them enough that you can be successful and be a nice kid and be respectful and get good grades and do things the right way.

“That’s why we always reference B.J. whenever we can.”

How Lowery ended up at Iowa, which has had exactly one player from Cincinnati in Kirk Ferentz’s 15 seasons, also is rooted in the community. Iowa defensive backs coach Phil Parker knew former Withrow coach Doc Gamble. Hughes and Withrow are in the Metro Athletic Conference.

“This was a big deal,” Sorrentino said. “We don’t have many, or really any, Division I coaches in our halls.”

Lowery, who has three interceptions this season, including the two he returned for TDs last week, made the leap to starting cornerback for the Hawkeyes last season. This spring, he beamed in on his job. Ferentz said he was one of Iowa’s most improved players.

Sometime after his strong spring on the field, Lowery found time to get back home. It worked out that he made it for Hughes’ spring awards ceremony and cookout. All the spring sports were represented, from junior high baseball to softball to track. Miller and Sorrentino worked the grill.

As you can imagine, it was overwhelming.

“I was like, ‘Hey, will you help us?’” Miller asked Lowery. “’Sure, what can I do?’ ‘Umm, can you help me serve the baked beans?’ The next thing I know, the kid is putting on gloves and serving the younger kids. There was nothing glamorous about that. He didn’t bat an eye. It was, ‘What do you want me to do?’ That’s just always how he’s been, ‘What do you want me to do?’

“It’s all worked.”

Lowery is the first FBS football player to come out of Hughes. A fact he carries close to his heart.

“Whatever I do out here, I always think about back home,” Lowery said. “I always get in touch with my athletic directors back there. Whatever’s new with them, they tell me and I tell them. We still have a good communication going on right now.”

If you listen closely, you hear Lowery’s voice grab with emotion. For a second, he’s the scrawny freshman who needs a ride home and knows he has one.