Iowa Football

Iowa didn't have time for hypothetical, 'maybe, 'what if'

Kirk Ferentz goes for it now, and a lot of Friday was about cleaning up the mess when go for it goes splat

Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz runs off the field after the game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Friday, November 23, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette
Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz runs off the field after the game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Friday, November 23, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette

IOWA CITY — A couple of years ago, Iowa coaches said, yes, they do subscribe to an analytics service. Bottom line, it’s good to know the math behind the big, scary decisions.

Now, no one said who gets this info. And no one said they actually read it.

It was good to know the math on the fourth-and-2 at Nebraska’s 3 with 4:09 left in the third quarter of the Hawkeyes’ thrilling 31-28 victory over Nebraska on Friday at Kinnick Stadium.

On one hand, Iowa (8-4, 5-4 Big Ten) needed 2 yards for a first-and-goal at the Huskers’ 1 and just 3 yards for the TD. On the other hand, senior Miguel Recinos 99.9 percent of the time makes the 21-yard field goal that would’ve given the Hawkeyes a 31-13 lead late in the third quarter.

That would’ve given the Hawkeyes a three-score lead. The failed fake left the door open. The Huskers were on the front step, but didn’t make it into the foyer.

On the other hand, why clog your brain with a bunch of hypothetical, “maybe,” “what if” bullstuff?

“There are no guarantees in this game, ever, about anything,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “You’ve got to realize that. What do they say, no biscuit for risk it or no risk it, no biscuit.”

It’s probably the second one, but you got Ferentz’s drift. The Iowa staff pulled the cord on the fake field goal. It was Iowa’s third shot at a fake field goal this season (two out of three isn’t bad). The Huskers (4-8, 3-6) were ready.

“Maybe we got greedy, but we were playing to win,” Ferentz said.

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Some of you right now are crying. This is a near-religious moment. You finally have Kirk Ferentz taking big, crazy chances and then talking about it afterward with sort of a ...

“We came in thinking aggressive,” Ferentz said.

... Maybe swagger?

You know the risk-taking ramped up after the 2014 season, after Iowa went thud at 7-6 in the face of expectations coming off an 8-5 2013.

“Along the theme of the ’14 season, that kind of really caused us as a staff to really go back and talk about a lot of things,” Ferentz said. “We do every year. We really dug deep on that one.

“You look at the world a little differently. We still are who we are, the way we drove the ball, if I could play that way every series, I’d love it (referring to Iowa’s first three TD drives of 11, 13 and 15 plays). You also want to give your team every chance to be successful. We try to be smart about that.”

So, the parachute was a recliner on the fake field goal.

Punter Colten Rastetter was the holder. He did run the option at Clayton Ridge High School, but he was the pitch guy. Remember, Ferentz needs to see the special teams stunts several times in practice before he signs off. So, this was just Nebraska doing its homework.

Rastetter pitched to Hockenson and the Huskers were there.

“They read it well, they came across the ball and got some penetration,” Hockenson said. “I just caught the ball and looked and there were some people in my face.”

Of course, this stop fueled the Huskers. That made the rest of Friday’s game a study in cleaning up your own mess. Iowa did this by doubling down on “going for it.”

We’ve been over the fourth-and-8 at the Huskers’ 37. Credit the Iowa coach who noted Nebraska’s safeties played too deep. Iowa hit that play when it needed it, with QB Nate Stanley hitting Hockenson for a 10-yard gain in front of safety Antonio Reed. Nebraska head coach Scott Frost was all over that in his postgame.

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“We gave a little too much ground in one spot,” Frost said. “It was a great play by them.”

Recinos hit the 41-yarder as time expired. Iowa finally got to point No. 31.

Ferentz did think about the fake. But again, why clog your brain? (Easy for anyone but the decision-maker to say.)

“Fourth quarter, I thought about that a little bit,” Ferentz said. “Second guess? That really happens?”

And now the Hawkeyes will probably get to Holiday Bowl in San Diego, Calif., on New Year’s Eve. Probably.

The Holiday Bowl and Iowa talked last week. UI President Bruce Harreld and the Holiday Bowl rep at Friday’s game had a quick conversation in the postgame. The Holiday Bowl is extremely interested in the Hawkeyes, who haven’t been there since 1991.

It won’t be the Pinstripe Bowl in New York. It’ll at least be shorts weather.

“I have no idea,” Ferentz said on Iowa’s bowl outlook. “I know it will be warmer than last year. Make a prediction, go out on a limb.”

The swagger just kept flowing Friday night.

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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