Iowa Football

Floyd of Rosedale, 1999 and now: The parallels for Minnesota and Iowa

'You've got to knock that sucker open'

The Floyd of Rosedale Trophy. (The Gazette)
The Floyd of Rosedale Trophy. (The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — In the postgame of Iowa’s 1999 loss to Minnesota at Kinnick Stadium, head coach Kirk Ferentz was asked about pets.

It was the end of a 1-10 run in his first season as Iowa’s head coach. Pets came up because of 1-10. At some point during the end of his moribund run as Green Bay Packers head coach, legend went that someone shot Dan Devine’s dog.

Ferentz had a head count of his cats.

”We have five cats,” he said. “One is missing in action right now.”

Tuesday, going into the No. 20 Hawkeyes (6-3, 3-3 Big Ten) against No. 8 Minnesota (9-0, 6-0), pets came up again.

“We don’t have a dog, so I can’t be accused of kicking the dog,” Ferentz said. “Haven’t ever done that. We do have a cat — that would be a really bad deal. I mean, I’m a little more mature.”

The question was about how Ferentz decompresses after a loss. After last week’s 24-22 defeat at Wisconsin, that’s three fictional — FICTIONAL — kicks at the dog or cat this season. Three losses by a total of 14 points to three ranked teams with two of those games on the road, yes, maybe a welfare check on the Ferentz cats is in order.

“Losing is losing, winning is winning, but if you can’t deal with both — I’m not saying accept both, but if you can’t deal with both, you really need to get out,” Ferentz said. “I have figured that out, at least, in my lifetime that all you can do it try to prepare your best, compete your best and then know you’re going to make mistakes. That’s just the way football is, and that’s the way everything is in life.”

There are parallels for Iowa and Minnesota to be had from the ’99 Floyd of Rosedale game. Let’s explore where this has been and where it might be going.

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By the way, this remains Minnesota’s last victory in Kinnick Stadium. Something to keep in mind Saturday.

The victory was the Gophers’ eighth in 1999, which clinched Minnesota’s best season in 32 years. Minnesota hasn’t been 10-0 since going 10-0-2 in 1900.

Glen Mason was Minnesota’s head coach at the time. Mason and Henry Williams (who did the thing in 1900) are the only coaches to lead Minnesota to 10 wins.

In his third year as Minnesota’s head coach, P.J. Fleck has quite a milestone on his plate Saturday. He also has a Ferentz-like contract after last week’s seven-year, $33 million contract announcement.

Fleck caught two passes for Northern Illinois when the Huskies visited Iowa City in 1999. The game ended up being Ferentz’s only victory in 1999. With the contract, Minnesota is shooting for the cultural sustainability that has embedded at Iowa and Wisconsin, something Ferentz has earned in his 21 years as Iowa’s head coach.

“Consistency. I think that’s the biggest word when you think of what he has done,” Fleck said. “He’s carried over the tradition from (20-year coach) Hayden Fry, put together an elite staff and has been consistent over a long period of time,” Fleck said. “ ... There’s been highs. There’s been lows. There’s been Rose Bowls. There’s been some OK years. But again, there’s consistency.”

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Mason saw something in the Hawkeyes that day.

Kinnick didn’t help that day, with just 55,386 in attendance. Who could blame fans? Minnesota was on the uptick and the Hawkeyes were 1-9.

Still, the game came down to the final play.

Linebacker Sean Hoffman tipped Scott Mullen’s bullet pass headed toward wide-open Ryan Barton. The pass fell incomplete with eight seconds left, squelching a 16-play, 75-yard drive that ended at Minnesota’s 3-yard line.

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Mason saw something. Maybe the future of this series, which Iowa has dominated during the Ferentz era (14-6).

“I think Kirk Ferentz is doing a great job, and I mean that,” Mason said. “He said all year his team was getting better, and they were. If you think it’s an easy task to get your team to stay in and play Game 11 when you haven’t had much success — that’s tough.

“He’s going to be a good coach in this league. I wish he wasn’t, but he’s going to be.”

Mason, who played at Ohio State, already knew Kinnick was a tough place to play. No, this isn’t an attempt at foreshadowing, but ...

“You ever been to Iowa?” Mason asked. “Iowa has great fan support. They had 19 losing seasons in a row (1962-80) and still about packed the house every week. I remember when I was at Ohio State as a player, and Iowa wasn’t very good. Coaches used to say, ‘We’re going to the snake pit, guys.’ That’s just a tough place to play.”

What Mason saw was “buy in” between players and a coach. In the postgame, former Hawkeye offensive lineman Jay Bickford articulated and punctuated that sentiment.

“This program is going to get where it wants to be because of coach Ferentz and because of people like (strength and conditioning coach Chris) Doyle,” Bickford said. “Coach Ferentz is, bar none, the best coach I’ve been around. I would take him over anyone I’ve heard about or anybody I’ve played for. Coach Ferentz is it. I don’t care what they say about Bobby Stoops. (Iowa fans expected Stoops to be the next Iowa head coach in ’99, but the then-Florida defensive coordinator took the Oklahoma job.)

“Last year at this time, the last month of the season, we had crappy practices it seemed like every single day. And coach Fry was a legend. This year, after losing more games than we did anytime under Fry, the past couple of weeks we’ve had some of the best practices I can remember in my five years here. That’s a tribute to Ferentz.”

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The Hawkeyes certainly aren’t where they were in 1999. Neither is Minnesota. This is a rare Floyd of Rosedale Game with heavy stakes. One of the programs is playing for the West Division title.

It’s not Iowa. One last thing Ferentz said that day absolutely translates to the now and maybe the later for the Hawkeyes.

”You’ve got to knock on the door and then you’ve got to knock the sucker open,” Ferentz said.

And 21 years later, that’s still true.

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

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