IOWA CITY — In the twilight of his long coaching career at the University of Iowa, Kirk Ferentz suddenly is mic dropping all over the place.
This is beyond New Kirk. It’s Soundbite Kirk.
Two weeks ago, Ferentz raised a few eyebrows when he called three straight timeouts to counter one Minnesota had taken in the waning seconds of a 35-0 game in an attempt to score against Iowa’s reserves. That’s when Ferentz popped the infamous quote about taking the Floyd of Rosedale trophy home and leaving the timeouts in the Twin Cities.
After Friday’s 26-20 win over Nebraska at Kinnick Stadium, Cornhuskers Coach Scott Frost essentially accused the Iowa sideline of intentionally clapping in order to confuse his center and force him to make premature shotgun snaps. The matter was brought to the attention of the officials at halftime, and Frost said the claps stopped in the second half.
Enter the notoriously normally reserved Ferentz.
“Please,” he began. “So the officials said something to me about it at halftime, and I was like ‘OK.’ So we told everybody on our sideline, the coaches ... Next thing you know, I have one of the (ears) to my headset off ... I see (a player) clap and say ‘Hey, let’s go guys.’ Then I caught myself doing it. Like ‘Hey, good job, let’s go.’
“What the hell are we talking about? It’s stupid, right? I have no idea.”
Thus began an all-time rant, one in which Ferentz simply couldn’t let the matter go, continuing to talk about it even when another question was asked by a reporter that supposedly changed the subject. To say he denied Frost’s claims is an understatement.
“So maybe they need to change their cadence if it was interfering with the cadence,” Ferentz said. “I have never heard of that. Never heard of it. Now if a player on the field was doing it, I get that. But what are we talking about? The next thing you know we’re going to be treating this like golf ... In golf, nobody’s allowed to say anything.
“We should just go home right now. What are we talking about? It’s football, it’s football. Were they OK with the way I dressed today? Should I be changing my pants or wearing a different shirt? I mean, what are we talking about?”
Boom. OK, so, yeah, these border rivalries get intense, huh?
Iowa (4-2) has beaten its neighbor to the west six consecutive years after grinding out this win, which didn’t come easily. Keith Duncan made four field goals, and Chauncey Golston sacked Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez near midfield, forcing a fumble fellow defensive lineman Zach VanValkenburg dove for and caught in the air with 1:18 left to put things to bed.
“I loved it,” said Iowa cornerback Matt Hankins. “I was on the other side (of the field), standing there and admiring everything that was going on there. Seeing my guys celebrate ... It was a beautiful sight.”
Duncan, by the way, is the dude who blew a kiss to the Nebraska sideline after his field goal with one second left won last year’s game in Lincoln. He said he was the recipient of some pregame chirping here as he and his fellow kickers warmed up with kicks on the Nebraska end of the field while the Huskers were warming up.
“It happened last year and this year. I don’t know, they like talking a little bit,” Duncan said. “I think they’re too worried about growing their mustaches than playing football. But that’s the difference between Iowa and Nebraska. We are focused on football, focused on playing the right way. We came out with the win.”
Point of reference here: Nebraska receiver Kade Warner (son of Cedar Rapids native and NFL Hall of Famer Kurt) grew a mean-looking, handlebar mustache this season and said this week that teammates were doing the same as a unity thing.
At any rate, Iowa stuck with the run game despite it being mostly ineffective for the first time in four games. Nebraska, which came in 13th in the Big Ten in rushing defense, stacked the box, essentially trying to make quarterback Spencer Petras beat it.
Tyler Goodson toughed his way to 111 yards on a career-high 30 carries for the Hawks. Iowa had just 35 yards rushing (to 139 passing) in the first half and finished with 129 on 45 attempts, a 2.9 per-carry average.
But it was enough.
“Coming into the game, we expected them to overflow, like they normally did,” Goodson said. “But, obviously, they watched film and studied us, made some great adjustments and started to play backside ... We had to come out of halftime with a different mindset. We just went in, made adjustments, got coaching from the coaches and put it down the field in the second half.”
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Nebraska (1-4) drove for a go-ahead touchdown to begin the second half, with Iowa immediately countering with a 14-play, six-minute drive capped by a Mekhi Sargent 2-yard score to tie it at 20. Duncan’s 48-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter gave Iowa the lead for good.
He added a 37-yarder later, a kick set up by Iowa’s Terry Roberts recovering a muffed punt at the Nebraska 38. Between the fumbled punt and the errant center snaps, it’s just what mediocre teams seem to do.
“It’s hard to win conference games, just in a nutshell,” said Ferentz, in a tamer moment. “If you can get a streak going, that’s great. But that wasn’t foremost in our thoughts today. We knew we had a big challenge on our hands. Just glad we were able to get the job done.”
Give the Hawkeyes a hand for gutting through. Pun intended.
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