Iowa Football

Kirk Ferentz Era: Many wins, memories, Outback Bowls

Some of Ferentz's 143 triumphs still burn brightly

Iowa placekicker Daniel Murray (1) celebrates after making a 31-yard field goal to give Iowa the lead in the closing seconds of its 24-23 win over third-ranked Penn State at Kinnick Stadium on Nov. 8, 2008. (The Gazette)
Iowa placekicker Daniel Murray (1) celebrates after making a 31-yard field goal to give Iowa the lead in the closing seconds of its 24-23 win over third-ranked Penn State at Kinnick Stadium on Nov. 8, 2008. (The Gazette)

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” said an English cleric named Charles Caleb Colton.

To which playwright Oscar Wilde added decades later, “that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”

Well, I’m proving Wilde correct as I piggyback on the #KF143 series Gazette colleague Marc Morehouse has presented this summer, but without his intensive work, detail, or ability to recall things.

I’ve covered all but four or five of Kirk Ferentz’s 240 games as Iowa’s head coach, and would swear under oath I don’t remember any involving Ball State, Illinois State, Missouri State or Maine. You’ll have to tell me about the Hawkeyes’ 42-0 conquest of Florida International 10 years ago that I attended. On second thought, don’t.

Before Kirk Ferentz gets Win No. 144 to become outright No. 1 at Iowa in that category, here are my top recollections from each of Ferentz’s first 19 seasons:

1999: I learned there aren’t many ways to say “lost by four touchdowns.” That happened five times in Ferentz’s 1-10 first season as Iowa’s coach. But the season-ending 25-21 home loss to 17th-ranked Minnesota showed the light wasn’t totally out.

After that game, senior offensive lineman Jay Bickford said “If I had the money, I’d buy 10 years of season tickets. … This team’s going to turn it around.”

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Today, Dr. Jay Bickford is an associate professor at Eastern Illinois University.

2000: Iowa went 3-9, but scored a 26-23 late-season, double-overtime win at Penn State. I could be mistaken, but I think the next day’s headline in the sports section of State College newspaper Centre Daily Times was simply “Iowa?”

2001: Iowa beating Texas Tech in the Alamo Bowl was rather significant given where the Hawkeyes had been the previous few years. But what I won’t forget was the Iowa-Iowa State game being played on Nov. 24 because it was postponed from its scheduled Sept. 15 date due to the Sept. 11 attacks.

2002: So, so much. The Dallas Clark 95-yard touchdown play that beat Purdue. The 42-35 overtime win at Penn State. The 34-9 rout of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The uprooting of Minnesota’s goal posts at the Metrodome. A perfect Big Ten record, with the last six wins by 16 points or more. Brad Banks.

2003: A top-10 finish, the second of what would be three straight. There’s your Golden Era of the last 30 years, Hawkeye fans.

2004: Capital One Bowl, Drew Tate-to-Warren Holloway. It’s called “The Catch” in these parts. Nick Saban, on his way from LSU to the Miami Dolphins, left with a loss. He is 1-3 against Iowa as a head coach, by the way.

2005: The Hawkeyes finished the season with a game against Florida in the Outback Bowl for the second time in three years. It seems like Ferentz’s teams have been to the Tampa game about 22 times (five, actually).

2006: Iowa went 6-7 and lost its last three regular-season games. But when it was expected to roll over to Texas and quarterback Colt McCoy in the Alamo Bowl, it instead took an early 14-3 lead in Texan Tate’s last college game, and put up a great fight before losing, 26-24. At the time, it was the most-watched bowl in ESPN’s history. That was before ESPN was airing almost every bowl in existence.

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2007: Needing a home win over Western Michigan in the season finale for a winning season, the Hawkeyes lost to the Broncos in Kinnick Stadium, 28-19. Bowl eligible at 6-6? Yes. Bowl game? Mercifully, no.

2008: Penn State came to Kinnick 9-0 and ranked third. After Daniel Murray’s walk-off field goal on a frigid day, the Nittany Lions were 9-1. Joe Paterno, who coached the game from the press box because of a sore leg and hip, looked really old as he headed to the press box elevator after the game.

2009: Defensive coordinator Norm Parker was energized at a Fort Lauderdale press conference two days before the Orange Bowl. He used condiment bottles, soda cans, and other garbage-to-be in diagramming some of what his unit was facing against Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense. His defense held Tech to 155 yards and one score in the Hawkeyes’ 24-14 win in Miami.

Norm was cool.

2010: Iowa was ranked ninth in the coaches’ preseason Top 25. The Gazette put out a preseason magazine about Hawkeyes football called “If the Stars Align.” They didn’t.

2011: This was a 7-6 season with a 44-41 triple-overtime loss at Iowa State. Six years later in the same stadium, Iowa beat the Cyclones 44-41 in single overtime. The odds of two teams playing 44-41 overtime games against each other twice in the same decade is, I believe, 44,410-to-1.

2012: Iowa went 4-8. The sky above Kinnick staggered that November, but somehow didn’t fall.

2013: It was an 8-5 season (there have been four in the last eight years), but a better 8-5 than most because it featured late-November wins over Michigan and Nebraska.

2014: The offseason toxicity after a Black Friday overtime giveaway loss to Nebraska at Kinnick and an awful display against Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl has never been rivaled in, I daresay, Iowa football history.

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2015: The previous season’s stench vanished and a chocolate shop emerged. What a sweet season, with 12 straight wins. Then came the grunt-and-groan classic of a Big Ten title game, lost in the last 30 seconds to Michigan State with the bitterest of disappointments but no shame whatsoever. I’ll gloss over the Rose Bowl. Although, a retrospective of the Stanford band’s halftime performance would be — nah, let’s move on.

2016: In kind of a hangover of a season, tripping up Michigan (then 9-0) in Kinnick with a 33-yard Keith Duncan field goal as time expired in prime time was one of the most-joyous moments in stadium history.

2017: Four words: The Ohio State game. Just the other day, I saw a woman in a supermarket wearing a T-shirt with the score of the game on it. It was 55-24, for the four of you who have forgotten.

l Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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