This unexpected trip to the woodshed for Michigan State is why you should always stay the course as long as Kirk Ferentz is coaching the Iowa football team.
You can question some of his decisions as was the case after last Saturday’s devastating loss to Wisconsin.
You can whine about some of the play calling being too conservative.
And you can demand more from his team because that’s you’re right as a fan.
But don’t assume that the situation is about to unravel because that’s when Ferentz and his cohorts will prove you wrong.
They proved everybody wrong Saturday because it’s hard to believe that even the most delusional Iowa fan would have predicted a 37-6 victory over the fifth-ranked team in the country.
Most of the fans I spoke to were worried that the 31-30 loss to Wisconsin would have a lingering effect.
“You worry about that all the time,” Ferentz said after Saturday’s victory, which made Iowa bowl eligible for the tenth consecutive season under his watch. “Just like next week I’ll be worried about us not looking backwards for a different reason.
“That’s every coach’s worry.”
Not every coach knows what buttons to push, though, whereas Ferentz seems to have a knack for it.
If you watched Ferentz speak to the media after a game, but couldn’t hear what he was saying, it’d be hard to tell if Iowa won or loss because his demeanor never changes.
“He is always a calm, cool and collected man,” said junior defensive tackle Mike Daniels, who led Iowa with two tackles for loss Saturday. “Coach Ferentz’s methods are just second to none.”
Ferentz would be the first to say that it also helps to have good veteran leadership because there is only so much a head coach can do. At some point the players have to take it upon themselves to right the ship.
“If I was going to cite one thing, our veteran leadership,” Ferentz said. “We have a great group of seniors.
“And you’ve got two ways to respond when you lose a game.”
It was apparent from the beginning of Saturday’s game how Iowa would respond.
The score was 17-0 after the first quarter, 30-0 at halftime and 37-0 midway through the third quarter.
Ferentz was asked after the game if he saw this coming.
“How could you?” Ferentz said. “Most of the games in this series have been extremely close. Certain things you certainly don’t foresee. I’m just glad it went our way today.”
So in just one week Iowa fans have gone from agonizing over a devastating loss to assessing their team’s chance of winning a Big Ten title and playing in the Rose Bowl.
But for Ferentz, all that matters is next Saturday’s game at Indiana. To borrow a line from former Iowa coach Hayden Fry, Ferentz is like an old mule with blinders on.
As for the Spartans, they had shown signs of vulnerability, including last Saturday when they escaped from Northwestern with a 35-27 victory. Michigan State also was fortunate to defeat a mediocre Notre Dame squad in overtime on Sept. 18 at home.
So maybe it was just a matter of time before the right team in the right place at the right time and with the right head coach got the better of the Spartans.
One thing that became evident right away Saturday is that Michigan State’s offensive line is not in the same class as Wisconsin’s beefy blocking crew.
As good as Michigan State’s running backs are, they still need room to roam and there was little to be found Saturday as evidenced by the Spartans being held to just 31 rushing yards.
The once-heralded Iowa defense needed to make a statement with the season on the line and did so in convincing fashion despite being short-handed at linebacker.
What happened Saturday is more impressive when you consider that Iowa started two freshmen at linebacker, including James Morris from Solon.
“I thought he really handled it well,” Ferentz said of Morris. “And the team responded to him.”
Michigan State, on the other hand, didn’t respond well to having senior cornerback Chris L/ Rucker back on the field. Rucker played in Saturday’s game despite having been released from jail barely 48 hours earlier.
If his teammates were looking for Rucker to provide an emotional lift, it didn’t happen.
The emotion was all on Iowa’s side from start to finish.
It took a group effort for that to happen, but it starts with the leader of the group.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football