IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa senior linebacker Christian Kirksey answered question after question about his team’s motivation for next season, but the best answer rested at his feet.
It was a gray cap with an “Iowa Football” logo stitched in the center. The logo included these words: “Not Dead. Won’t Quit.”
“We had a bad season, but we’re still alive,” Kirksey said. “Iowa football never quits.”
The Hawkeyes take a six-game losing streak, and the sour taste of a 4-8 record, into the 2013 season after missing a bowl game for the first time since 2007.
The 2008 team rebounded with a 9-4 record, including a late-season upset of No. 3 Penn State, and won the Outback Bowl. That team holds a special place in the heart of coach Kirk Ferentz because of its off-season attitude and work ethic coming off a bowl-free season.
This team reminds Ferentz of that 2008 group. And he didn’t need to make a rah-rah speech for that happen.
“Guys right now are hungry, maybe a little bit embarrassed, and they feel like they have something to prove,” senior linebacker James Morris said. “That’s coming from everybody … the seniors probably leading the way in that regard. But it’s not like I’m going through the locker room trying to whip up morale, or motivation, or anything like that.”
“I think there were portions of the season that would fit that description,” Ferentz said. “The message there is I would hope that everybody feels like, ‘Hey, we’re capable of being better than what we showed at times last year.’ That’s the key now. To make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Ferentz got his team together shortly after a season-ending loss to Nebraska. The message was simple.
“You have two choices when you’re in that situation, and it’s like any time you experience disappointment,” Ferentz said. “You can get back to work and do something about it, or you can sit around and complain or make excuses. Our team this year, the first topic when we got done with our last ballgame was to focus on what we were going to do moving forward.”
You can do very little about injuries and bad bounces of the ball. You can do everything about correctable errors.
“We’ve tried to focus on the things we can do better,” Ferentz said. “And then to also try to make our guys understand that what was really important was the work we’re going to put in towards this year, because you don’t get last year back. Just like on Sunday, you don’t get Saturday back. It’s over when it’s over. You’ve got to move on.”
That’s what the program did in 2008 after coming off a 6-6 season in 2007 that ended with a 28-17 home loss to Western Michigan.
“In my opinion, we really nosedived in 2006,” Ferentz said. “That was a bad stretch from a coaching standpoint. We just didn’t play well the second half of 2006.”
The 2006 team lost six of its last seven games, including a 26-24 decision to Texas in the Alamo Bowl, to finish 6-7.
“In 2007 we did have a young team, a little bit like last year,” Ferentz said. “Young in a lot of areas, and we knew we were going to have some challenges that way. We had a lot of off-the-field issues going on, guys making dumb decisions. And then not going to a bowl and basically losing that opportunity on our home field in the last ballgame. That left a bad taste.”
Two players, Abe Satterfield and Cedric Everson, were charged with sexually assaulting a former female student-athlete at a university residence hall in October of 2007. Satterfield pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault in 2010. Everson was found guilty of the same charge in 2011.
But the 2008 team got traction again, and the 2009 team added to that momentum with an 11-2 season and an Orange Bowl victory over Georgia Tech. Like 2006, the 2011 season started with another slide. Iowa lost four of its last six games, including a 31-14 loss to Oklahoma in the Insight Bowl, and finished 7-6. A bowl-less 2012 followed.
“We didn’t go out there and have the season we wanted,” Kirksey said. “Nobody expected that to happen. That’s pretty much motivation itself. We don’t want to have a bad taste in our mouths anymore. We want to go out there and win games.”
Ferentz is energized by a coaching staff that has had six new additions over the past two seasons.
“There’s a newness, a freshness, if you will,” Ferentz said.
And he senses positive energy from his players as the 2013 season approaches.
“So far, so good,” Ferentz said.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football