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How Kirk Ferentz has led Hawkeyes to success in wild Michigan State series

[ 0 ] September 30, 2013 |

The first time a Kirk Ferentz-coached Iowa football faced Michigan State, things didn’t go well.

“I was surprised how easy it seemed,” Michigan State quarterback Bill Burke said after a 49-3 victory over the visiting Hawkeyes in 1999.

That Iowa team finished 1-10 in Ferentz’s rookie season. The Spartans threw six touchdown passes. Iowa had 7 rushing yards.

“They don’t have a lot of team speed, but they’re doing the best with the players they have,” then-Michigan State coach Nick Saban said.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz is 4-2 against current Michigan State adversary Mark Dantonio. (Iowa City Press-Citizen file photo)

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz is 4-2 against current Michigan State adversary Mark Dantonio. (Iowa City Press-Citizen file photo)

Ferentz faces Michigan State for the 13th time in his career Saturday at Kinnick Stadium, and the series has gone pretty well for him since being taken to the woodshed in 1999. Ferentz has won seven of the last 11 meetings, including a 4-2 mark against current Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio.

Ferentz has a 60-53 Big Ten record after Saturday’s 23-7 victory at Minnesota, his 10th against the Gophers. He’s defeated Penn State eight times and the Spartans and Indiana seven times.

The Hawkeyes, 4-1 overall, could take a huge step toward bowl eligibility in Saturday’s clash with the 3-1 Spartans. An eighth career victory over Michigan State would be a highlight on the Ferentz resume. Here are five to remember:

Oct. 7, 2000 in Iowa City: Hawkeyes 21, Michigan State 16

The 1999 loss in East Lansing started Iowa on a 13-game losing streak. It ended when the Hawkeyes rallied from a 16-7 deficit late in the third quarter to give Ferentz his first Big Ten triumph.

“It reminded me of the time I went to a Pearl Jam concert, getting trampled by the fans,” said linebacker LeVar Woods, now a member of Ferentz’s coaching staff. “It was great.”

Kahlil Hill started the comeback with a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. After Aaron Kampman blocked a 24-year field goal, Iowa took the lead on a 43-yard touchdown pass from Jon Beutjer to Kevin Kasper.

“We’ve had some tough losses, but the guys have shown resiliency,” said Ferentz, on the brink of tears. “That’s what makes it worthwhile.”

Oct. 27, 2007 in Iowa City: Hawkeyes 34, Michigan State 27 (2 OTs)

Iowa completed one first-half pass and trailed at halftime, 17-3.

“Albert said hop on his back … that he’d take us for a ride,” quarterback Jake Christensen said.

Albert Young ran for 143 of his 179 yards after halftime. Iowa took a 20-17 lead late in the fourth quarter, but Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer rallied his team down the field for a game-tying 29-yard field goal with :04 to play.

Iowa had to answer a Michigan State touchdown in the first overtime, then took the lead for good on a 1-yard run by Jevon Pugh to start the second overtime. Iowa’s defense held Michigan State on downs to win the game.

Oct. 24, 2009 in East Lansing: Hawkeyes 15, Michigan State 13 

The seventh-ranked Hawkeyes remained undefeated, thanks to a 7-yard touchdown pass from Ricky Stanzi to Marvin McNutt on the final play of the game.

“I caught it and told myself just to hold on to it,” McNutt said.

The victory gave Iowa an 8-0 record, the best start in school history.

“I can’t hardly remember how I celebrated,” Stanzi said after Iowa’s first victory in East Lansing since 1995. “I just remember freaking out and everyone jumping around.”

Oct. 30, 2010 in Iowa City: Hawkeyes 37, Michigan State 6

The Spartans entered the game undefeated and ranked fifth in the country. Iowa was coming off a gut-wrenching 31-30 home loss to Wisconsin, triggered by a successful fake punt.

But Iowa scored 17 first-quarter points, took a 30-0 halftime lead.

“I did not see this coming,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “Our guys prepared mentally and emotionally. But when things start to snowball on you, it’s hard to stop it.”

Oct. 13, 2012 in East Lansing: Iowa 19, Michigan State 16 (2 OTs)

James Vandenberg’s 35-yard pass to Keenan Davis on second-and-26 late in the game gave Iowa momentum for a game-tying drive that finished when Mark Weisman bulled his way into the end zone with :55 remaining in regulation.

Weisman, injured on the play, could only watch as both teams kicked field goals in the first overtime. Then, after Mike Meyer’s fourth field goal of the game in the second overtime, Iowa’s Greg Castillo intercepted Andrew Maxwell’s pass that was tipped by Louis Trinca-Pasat. Ferentz had his 100th win at Iowa.

“Whether it was the 100th win or the 10th, this was a game that I’ll remember for awhile,” Ferentz said.



Kirk Ferentz, in his 15th season at Iowa, is 60-53 in Big Ten play and 104-75 overall. Here’s who he’s been most successful against:

10 wins – Minnesota (10-5)
8 wins – Penn State (8-4)
7 wins – Michigan State (7-5)
7 wins – Indiana (7-5)
7 wins – Iowa State (7-8)
6 wins – Purdue (6-4)
6 wins – Wisconsin (6-6)
5 wins – Illinois (5-3)
5 wins – Michigan (5-5)

5 wins – Northwestern (5-7)


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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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