Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Iowa's Ferentz back on top after bowl win

January, 6, 2010

By Adam Rittenberg

Kirk Ferentz did something totally out of character with a three-point lead and about seven minutes left in the FedEx Orange Bowl.

He called for a fake field goal, which failed miserably and gave Georgia Tech's offense new life with 6:45 left.

Then, a few minutes later, Ferentz did something totally in character. He celebrated a huge win for his Iowa program.

As he stood on the victory podium, Ferentz probably wasn't thinking about April 2008. Back then, Iowa was coming off of three mediocre seasons. The team had more player arrests and legal issues than wins and All-Big Ten selections. Many felt Ferentz's time in Iowa City was running out. In scrambling to find a Big Ten coach on the hot seat, several media members, including yours truly, picked Ferentz.

Just look at him now.

Iowa has gone 20-6 the last two seasons with wins in the Outback Bowl and the Orange Bowl. Player conduct has improved significantly, and the team will enter next fall with Big Ten title aspirations as it competes with Ohio State and Wisconsin for the crown.

Ferentz probably had a better team at Iowa in 2002, but no Hawkeyes squad better reflected what he stood for than the 2009 version. They played hard, played together and played with no ego. They were solid in their fundamentals and rarely lost focus, even after falling behind in eight of their first nine games. They overcame numerous injuries and a schedule that did them no favors. They prepared extremely hard, never more so than for a tricky opponent in Georgia Tech.

The formula led to a BCS bowl win.

There's not a major-conference coach who gets more out of his talent than Ferentz does at Iowa. That's why he's always on the NFL radar. But he's not going anywhere. As the Big Ten's second-longest tenured coach, it's not in his character to leave a good thing.

In just a year and a half Ferentz not only stabilized the Iowa program, but took it back to the top.

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