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Wine Online: Kirk, Hawkeyes Have Penn State Thinking
No huddle? Maybe. Blitzes? Maybe. Plain vanilla? Probably.
Attention to detail and fundamentals and execution has been a pretty good approach for the Iowa Hawkeyes and their head coach Kirk Ferentz.
Attention to detail and fundamentals and execution has been a pretty good approach for the Iowa Hawkeyes and their head coach Kirk Ferentz.
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Oct. 2, 2011

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Kirk Ferentz was talking to members of the news media the other day, telling them his Iowa coaching staff had some good discussions during bye week and decided to go 50 percent blitz on defense and 100 percent no-huddle on offense.


The reporters, more or less in unison, went, "Ha, ha, ha! You're kidding - right, coach?"

Yes, the Iowa coach was having a little fun with the press, and the reaction was not unexpected. Ferentz is aware he has developed a reputation as a conservative coach in his 12-plus seasons as boss of the Hawkeyes.

His teams have relied more on execution than trickery; more on fundamentals than pizazz. If that's plain vanilla, let's have another serving. In the past 10 years Kirk's teams have won 80 games, the most wins in any decade in Iowa history. Throw in a couple of Big Ten championships and a 6-3 record in bowl games and you've got a resume a lot of coaches would love to have.

Still, some fans like to see their coach be daring and unpredictable, especially when it works -- maybe only when it works. So when Ferentz unveiled a hurry-up, no-huddle offense that overcame a 21-point deficit to beat Pittsburgh, it created a real buzz in Hawkeye Land.

Don't fall in love with the no-huddle, Kirk warned after Iowa's biggest come-from-behind victory in school history, suggesting we wouldn't be seeing much of it the rest of the season.

Turned out the coach was only blowing smoke. The next game against Louisiana-Monroe, Iowa used the no-huddle on the first play, and the second, and the third. It worked so well that's about all we saw as the Hawkeyes raced away to a 28-3 halftime lead.

In his post-game press conference, Ferentz said he used the no-huddle to please the fans and the media, a comment that not surprisingly drew laughter. Never mind the fact it helped produce a decisive 45-17 victory.

In that same game, Kirk went for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal (it worked) and a first down on fourth-and-one at midfield (also successful). Is it possible we're seeing cracks in Kirk's conservatism? Or maybe he is taking a page out of his predecessor's book and playing mind games, as Hayden Fry liked to do.

All this probably has the coaches at Penn State scratching their heads, as if they don't have enough to worry about with the Hawkeyes coming to Happy Valley on Saturday. Iowa has won eight of the last nine games in this series. Four have been at Penn State, and two of those were in overtime.





What will be Iowa's game plan this Saturday at Happy Valley? I'm guessing we'll see the no-huddle offense. How much will depend on the score, the weather and other factors. But we'll see it at some point. It's been too successful to keep under wraps for 60 minutes.


The Hawkeyes won a shootout (42-35 in 2002) and a defensive gem (6-4 in 2004). Both were at Penn State and both were important victories in Big Ten championship seasons. Perhaps the most crushing defeat for Penn State came in 2008 at Kinnick Stadium, when Iowa scored in the final seconds to win 24-23 and knock the Nittany Lions out of the national championship game.

Joe Paterno is now in his 46th season as Penn State's head coach and during much of that time his teams have been the best in the East. They have only lost 136 times. It is a somewhat astonishing fact that Kirk Ferentz's Iowa teams have dealt JoPa nearly six percent of those losses.

What will be Iowa's game plan this Saturday at Happy Valley? I'm guessing we'll see the no-huddle offense. How much will depend on the score, the weather and other factors. But we'll see it at some point. It's been too successful to keep under wraps for 60 minutes.

BYE WEEK RECORD - Does an open date give a football team an advantage in the next game? Not for the Hawkeyes, who are 3-5 coming off bye weeks in the Kirk Ferentz era. The wins were big ones, however. Iowa beat Penn State 24-18 in 2001, Ohio State 33-7 in 2004, and Michigan 38-28 last year. The 26-point whipping of the Buckeyes is Iowa's biggest margin of victory in the series. Toughest losses were at Northwestern in 2005 when a 14-point Wildcat rally in the final minutes gave them a 28-27 win, and a 27-24 defeat at Illinois in 2008.

QUARTERBACK SNEAKS - One of football's most mundane plays, the quarterback sneak, has been Iowa's most consistent. James Vandenberg, with a path mainly cleared by James Ferentz, Matt Tobin and Adam Gettis, has scored three touchdowns on the play, which has also produced four first downs. It has yet to fail.

BIG TEN OPENERS - While the Hawkeyes were idle, 10 members of the Big Ten opened their seasons last Saturday. Quarterback Taylor Martinez said his Nebraska team was going to "shock the world" at Wisconsin. He was right. It was shocking the Cornhuskers were not more competitive in a crushing 48-17 defeat . . . Michigan and Illinois both remain unbeaten at 5-0 in winning league openers, but neither has left their friendly confines. Both finally hit the road this week . . . In beating Indiana 16-10, Penn State had a huge statistical advantage, but Nittany Lion turnovers kept the score close . . . Michigan State won at Ohio State to solidify a spot in the Top 25.


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