Howe: Ferentz Does It Again

Kirk Ferentz served as a punching bag for critics who felt the Iowa coach had lost it after last year's 4-8 season. He proved people wrong as he had throughout his career with an 8-4 campaign after Friday's 38-17 drubbing of Nebraska in Lincoln.

LINCOLN, Neb. - It's hard to say how Kirk Ferentz will be remembered. The unknown is based on this day and age of instant reaction and gratification.

Ferentz's legacy should be rock solid. The Iowa coach stands among the best of his era, just like his predecessor Hayden Fry.

As recently as August, a Sports Illustrated writer named Ferentz one of the top five overpaid coaches in the country. Three months later, the Hawkeyes posted an 8-4 regular season record after Friday's 38-17 win against Nebraska here at Memorial Stadium.

Diehard Iowa fans saw it coming. They annually have picked their team to win nine or 10 games. Very few, if any, other people saw the Hawkeyes turning around last year's 4-8 disaster this quickly and effectively, present company included.

Simple put, Ferentz did it again. He rebuilt the Hawkeyes for a third time in a decade and a half.

Reporters peppered Ferentz for the secret to his success after Friday's upset of the Huskers. He would not bask in the light of any redemption he clearly earned this fall.

"I'm certainly not smart enough to think - creative or ingenious (enough to come up with magic formula)," Ferentz said. "It was just a matter of trying to do things better."

Ferentz's self-deprecating personality serves him well in these times when he's deserving of much credit but unwilling to brag. It's made more special by his ability to avoid blaming others when things don't go his way.

The Iowa coach often has said that people in his profession need to be who they are. Ferentz is the same person he was when he took over for Fry after the 1999 season, albeit with more gray hair and wisdom. He built the program with hard work and humility as the foundation.

Inside, or maybe when he's home alone with his wife, Mary, he can feel satisfied with proving wrong those people who doubted him. It's not what he'll do publicly in large part because of the example it sets for the players he's leading.

"I mean, everyone is entitled to their opinion. That is the great thing about our country," Ferentz said Friday when asked about being ranked among the country's five most overpaid coaches this offseason. "I don't think (the writer) went to jail for saying that, so that is just part of coaching. Fortunately, I don't believe it; (maybe) in the bottom 10 (worst coaches). I wouldn't say the bottom five. But those things are just talk and noise."

Ferentz guided his team with the motivation with what happened last season and what was being said about them. Like he not believing that he was one of the five most overpaid coaches, the players never believed that they were doomed by their '12.

"You know, we don't list to that stuff on the outside but we knew we were better than what we showed last year," running back Jordan Canzeri said. "People thought we'd go 4-8 again but that had no impact on us. That doesn't mean we're going 4-8 again."

Ferentz has credited his seniors and juniors for their leadership during the turnaround. It's what he's always done.

Often in these situations, when a coach refuses to take credit for his accomplishments, his players will step up to pat him on the back. That wasn't the case on Friday and hadn't been throughout the season when it became obvious that last year's Hawkeyes were a distant memory.

"I really can't speak for Coach Ferentz," said junior running back Mark Weisman when asked if Ferentz derived any pleasure from disapproving criticism. "It's really about all of us doing this together, working together, led by the seniors. It's bigger than one person or a small group of people."

Weisman sounds a lot like his coach. So do his teammates this season. And that's a big reason why they walked out of Memorial Stadium with a win for the first time since 1943.

The 8-4 record speaks for itself. It impressed more when digging deeper and seeing that the teams that defeated the Hawkeyes have lost a combined three games.

Iowa finished the season with wins against Michigan and Nebraska. You could have earned a lot of money betting for that to happen before the season.

The 5-3 Big Ten mark and 4-1 road record posted by the Hawkeyes season, the best totals since their Orange Bowl season of '09. They won four of their last five games.

It turned out to be a classic Ferentz season. The pattern of success has been to improve as the season moves along.

"We are a better football team now then when we were in August and that is what it's all about," he said.

Across the stadium while Ferentz was draped in modesty, Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini sounded like a man on the way out. Under heat for much of the season, he said if they wanted to fire him, fire him.

Pelini, if he makes it to the bowl game and wins it, will have won at least nine games in each of his six seasons in Lincoln. They want more around here and have since Tom Osborne retired. They haven't found it and sending this guy on his way doesn't mean it will.

The problem that Nebraska and other programs run into is that they all expect to be Alabama. Patience is not a word in their vocabulary.

Maybe Ferentz wouldn't make it if he was just starting out, not because he can't coach, but because society needs things two minutes ago. As quickly as the words came out of Pelini's mouth, they landed on Twitter Friday. He said the media hurt his team this season because it talked about his job security.

The landscape his hostile. Ferentz rarely cracks while navigating it. He just rallies his program being who he is without regard for what others are saying. It's really pretty amazing.

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