The past two seasons have been rough for the Iowa Hawkeyes program. They haven't won games like they are accustomed to under head coach Kirk Ferentz. He set the bar high with some outstanding seasons and the past few years have not lived up to that precedent.
The struggles they have endured has motivated them to look at themselves more over the past several months, looking for new ways to re-energize the program and give it some life in hopes of achieving the same success they have in the past.
Several examples can be pinpointed already in this early season that are a drastic change to what became the norm the past few seasons. It has been a more exciting style of play, on offense, defense, and special teams. It has not only been the style of play but the approach they have taken in certain situations.
Iowa has gone for it on 4th down on multiple occasions already, they have attempted a couple fake field goals, they are trying to score in the waning moments instead of being content to go into a half or overtime in the case of last week, and they have attempted to make big plays in the passing game on offense and in the return game on special teams. They're throwing the ball more, especially on first down. It is a team that was labeled as predictable that is now becoming unpredictable.
"It's as simple as this," Kirk Ferentz said at his weekly press conference earlier on Tuesday. "Everyone left the stadium back in November; players, coaches, and fans. Everybody left saying, 'really?' You go through a period like that and the bowl game wasn't that much fun, either. We're wide open and we're open minded back in January. More so back in February, March, and April. What can we do to be better?"
They've gotten better. The Hawkeyes have began the season 3-0 with some great fourth quarter play that sealed victories against Iowa State and Pittsburgh. The new approach has paid dividends for Iowa and the mantra has been to find anything that will work in their favor, even if unconventional or not in their comfort zone. Tendencies are being broken.
"I don't think we look totally different right now as a football team," Ferentz shared. "If we can make some tweaks and little changes that are going to help us to be advantageous, then we were open to it. It's all about moving forward. Everyone has made great contributions. All the guys on the staff. That's what it's all abaout. And that's what we ask our team to do, too."
One specific event was Iowa using the rugby punt on Saturday night against the Panthers, and it came from their kicker Marshall Koehn, and not the punter Dillon Kidd. The Hawkeyes' head coach has voiced his opinion against that style of punt in the past and his response to Marc Morehouse of the Cedar Rapids Gazette about using it was very charismatic.
"It's the new me," Ferentz announced to the media in attendance in a joking manner.