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W. Michigan coach has unique connection to Ferentz

[ 0 ] September 16, 2013 |

Kirk Ferentz recorded the first of his 102 career victories at Iowa against Northern Illinois in 1999. P.J. Fleck, an 18-year-old freshman, had two receptions for 17 yards for the Huskies.

“I was a skinny, 155-pound true freshman playing in a Big Ten environment,” Fleck said Monday. “I still remember Kinnick Stadium and how loud it was.”

Ferentz and Fleck meet again Saturday at Kinnick Stadium when Iowa closes out non-conference play against Western Michigan. Ferentz is in his 15th season as the Hawkeyes’ head coach. Fleck, 32, is in his first season as the Broncos’ head coach and could get his first career victory against Ferentz on Saturday.

“There’s always that chance, right?” said Fleck, whose team is 0-3 including losses to Michigan State and Northwestern.

Fleck, who ranks third in career receptions and fourth in career receiving yards at Northern Illinois, spent two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers before turning to coaching. He started out as a graduate assistant at Ohio State in 2006, then worked on staffs at Northern Illinois, Rutgers and Tampa Bay of the NFL before getting the job at Western Michigan in December.

“I’ve had a chance to coach against Mark Dantonio (Michigan State), a chance to coach against Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern) and now a chance to coach against Kirk Ferentz,” Fleck said. “Just his career, what he’s done with that program and how consistent they’ve been. His teams have never really changed. They’re always tough. The can always run the ball. And they have an Iowa mentality. That’s what he’s created.”

Iowa, 2-1 after Saturday’s 27-21 victory at Iowa State, will be trying to win a third straight game for the first time since the 2010 season. The Hawkeyes ran the ball on 60 of 83 snaps from scrimmage against the Cyclones, for 218 yards.

Western Michigan gave up 332 rushing yards in Saturday’s 38-17 loss at Northwestern, and Fleck figures the Hawkeyes will go with a ground-oriented attack against his team.

“I think you and I can assume that, yes,” Fleck said. “I would. The numbers don’t point to, ‘OK, they’re going to spread us out and throw 60 times.’ I really believe that Kirk Ferentz, with his background as an offensive line coach, wants to run the ball. Iowa has always been that way, especially under his leadership.”

Iowa rushed the ball 43 times in 80 snaps in a loss to Northern Illinois and 58 times in 86 snaps when it beat Missouri State. The Hawkeyes are averaging 239.3 yards on the ground this season. Western Michigan is allowing an average of 245 yards rushing through its first three games.

“I think when they sit down (Monday) and they’re starting to game plan, they’re going to sit there and say, ‘We’ve got to run the football,’” Fleck said. “We need to be ready for that.”

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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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