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In their own words: The Iowa Hawkeyes football turnaround

[ 0 ] December 4, 2013 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Nobody tells a story better than those who lived it.

And nobody can offer a better perspective on Iowa’s football journey than the players, coaches and other insiders who helped reverse Hawkeye fortunes.

Last Friday’s 38-17 victory at Nebraska allowed the Iowa football team to exhale at 8-4. (Getty Images)

Last Friday’s 38-17 victory at Nebraska allowed the Iowa football team to exhale at 8-4. (Getty Images)

They went from 4-8 to 8-4 in the span of a single year, exceeding expectations and, at least temporarily, silencing critics.

“It’s the total opposite,” receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley said. “It’s been a whole year of complete focus, hard work and things like that.”

While Iowa pauses and waits for bowl pairings to be announced Sunday, it’s time to retrace the Hawkeyes’ turnaround in their own words:

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“Unlike trying to put a spin on a $15 trillion deficit, I’m not going to go down that road. Bottom line, this was a disappointing season in terms of record and the fact that we’re not playing in a bowl game. There really isn’t a way to put a positive spin on that.”

— Kirk Ferentz, Nov. 28, 2012

Five days earlier, coach Ferentz’s Hawkeyes completed their worst season in more than a decade. A 13-7 loss to Nebraska left Iowa with a 4-8 record. It’s the only time since 2000 Ferentz failed to lead a team to bowl eligibility.

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“My perception of Iowa football was this: hard-nosed, tough, run the football, throw play action and play good, stout defense. There’s some programs you think of and you think of flash and dash.”

— Jim Reid, April 3

Reid, a 40-year coaching veteran, was hired as a defensive assistant. He was part of a staff overhaul that resulted in six new assistants during a 14-month period. It was a move that brought new ideas, new responsibilities and uncertain results.

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“The simple answer is, I’ll just disagree. Obviously, people know how I feel about Kirk. But in fairness to the criticism — if there is any fairness in that statement, which is crazy — we were 4-8 last year. So for last year, we didn’t get it done.”

— Gary Barta, July 15

Iowa’s athletic director defended Ferentz after he was named one of the nation’s five worst coaches in a Sports Illustrated blog.

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“He needs to be himself. I’m sure he’s doing everything he needs to do to prepare himself for the game and let it all go and have fun with it.”

— Brad Banks, Aug. 29

Banks, a former Iowa quarterback and 2002 Heisman Trophy runner-up, offered advice to newly named starter Jake Rudock. Rudock won a three-man quarterback competition, beating out C.J. Beathard and Cody Sokol.

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“I think as a team we need to learn how to win. It means you’ve got to be so in tune to the ebb and flow of a game, the situations, what’s at stake.”

— James Morris, Aug. 31

The Hawkeyes came close to beating Northern Illinois in the opener, but fell 30-27. Morris, a senior linebacker, would spearhead a rebound while earning second-team, all-Big Ten honors.

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“I think it’s a quarterback thing. I always try to find the other quarterback. But the Florida thing kind of helps, too.”

— Jake Rudock, Sept. 14

Rudock shared a postgame moment with Iowa State’s Sam Richardson, another native of the Sunshine State, after guiding the Hawkeyes to their first signature win. The sophomore threw for two touchdowns in his first road game.

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“We’ve got a long way to go. We’re just scratching the surface of what we can be. All the smaller details, like getting the running back to the second and third level, instead of getting hit at the line of scrimmage.”

— Brandon Scherff, Sept. 28

Scherff and the rest of Iowa’s offensive line paved the way for 464 yards at Minnesota. Who knew at the time both teams would post eight wins?

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“If you have guys turning and blocking and setting up a return, you’re vulnerable. So maybe that’s the moral of the story; maybe we can’t (return punts).”

— Kirk Ferentz, Oct. 5

A fake punt contributed to Michigan State’s 26-14 victory at Kinnick Stadium. It was the sixth time since 2010 the Hawkeyes were burned by such a play, evoking bitter memories of past defeats.

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“There’s definitely progress, but it’s tough to lose. We’ve got to move on fast.”

— Mark Weisman, Oct. 19

The Hawkeyes hung with unbeaten Ohio State for three quarters before losing 34-24. Their record dropped to 4-3, but spirits remained high.

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“Actually, we practiced that exact play, with that exact coverage this whole week. We knew as a wide receiver unit we needed to make a play.”

— C.J. Fiedorowicz, Oct. 26

Rudock’s 8-yard, game-winning touchdown pass to Fiedorowicz lifted Iowa to an overtime win against Northwestern, and may have saved the season. Five of Fiedorowicz’s six touchdowns this fall came on third down.

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“The ball got past my eyes a little bit, so I just threw my hands up there to snag it. It just kind of stuck on my gloves.”

— Tevaun Smith, Nov. 23

The Hawkeyes rallied from a 21-7 halftime deficit against Michigan, and it started when Smith turned a tip-and-grab catch into a 55-yard touchdown. The sophomore receiver finished with five catches for 97 yards.

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“It just shows we’re playing Hawkeye football and we’re not the underdogs people thought we were.”

— Jordan Canzeri, Nov. 29

Winning at Nebraska put Iowa into a tie for second place in the Big Ten’s Legends Division, and in the running for a warm-weather bowl. It also gave the Hawkeyes their best regular-season mark since 2009.

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The Hawkeyes’ journey will continue Sunday, when bowl pairings are announced.

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Andrew Logue: Andrew has been with the Des Moines Register for 15 years, covering everything from preps to Hawkeye and Cyclone sports, as well as the Drake Relays. View author profile.

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