Let Akrum Wadley give the details, regarding Iowa's first-year offensive coordinator. Chad Leistikow/The Register
AMES, Ia. — Brian Ferentz, you probably remember, stoked the coals in this burning Cy-Hawk football rivalry in May when the Iowa assistant coach called out the recruiting tactics of “the guys in Ames.”
Matt Campbell has subtly responded, pretending to only know one Ferentz (head coach Kirk) and referring to the Hawkeyes lately as the “Team Out East.”
Saturday, both bright, young coaches delivered their share of shining moments.
But it was Ferentz, the first-year offensive coordinator for the Team Out East, who had the final and victorious say.
Nate Stanley’s 5-yard touchdown pass to true freshman Ihmir Smith-Marsette stamped this epic Cy-Hawk battle with one last, unforgettable moment in Iowa’s wild, 44-41 overtime victory before 61,500 mostly stunned fans at Jack Trice Stadium.
Oh, to be a fly on the wall of Iowa’s coaching booth in the Jack Trice press box as Smith-Marsette triumphantly crossed the goal line.
You better believe Brian Ferentz, who lost his last Cy-Hawk game as a player here in 2005 when the Hawkeyes were ranked No. 8 nationally, wanted this one.
“I’m trying to word this right, because I don’t want to, you know … Uhhhh,” running back Akrum Wadley said of his position coach.
Get in trouble?
Wadley continued after a long pause.
“This game is really important to him. Let’s say that,” said the electric senior whose incredible 46-yard touchdown reception with 1 minute, 9 seconds left in regulation helped force overtime. “This game is very important to him. Extremely important to him.”
Coordinators are rarely made available to Iowa media, but the head coach joked on his postgame radio show that Brian was in the locker room “smoking a cigar right now.”
“He called a heck of a game,” Kirk Ferentz said of his oldest son, who at 34 is one of the youngest offensive coordinators in the Big Ten Conference.
Brian Ferentz sure called plays like a veteran Saturday.
The Iowa offense — which had trouble completing a forward pass toward the end of the Greg Davis era — not only piled up 497 yards, including four touchdown drives of 89 yards, it proved clutch.
Tight ends. Fullbacks. Bubble screens.
And there was more to be had. Stanley missed some throws. A lot of deep balls fell incomplete.
"That's practice," Kirk Ferentz said.
But Stanley sure didn’t miss his final pass.
The winning play was called with Iowa, down three after an Iowa State field goal to start overtime, lining up for second-and-goal from the Cyclones’ 5.
Campbell called timeout.
Brian Ferentz countered.
Two tight ends, a fullback, a running back and one wide receiver.
Iowa State had to be thinking run.
I was thinking run.
Smith-Marsette came toward the line of scrimmage in motion.
Then, at the snap, he broke to the end zone. Stanley dropped to pass. Iowa State’s blitzing linebacker was perfectly absorbed by fullback Drake Kulick.
Smith-Marsette made his cut, and Stanley found him at the goal line.
Catch. Touchdown. A third straight Cy-Hawk win and a 2-0 start for Iowa.
Brilliant call and execution.
“It’s a play we put in during the week that we felt pretty good about,” Kirk Ferentz said. “It’s like anything else. You hope you get the look that you want. You don’t always get it. Sometimes you do. We got the look, and we out-executed them on that. But they out-executed us on a few today, too.”
We’ll get to that stuff next week.
When you win the game, lamenting defensive lapses and penalties can wait for another day.
And now, to Stanley.
He sure didn’t look like a true sophomore making his first career road start.
Stanley showed tremendous poise and persistence to bring Iowa back from fourth-quarter deficits of 31-21 and 38-31.
He ended up 27-for-41 for 333 yards, the most yards for any Iowa quarterback since James Vandenberg’s 399-yard game vs. Pittsburgh on Sept. 17, 2011.
“His growth from last week to this week, he did a lot of good things,” Kirk Ferentz said. “The biggest thing, he looks steady out there. And on the bench, he looks steady. He was right there with the game, and that’s really good to see.”
Stanley, a quiet Wisconsinite, is learning to become a more vocal leader.
Even as Iowa struggled to contain Iowa State’s bevy of playmakers, Stanley remained positive on the sideline. He told downtrodden Hawkeye defenders that the offense would bring them back.
A week ago, Stanley needed picking up by the Iowa defense after he committed three of the Hawkeyes’ four turnovers in a 24-3 win over Wyoming.
Saturday, he returned the favor.
Five touchdown passes, zero turnovers by the Iowa offense on 82 snaps.
I asked Stanley what he learned about Iowa’s offense Saturday.
“Just our resilience,” he said. “… To do that builds confidence for the whole team, knowing the defense won’t have to play with a short field.”
Two years ago in Ames, a guy named C.J. Beathard made key fourth-quarter plays to deliver a 31-17 win.
Saturday, Ferentz saw similar traits in Stanley.
“You come out of that game (in 2015),” Ferentz said, “feeling like, ‘Hey, this guy’s got something to him.’”
So give it up for the new guys leading Iowa’s offense.
Stanley, who has eight touchdown passes in his first two college starts.
And Brian Ferentz, 2-for-2 as offensive coordinator.
Add a little team-wide grit, and this ship seems to be headed in the right direction.
“If we can continue to do that,” Kirk Ferentz said, “we’ve got a chance to shape into a pretty good football team.”
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 23 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.