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Leistikow: Kirk Ferentz throws shade at Minnesota, Hawkeyes show their swagger in 35-7 romp

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

MINNEAPOLIS — During his weekly radio show Wednesday, Kirk Ferentz was asked about his favorite memories in the battle for the Floyd of Rosedale trophy. The Iowa coach’s mind and answer flashed back to 1982, his second year as a 27-year-old assistant on Hayden Fry’s staff, when the Hawkeyes came to Minneapolis and snapped a four-game series losing streak.

Of course, it wasn’t the 21-16 outcome that Ferentz remembered most. It was the fact that Fry showed up to his postgame news conference wearing overalls and a straw hat, his way of needling then-Minnesota coach Joe Salem and Minneapolis media who had called the Hawkeyes “a bunch of farmers.”

That was Fry, never afraid to fire back at a rival … especially on the heels of a Hawkeye victory.

“I figured if we’re going to take Floyd home, I may as well dress for the occasion,” Fry quipped afterward. “I didn’t want to scare him and dress like a city slicker.”

Iowa Hawkeyes football coach Hayden Fry dons a flannel shirt, overalls and a straw hat after defeating Minnesota in 1982. Minnesota coach Joe Salem had mocked Iowa before the game by wearing overalls during practice.

That classic Fry moment, and the “JHF” initials on the Hawkeye jerseys to honor the Hall of Fame coach’s passing last December, were probably still fresh in Ferentz’s mind Friday night. He was asked why he called three consecutive timeouts with 19 seconds left while leading P.J. Fleck’s Gophers by five touchdowns on a frigid night at TCF Bank Stadium, when even running back Tyler Goodson acknowledged he was cold and wanted to get to the locker room.

Although Ferentz didn’t explicitly say he was perturbed, he certainly was. Fleck had left his three star players — quarterback Tanner Morgan, running back Mo Ibrahim and receiver Rashod Bateman — in the game to try to get a garbage-time touchdown against Iowa’s second- and third-stringers on defense.

With 19 seconds left, before the 15th play of the drive from Iowa’s 4-yard line, Fleck called timeout.

Ferentz responded by emptying his chamber of timeouts. One, then two, then three.

About 30 minutes later, he explained why … and then delivered some Fry-caliber shade.

“They called a timeout to look at what we were doing to reconsider,” Ferentz said. “So, we just wanted to make sure we had a good look at what they were doing. No sense taking (the timeouts) on the bus, right? You guys have reminded me of that a couple times over the last 22 years.

“Figured we’d take Floyd with us and leave the timeouts here.”

Mic drop.

Those last 11 words had Hawkeye nation howling, even though Minnesota did score on the next play — with Bateman, a projected first-round NFL Draft pick, beating freshman defensive back Jermari Harris for the touchdown to make Iowa’s final victory margin 35-7 instead of 35-0.

Ferentz’s zinger was reflective of a newfound (or rediscovered) swagger within the Hawkeye locker room.

After a disappointing 0-2 start, Iowa has looked more like a juggernaut in back-to-back weeks. It followed up a 49-7 dismantling of Michigan State by manhandling a program that won 11 games a year ago and was pegged as one of the Big Ten West favorites, along with Iowa and Wisconsin.

“As a team, we’re really finding out who we are,” said Goodson, an electric sophomore who rushed for a career-high 142 yards and scored two touchdowns on 20 carries. “We’re starting to play collectively and hitting on all cylinders.”

All week long, the talk in Minneapolis was that the Gophers were aiming for revenge after Iowa derailed their 9-0 season a year ago.

But for the sixth straight time in this series, the Hawkeyes had what it took to secure their prized pig.

Give the biggest heap of praise to this Iowa defense. What a performance. Morgan threw for 368 yards against the Hawkeyes a year ago in Kinnick Stadium but was stifled Friday. He was 11-of-27 for 125 yards with two interceptions and was sacked four times before that final, meaningless march for points.

Iowa's Chauncey Golston and Jack Koerner react to a blocked field goal by Koerner that preserved Iowa's 14-0 lead late in the third quarter.

An offense that was scoring 36.3 points per game went scoreless for 59 minutes, 41 seconds.

“We have all the physical tools we need, and I feel like we have 11 guys out there who are mentally committed,” sophomore linebacker Jack Campbell said. “So, I’m just going to say: The sky’s the limit for this defense.”

It’s obviously a shame that the Hawkeyes started 0-2, losing by a combined five points in games they should’ve won against Purdue and Northwestern. There still isn’t a realistic shot at a Big Ten West title in a coronavirus-shortened season.

But that can’t be the focus now, and it hasn’t been.

A team that could have gone into a funk answered with back-to-back statements against historically tough opponents by a combined 84-14. And this coming Saturday comes a chance to snap years of frustrating losses against Penn State in Happy Valley.

“Everybody seemed to be pretty down on us after those two losses, but I think internally we know what we’re capable of, and we have good players,” said safety Jack Koerner, who had an interception for the third straight game. “It’s just going to take a little meshing, and we’re going to get better over time. I think that’s starting to come to fruition. This team can be as good as it wants to be.”

Noted Ferentz: “The guys have never been deterred this year and kept focusing on trying to get better.”

Ferentz has now won 16 of the past 20 against the Gophers.

Who hates Iowa?

Minnesota, probably. And maybe Fleck, who fell to 0-4 against the Hawkeyes. It surely added to the Friday sting that one of his former commitments, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, scored a touchdown for the third straight year against the Gophers.

Something I mentioned last week but bears repeating: Iowa is the fifth-youngest team in the country, with 71.5% of its roster being freshmen and sophomores.

These are young players, good players. They're not 4-0; they're 2-2. But they are excited about what they’re building.

“We expect great things in the future,” Goodson said, “and I believe this team can make those great things happen.”

Maybe Ferentz feels that, too. It had to be a relief for him to finish a week in which he and the university were sued by 13 former players to deliver a resounding win in front of a national-TV audience … followed by a zinger that Hayden Fry would've loved.

Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 26 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.