Riverboat Kirk? Hawkeyes continue fourth-down success

Andrew Logue
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, right, celebrates as his defense comes off the field after stopping a Pitt drive during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game in Pittsburgh Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014. Iowa won 24-20.

PITTSBURGH - Maybe Kirk Ferentz is riding a hot streak.

Or, maybe the Iowa football coach is altering his approach on fourth downs out of necessity.

Whatever the reason, it's working.

The Hawkeyes converted all three of their fourth-down chances Saturday, and are 6-for-7 for the season (85.7 percent).

"It's going to be week to week," Ferentz said of his fourth-down decisions. "It changes during the game, too."

A lack of consistency in the kicking game contributed to Ferentz electing to go for it three times a week ago against Iowa State.

Against Pittsburgh, three fourth-down conversions contributed to two touchdown drives.

Starting quarterback Jake Rudock threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Henry Krieger-Coble on fourth-and-2 in the second quarter, tying it at 7-7.

In the fourth quarter, backup quarterback C.J. Beathard burrowed into the line to pick up two yards on fourth-and-1 from the Pittsburgh 15-yard line.

"If the ball is within a certain range, if it's close enough, coach will give us an opportunity to go for it on fourth," Beathard said. "It's confidence, that's for sure, especially on those fourth-and-inches.

"You've got to get those, or else the game might be different."

After Beathard's sneak, Mark Weisman rushed for 3 yards on a fourth-and-1 from the Panthers' 4-yard line.

Weisman ran for a touchdown two plays later, giving Iowa a 24-20 lead.

"Last year, we wanted to be third-and-short and we got stopped too many times," Weisman said. "We set out to go for it. We pride ourselves in being physical. ... We expect to get those tough yards in there and we've got to find a way."

Of course, there are limits.

The Hawkeyes appeared to reach four-down territory in the third quarter, at Pittsburgh's 34-yard line. But after Ferentz called for a run on third-and-9 after a timeout (Damon Bullock was stopped for no gain), he elected to go for a field goal.

Even that worked out: Marshall Koehn drilled a 52-yarder.