Iowa players and coaches are more focused on their upcoming game in Bloomington than the College Football Playoff rankings.
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has an undefeated football team. His son, Brian, also shares that distinction as the Hawkeyes’ offensive line coach and run-game coordinator. Same goes for another son, Steve, a junior backup offensive lineman for the Hawkeyes. But they've got company.
James Ferentz, another of Kirk and Mary Ferentz’s five children, plays for a Denver Broncos team that is 7-0 in the NFL. Ferentz, the backup center, was inserted at fullback and delivered a key block on Ronnie Hillman’s short touchdown run in the Broncos’ 29-10 victory Sunday. Ferentz blocked B.J. Raji, Green Bay’s 337-pound defensive tackle.
“One of our daughters pulled it off YouTube, so I did see it on my phone,” Kirk said.
James Ferentz started three seasons at Iowa, graduating in 2012. He never quit on his dream of making the NFL. As recently as 2013, James was working at Randy’s Carpets in Coralville.
“He was a year out of college, and we just encouraged him to continue to pursue it,” Kirk Ferentz said. “He kept training at our facility. He was fortunate and caught a break a year ago to be on the practice squad of the Houston Texans. I thought he had a chance to make the team this year. But he didn’t.”
Shortly after the Texans cut him, James got signed by Denver a week before the regular-season opener, and has been on the active roster all year.
“If he gets cut tomorrow, he’s played in seven NFL games,” Ferentz said. “That’s more than some people can say. At some point, like all players, he’ll move on to his life’s work when football ends.”
Meier gets positive news
Left defensive end Nate Meier left Kinnick Stadium with his left arm in a sling Saturday, but he’s expected to play this week at Indiana.
“He had an MRI, everything is good,” Ferentz said. “He’s a tough guy. I expect him to play.”
Ferentz said that right offensive tackle Ike Boettger and running back Jordan Canzeri will make the trip to Indiana, but likely won’t play. Both have high ankle sprains. Boettger hasn’t played since getting hurt against Illinois Oct. 10. Canzeri was injured in the first quarter at Northwestern Oct. 17.
Iowa got two players back against Maryland, left offensive tackle Boone Myers and running back LeShun Daniels Jr. Myers, who had missed the first three Big Ten games with a stinger, came out of the Maryland game in good shape. Daniels had 60 yards on 13 carries.
“He looked like the way we had hoped,” Ferentz said.
Former Dowling Catholic all-stater Ryan Boyle, in competition with fellow freshman Drew Cook for the No. 3 quarterback spot, didn’t dress against Maryland. His status for this week’s game at Indiana isn’t clear.
“Dressing is a privilege,” Ferentz said. “Our guys earn the right to dress. As simple as that. We have criteria you have to meet every week to get there. Guys who don’t meet that criteria, they don’t dress out.”
Coach of the Year?
Ferentz is a leading candidate to be named Big Ten coach of the year for a fourth time. He also won the honor in 2002, 2004 and 2009. At 8-0, Iowa has already surpassed last season’s win total and has matched the most victories in any season going back to 2010.
Asked if this was one of the best coaching jobs he’s done in his 17 seasons as head coach, Ferentz said, “I don’t know if it’s been better or worse but I’m having a lot of fun, I can tell you that. Just because I’m working with a great bunch of guys.”
Ferentz said Iowa’s improved play is a credit to his players and assistant coaches.
“It’s pretty much a new staff here over the last three years, and this thing is really starting to jell,” Ferentz said. “To be a part of that is fun, too. I’m getting a lot of great help. If we look better on the field and look better coached, it’s probably just the result of having good players and the staff has really come together in a great way.”
Season in a nutshell
Nothing tells the story of this Iowa football team better than the final 2 minutes of the first half against Maryland.
It started with Dillon Kidd’s punt that was downed at the Terrapins’ 3-yard line with 2:07 left and Iowa leading 14-0. The Hawkeye defense then limited Maryland to 3 yards in three plays and forced a punt. Iowa’s Aaron Mends blocked it and his team took over at the Terrapins’ 19 with 1:01 left.
Iowa’s final drive got off to an auspicious start when Myers was called for holding. But Derrick Mitchell Jr. scored on a 2-yard run five players later, with 9 seconds to go, to make it 21-0.
That finish, which included all three phases of the game, was accentuated by the coaching staff after the game as well as Sunday.
“I think this team has responded pretty well,” Ferentz said. “We get a penalty, oh geez, but then we don’t let things bog us down. We just keep playing. For us to be good we’re not going to go out there and wow them with our coaching or combine-type talent. For us, we’ve got to play as a team. That’s what we do best.”