By Rob Howe and Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Kirk Ferentz likes to focus on his full body of work. That’s a fair approach on how to judge Iowa’s long-time head coach.
It’s not the only way, however, and maybe not the best way to size up the current state of the program.
A growing number of unfulfilled fans look at the Hawkeyes’ last five year stretch. During that half decade, they’re a combined 34-30 overall and 19-21 in the Big Ten. They’re coming off a season in which they did not beat a team with a winning record.
It’s an interesting time for this team. Attendance is sagging and the legacy of one of the school’s greatest head coaches is unfolding before our eyes.
Recent history predicting future outcomes is faulty. Ferentz and his Hawkeyes have a history of surprising the prognosticators.
But it’s what we have right now. And a five-year sample size is reasonable.
With that, here our Iowa’s 10 best wins and 10 worst losses during that time:
10) Sept. 1, 2012, Iowa 18, Northern Illinois 17, Soldier Field – The Huskies grabbed a 17-9 lead after three quarters following a 73-yard touchdown run by Jordan Lynch. Iowa’s defense stiffened in the final period, however, and a Damond Bullock 23-yard scoring run in the final two minutes sent Hawkeye fans in the Windy City home happy. NIU went on to win the MAC Championship, 12 games and play Florida State in the Orange Bowl.
9) Sept. 17, 2011, Iowa 31, Pittsburgh 27, Kinnick Stadium – The Hawkeyes fell behind 24-7 late in the third quarter before mounting an improbable comeback. Quarterback James Vandenberg threw three touchdowns, two to Kevonte Martin-Manley, and rushed for another. Iowa put up 475 yards of offense, including 399 through the air.
8) Oct. 16, 2010, Iowa 38, Michigan 28, Ann Arbor – It wasn’t a great Wolverine team under Rich Rodriguez but it’s one of only six victories at Michigan ever for Iowa. Big Blue did win seven games that year with one of them coming at Notre Dame. The Hawkeyes led this contest, 28-7, after three quarters and held off a furious comeback by the home team. Ricky Stanzi threw for 248 yards and three touchdowns and Adam Robinson carried 31 times for 143 yards and two scores for the winners. Iowa raised its record for 5-1.
7) Sept. 11, 2010, Iowa 35, Iowa State 7, Kinnick Stadium – The Cyclones were less than stellar five years ago, finishing 5-7 overall and 3-5 in the Big 12. For them, that’s not bad and they did win at Texas that year. Plus, it represented one of only two wins against Iowa State for the Hawkeyes in the last half decade and it came in a rare blowout. Robinson led the way with 156 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries while Stanzi threw for 204 and two scores. The defense held the visitors to 275 yards and turned them over three times.
6) Sept. 28, 2013, Iowa 23, Minnesota 7, Minneapolis – Mark Weisman rumbled 24 times for 147 yards as the Hawkeyes dominated their rivals to the north. They held a 464-165 advantage in total offense against a Minnesota team that went on to finish the season at 8-5 with wins against Nebraska and Penn State. Iowa has lost three of the last games five against the Gophers and this was the most impressive in the series during the last half decade.
5) Nov. 17, 2013, Iowa 24, Michigan 21, Kinnick Stadium – The Hawkeyes rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit to beat a Michigan team that rolled into town at 7-3. The Wolverines also had won the previous meeting, 42-17. Jake Rudock passed for 239 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including 55-yarder to Tevaun Smith at the beginning of the third quarter to ignite the comeback. The Iowa D held the Wolves to 60 rushing yards (2.1 per carry).
4) Michigan, Nov. 5, 2011, Kinnick Stadium – Coming off a miserable, 22-21 loss at Minnesota, Iowa bounced back to knock off an 11-win Wolverine team, 24-16, a week later. The Hawkeyes held quarterback Denard Robinson and his offense out of the end zone during an exciting final drive. Marcus Coker ran for 132 yards and a pair of scores for the winners. Michigan went on to win the rest of its games that season.
3) Nov. 29, 2013, Iowa 38, Nebraska 17, Lincoln – Iowa’s lone win in the four-year history of the Heroes Game was a convincing one. The visitors led 24-10 after three quarters and refused to be undone by a Husker comeback in front of a hostile crowd at Memorial Stadium. The Hawkeye defense held the home team to 89 yards rushing (2.4 per carry) while turning it over three times. Rudock threw for two touchdowns and Weisman ran for a pair.
2) Oct. 30, 2010, Iowa 37, Michigan State 6, Kinnick Stadium – The Hawkeyes handed MSU it’s only conference loss for the campaign and it came in dominating fashion. Stanzi threw for three touchdowns and the defense turned over the visitors three times, all interceptions against Kirk Cousins. The visitors came into Iowa City at 8-0 and No. 5 in the country before the home team held Edwin Baker and Le’Veon Bell to a 33 yards on 15 carries.
1) Dec. 28, 2010, Iowa 27, Missouri 24, Insight Bowl – After what many people considered an underachieving season with a roster populated with future NFL talent, the Hawkeyes rolled into Tempe and surprised their border neighbors to the south. The Tigers were an 10-win team and No. 12 in the BCS. They were favored by only three points, however, highlighting the talent Vegas saw on Iowa’s roster. Coker and Micah Hyde stood out for the winners.
10) Sept. 8, 2012, Iowa State 9, Iowa 6, Kinnick Stadium – What was mostly a boring game turned into a brutal loss for the Hawkeyes. The way in which the Iowa offense sputtered was a warning of things to come under new offensive coordinator Greg Davis. Two Mike Meyer field goals is all Iowa could muster against the Cyclones.
9) Oct. 23, 2010, Wisconsin 31, Iowa 30, Kinnick Stadium – Former Iowa defensive lineman Bret Bielema burned his alma mater by calling a fake punk with less than 7 minutes to play that worked to perfection. Facing a fourth-and-4 from his own 26-yard line and trailing 30-24, Wisconsin punter Brad Nortman sliced through a huge opening and gained 17 yards and a first down. The Badgers went on to score the winning touchdown with 1 minute, 6 seconds left to play.
The two programs have been traveling in opposite directions since then.
8) Sept. 10, 2011, Iowa State 44, Iowa 41 (3OT), Ames – The Cyclones overcame a 10-0 deficit to win the highest scoring game in the series. Of course, it helped that it took three overtimes because the score was tied 24-24 at the end of regular.
Iowa State running back James White scored the winning touchdown on a 4-yard run, while Cyclone quarterback Steele Jantz shredded Iowa’s defense for 279 passing yards and four touchdowns.
7) Nov. 10, 2012, Purdue 27, Iowa 24, Kinnick Stadium – Purdue entered this game 0-5 in the Big Ten, while Iowa entered with three consecutive losses. The final score was closer than the statistics might indicate, considering Purdue had almost twice as many yards as Iowa – 490 to 264.
6) Nov. 27, 2010, Minnesota 30, Iowa 27, Minneapolis – Minnesota was 3-8 entering this game and thought to be running on fumes with Tim Brewster having just recently been fired. But instead, the Gophers rallied behind interim head coach Jeff Horton and pulled off the upset against an Iowa team that unraveled down the stretch, losing its final three Big Ten games.
5) Oct. 18, 2014, Maryland 38, Iowa 31, College Park, Md., – Iowa bolted to an early 14-0 lead and seemed poised for an impressive road win that would have improved its record to 6-1 overall. The momentum shifted quickly, though, as Maryland scored 24 consecutive points during a stretch that lasted from late in the first quarter to late in the third quarter.
Jake Rudock passed for 317 yards, but it took him 56 attempts to do it. Iowa basically abandoned its running game in the second half.
4) Sept. 13, 2014, Iowa State 20, Iowa 17, Kinnick Stadium – Iowa was the only team that didn’t score at least 30 points against the 2-10 Cyclones last season. The Hawkeyes only managed 275 yards against an Iowa State defense that finished the season ranked last in Big 12 in total defense, allowing a whopping 528.9 yards per game.
3) Nov. 28, 2014, Nebraska 37, Iowa 34, Kinnick Stadium – The Hawkeyes played perhaps their best and worst of the season in this game. Iowa looked like a Big Ten contender for nearly three quarters, building a 24-7 lead, but then looked horrible down the stretch, especially on special teams.
Nebraska scored two touchdowns early in the fourth quarter in a span of 1 minute, 18 seconds. The second touchdown came on an 80-yard punt return by De’Mornay Pierson-El that gave Nebraska its first lead at 28-24 with 12:06 left to play.
Iowa self-destructed on offense, committing four turnovers, including losing three fumbles. The Hawkeyes also averaged just 2.8 yards per rushing attempt as a team.
2) Jan. 2, 2015, Tennessee 45, Iowa 28, Jacksonville, Fla. – The 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl was over from a competitive standpoint almost as soon as it started. The Volunteers scored on their first four possessions and led 28-0 early in the second quarter.
Jake Rudock started at quarterback for Iowa, but played sparingly in the second half. It was obvious when the game ended that Rudock had lost the starting job to C.J. Beathard.
1) Sept. 22, 2012, Central Michigan 32, Iowa 31, Kinnick Stadium – Losing to a team from the Mid-American Conference is bad enough. But this loss was made worse by the fact that Central Michigan only finished 7-6 that season and just 3-9 the year before.
You could explain Iowa’s 30-27 loss to Northern Illinois in the 2013 season opener at Kinnick Stadium as a rare case where the team from the MAC was special. Northern Illinois was led by star quarterback Jordan Lynch and would go on to play in the Orange Bowl that season.
Central Michigan, on the other hand, was an average team from an inferior conference. That’s why this loss ranks as the worst under Ferentz since 2010.