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Coaching staff played big role in win against Michigan

BY JORDAN GARRETSON | NOVEMBER 07, 2011 7:20 AM

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"Another Iowa Hawkeye football game, another pathetic coaching job."

A University of Iowa alumnus wrote that last week in a Letter to the Editor in which he called for Kirk Ferentz to be fired. He wasn't alone; many other disgruntled Hawkeye fans expressed a similar sentiment after Iowa's 22-21 loss at Minnesota (check out the comments here).

This week, those same fans owe Ferentz and his staff a good deal of credit for Iowa's 24-16 upset of No. 15 Michigan.

The Wolverines drove to the Iowa 3-yard line, giving themselves a first-and-goal with 16 seconds left.

Give Denard Robinson — one of the nation's most dynamic players — and the high-powered Michigan offense four cracks at the end zone from 3 yards out, and you'd figure the Hawkeye defense was toast.

Nope.

Michigan ran four plays. Each ended in a Robinson incompletion. And a blitzing Hawkeye was partially responsible for each one.

The same Iowa defense that is so often criticized for its lack of aggressiveness was coached about as aggressively as it could be with the game on the line.

The repeated blitzes forced Robinson to accelerate his decision-making, senior corner Shaun Prater said, and it generally resulted in poor decision-making. And the Hawkeyes' blitzing wasn't only limited to those final four plays. Iowa utilized a more aggressive defensive scheme all day to draw a forgettable performance from Robinson and the Michigan offense.

Michigan entered the game with the Big Ten's second-best offense, averaging more than 441 yards a game. Robinson entered as the conference's individual leader in offense with 281 yards a game.

The Wolverines finished with 323 yards against Iowa. Robinson was limited to 55 rushing yards on 12 carries and his third-lowest passer rating of the season.

"The coaches challenged us to play more man coverage," Prater said. "To blitz. To play more physical. And to play as a team. Coach Ferentz, he challenged the seniors. We all stepped up as seniors, and we led the team."

Yes, Ferentz deserved some criticism for a second-straight debacle in Minneapolis. He chose to settle for a 7-7 tie at halftime instead of taking a shot downfield against a bad Minnesota defense. On its final drive, Iowa didn't give Marcus Coker a single carry even though he had already produced the school's third-best individual rushing performance in school history. Ferentz also blamed himself for failing to call a time-out before Minnesota's onside kick.

But Ferentz wasn't the only one to blame for the loss.

Believe it or not, Iowa also has players — players who underperformed against the Gophers. Sometimes, believe it or not, strange things happen, and an inferior team outplays its opponent. That doesn't mean it should happen, but it still does happen occasionally. For example, see Northwestern's victory at Nebraska on Nov. 5. Does that mean the Cornhuskers need to fire Bo Pelini and change everything? No.

Pelini is doing just fine, and so is Ferentz, whose team is still in the hunt for a Big Ten title despite massive attrition to the NFL and graduation as well as numerous injuries.

The Ferentz way may not always be the most exciting way, but it's going to be remain the way for Iowa for the foreseeable future.

And it's the right way for the Hawkeyes.

Follow DI Pregame Editor Jordan Garretson on Twitter.


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