June 18, 2024

Kirk Ferentz proud of his players despite lopsided loss to Michigan

Iowa Hawkeyes Football

Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz walks along the sideline during a timeout in the second quarter of the Big Ten Championship Game against Michigan Saturday December 2, 2023 at Lucas Oil Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

INDIANAPOLIS — Although the Hawkeyes are coming off their second shutout loss of the season, Coach Kirk Ferentz is picking up the pieces, and preparing his players for a New Year’s Day bowl game.

The pain from Iowa’s 26-0 loss to Michigan in the Big Ten Championship Game still lingers, but Ferentz is focusing on the big picture. After all, this is the second time in the last three seasons that Iowa has won 10 games. Now the Hawkeyes have a chance to win 11 games for the first time since 2015, if they’re victorious in their bowl.

Ferentz believes his team is in this position because of all their hard work, and they have a golden opportunity to end their campaign on a high note. The Wolverines reminded Ferentz of how much his team needs to improve, but the Hawkeyes had some bright spots that he plans to build on.

“To me that doesn’t overshadow the job that this group has done for the last 10, 11 months now,” Ferentz said. “Proud to be part of it, proud to be their coach, and proud of the effort tonight, so we’ll go back to Iowa City, take a couple of days off, regroup and start figuring out a way to win our next football game.”

The Hawkeyes were relentless on defense, considering they limited the Wolverines to a season-low, 213 yards of total offense, including 66 on the ground. Not to mention Michigan only averaged 3.3 yards per play. That was a very encouraging performance to Ferentz. Which is why Ferentz wants his defenders to keep their heads high, because they held the Wolverines in check for the most part, which shocked many in attendance.

“I don’t think it’s a huge surprise, and credit to our guys,” he said. “They gave us a chance and kept us in the game really until that turnover in the third quarter.”

Ferentz felt bad that quarterback Cade McNamara, and tight end Erick All didn’t get a chance to compete against their former team due to injuries. Iowa (10-3) has dealt with injuries on offense throughout the year, which made Ferentz adjust on the fly. The naysayers continue to clown the Hawkeyes’ offense, which ranks dead last in the FBS.

Regardless, Ferentz knows his staff is doing the best job that they can at patching up holes. In his mind, the Hawkeyes would’ve won more games had they been more healthy. It’s hard to argue against that when Iowa had so many players with experience, leadership and production sidelined with injuries.

“I still think we would have been better off this year if we had the quarterback we thought was going to be our starter playing,” the 68-year old coach said. “He (McNamara) has played in this game before as a winning quarterback.”

Now that the regular season is over, Iowa can regroup, and Ferentz can focus on his roster approaching the bowl game. Ferentz is confident that he has a special group this year, that’s close-knit and they all have the same goals. He’s proud that the team has made it this far through a roller coaster season, which shows character in his eyes, especially with the seniors.

“I just look at this team, what they’ve gone through and what they’ve done, how they persevered when most teams would have buckled, quite frankly, and we’ve had a lot of other stuff going on too.”