Hawkeyes-Buckeyes: Kirk Ferentz Catchs Vest Vile Virus

Dave HoganContributor IINovember 15, 2009

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 14:  Head coach Kirk Ferentz of the Iowa Hawkeyes watches his team play the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 14, 2009 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

One of the better games in recent Big Ten history was ruined by abdication—two coaches afflicted with a brand of football conservatism that only Woody Hayes could appreciate.  Iowa ceded victory to Ohio State, 27-24.

I would expect Big game choke artist, Jim "the Vest" Tressel to alligator arm a victory. However, for this Hawkeye fan it was jaw drop time as the game entered the final two minutes of regulation. 

What was Kirk Ferentz thinking?  Maybe he did not want a rematch with Arizona in the Rose Bowl?  Does he have too much respect for fellow coach Stoops to beat him twice, or does he just have a fear of California earthquakes?

Maybe he did not want to take the money, or the heat for bonuses he would receive under a  lucrative contract?  Maybe he didn't know the college OT rule-is he the collegiate version of Donovan McNabb?  Perhaps a tie would get the Hawks to Pasadena?

Never mind the conspiracy theories. During Ferentz's reign, Iowa has flown under the Radar, winning a few over-hyped January bowls here and there coupled with easier December bowl victories for the Hawks. 

But could something be missing during Kirk's tenure-like a Rose Bowl berth? Last year's Bowl blowout against South Carolina quickly turned into a love fest for Ferentz. 

It's a familiar theme—each announcer fawning over Ferentz, whether it's a regular season game or not.  The consistent refrain is the unfairness of the criticism Ferentz receives within the Hawkeye state.

Sure, Ferentz is a good coach and some of his critics may be over the top. This year was different and there was no time to critique. Iowa launched a storybook season and exceeded all expectations. Despite the bad break against Northwestern, Saturday's game looked like another textbook comeback.

The final script being the feel good story of the year- a Frosh QB, James Vandenburg, winning in the largest horseshoe in the land. 

Instead, we come to expect the expected.  Tressel eschews the ghost of Woody past, with two-plus minutes and runs the ball to the Iowa strength, it's D-line for a quick Three and out.

Iowa gets the ball back with nearly a minute at their 30 something yard line.  Iowa  then runs up the middle for nothing, and then, for some unknown reason, doesn't use a timeout or call another play. It was 4th-and-long between the ears for the entire Coaching Staff.

The same QB who moved the ball at will on the last drive suddenly is not trusted to move the ball 40 yards at the end. Soon, the same QB faces an OT Red Zone situation in the face of the screaming crowd. (At least Ohio State was smart enough to "defer").

Daniel Murray, who sent Penn State packing last year, is apparently the same kicker not to be trusted in the last minutes of this game.  At least we don't have to wonder what Ferentz was thinking here. He tells ESPN that his kicking game is suspect, before the game after running over the young PK with the Team Bus.

On Friday night, Kirk must have gotten a crash course from Tressel (yes, the "Vest" actually teaches a football class), during his visit to Columbus.  He must have mulled over that top secret strategy of playing for OT on the road. 

That was not coaching, that was throwing in the towel and putting your impressionable QB on the couch with the Field Goal Kicker, along with Hawkeye Nation.  He certainly did learn anything about going for the throat during his time with alleged mentor-Bill Belichick.

The aw shucks, we're not BCS material act by Ferentz has suddenly grown very stale with that performance.  Iowa fans deserved better.  Maybe as an act of contrition he can refund a couple hundred Thousand or so to itinerant Iowans.

Better yet—to State coffers, since that brilliant mind is the best the Hawkeye state has to offer. Right now Ferentz is not having a "better year", than even Culver.  In this writer's mind, his popularity rating should be the same-in the tank. 

A Coach should never lose a game for his team, especially with his team playing their hearts out.  No one in the great state of Iowa would have been armchairing if he had taken a chance and made Vandy an unlikely hero or worse case, had he suffered a turnover. 

Instead, we are left to wonder what if?  By virtue of playing it close to the "Vest", he lost the game, hearts, imagination and minds of Hawk fans everywhere.

Again, what was the thought process in OT? Vandenburg already rolled out once with an incompletion, now lets try it again so he is sacked and we're out of FG range. Talk about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

In the meantime Hawkeye fans, there is always something like the Tangerine Bowl, maybe even another highly touted January Bowl. As an added bonus, I am sure we can expect that second tier of awful ESPN announcers to be singing Kirk's praises again.