At the end of last season – which ended with three straight losses, including a 45-28 bowl game loss to Tennessee – Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz knew he needed to make some changes to his program.
If this year’s 5-0 start is any indication, he has.
“It was nothing extravagant,” Ferentz said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “We just spent a lot of time immediately after our bowl game talking about our roster, our personnel, and just went through every player pretty extensively and just wanted to make sure we did our best to get everybody in the right places. After recruiting ended, we went out and visited some other people and spent a lot of time as a staff internally just talking about things and how the year had gone and what we thought we could do better and just discussed a lot of things regarding changes that we might need to make – those types of things, adjustments and tweaks. But at the end of the day, I’m not sure we look a lot different. It’s just the guys are doing a great job. Everybody’s really bought in and the players are really playing hard right now.”
No. 22 Iowa has gotten great play from duel-threat quarterback C.J. Beathard, who has completed 64.1 percent of his passes for 1,039 yards and rushed for 163. He has 10 touchdowns (seven pass, three rush) to just two interceptions.
“That was part of the discussion on the personnel thing going back to January,” Ferentz said. “We had a really unusual circumstance where in fact we did have two good quarterbacks. If you look at (it) right now, both guys are playing very well for good football teams.”
Ferentz, of course, is referring to Jake Rudock, who transferred to Michigan and has led the No. 18 Wolverines (4-1) to four straight wins.
“That doesn’t happen very often, but we made a decision,” Ferentz said. “We thought we needed to bring some clarity to that position and allow everybody to do what they felt like they needed to do. C.J. has done a wonderful job. He’s really playing well. He’s doing a super job with his feet when he needs to.”
Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis, it is worth noting, is used to having mobile quarterbacks. He was the OC at Texas when the Longhorns won the national championship with Vince Young.
“We don’t have quite as many designed runs as Greg had down in Texas,” Ferentz said, “but C.J.’s doing a great job when we need it. And boy, I’ll tell you, he’s (had) great poise and real good toughness. (Greg) is one tremendous football coach.”
The Hawkeyes’ most impressive win of the season came this past weekend, when they beat then-No. 19 Wisconsin, 10-6, in Madison. Iowa forced four turnovers and limited Wisconsin to 86 rushing yards on 34 attempts (2.5 yards per carry).
“I don’t mind those games at all,” Ferentz said, chuckling. “You win with defense first and foremost. That’s no secret. That’s one thing we didn’t do well enough last year was stop the run. We had a checklist of things. Red zone defense wasn’t the greatest, but both those things really came up big the other day. I think if you’re going to win football games consistently and have a championship-level team, it’s hard to stand on the sideline when you can’t stop the run game. It’s a really frustrating feeling. Our guys are doing a good job there.”
Iowa, which has not allowed a rushing touchdown all season, hosts Illinois (4-1) this Saturday at noon.