Sunday Conversation with Kirk Ferentz

Sept. 29, 2013

Sunday Conversation with Coach Ferentz

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Kirk Ferentz has coached at the University of Iowa in some capacity for 24 seasons. This week he experienced a first.

Following the Hawkeyes’ 23-7 victory at Minnesota, the team honored sophomore fullbacks Adam Cox and Macon Plewa as offensive players of the week.

“Both of them played outstanding and that’s probably as much work as they have gotten in any one game,” Ferentz said Sunday during an exclusive interview with “They have worked extremely hard since last spring. Both have taken the opportunity and run with it and done a wonderful job.”

Blocks by Cox and Plewa helped Iowa running backs gain 207 yards on 38 carries; quarterback Jake Rudock picked up 35 yards on five carries and Cox added a 5-yard third-down conversion run.

There is another reason the Hawkeyes (4-1 overall, 1-0 Big Ten) have won four straight games: their effectiveness on both sides of the ball on third down. Last season Iowa’s offense converted 36.4-percent of the time, while opponents moved the chains 43.4-percent of the time. In five games this season, the Hawkeyes have increased their conversion rate to 52.5-percent and the defense is limiting opponents to a 25.4-percent mark.

“I’m not a big stat guy but I know last year the stat wasn’t good,” Ferentz said. “I’m happy right now with the way our offense has done on third downs. Part of that is first- and second-down production. We had plays (Sept. 28) that were tough, long conversions and we came up with them. You think about some of the Kevonte (Martin-Manley) catches we had and Jake (Rudock) did a great job getting the ball to him; Jake Hillyer with a third-down conversion (on third-and-9). Compared to last year, it’s a big step forward and we’re hoping we can continue to build on that, it helps your team offensively.”

Iowa’s defense has been stout, allowing 265.6 yards in five games. The only conference team performing better is Michigan State (4-0), which comes to Kinnick Stadium on Saturday. The Spartans allow 188.8 yards a game.

“They were extremely tough last year and we will have our work cut out for us,” Ferentz said. “They have a tough scheme; more importantly their players understand their scheme and they play it well. It’s like when we are playing good defense, it doesn’t look that complicated, but everybody understands what they’re doing. That’s what we see when we watch Michigan State play defense. It’s going to be a tough, hard-nosed battle for sure, and execution is going to be a big part of it.”

The Hawkeyes prevailed last season in East Lansing, Mich., 19-16 in double overtime.