Howe: It's a Process

HI.com Publisher
Posted Sep 21, 2013


Iowa football rarely has been easy on the nerves during Kirk Ferentz's 15-year run. This season is shaping up to be much of the same. The key to survival is exhibiting patience and enjoying the ride.

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, the Dean of Big Ten Coaches, greeted P.J. Fleck, who at 32 is the youngest sideline leader in the FBS, following Saturday's 59-3 Hawkeye win with some wisdom.

"He told me, "(It's) just one of those games," the first-year leader of Western Michigan said.

Ferentz and the Hawkeyes have been on the wrong side of more of "those games" than they would have liked the last few years. In front of a sun-drenched crowd of 66,886, Iowa clicked like it hadn't in a long, long time to end up on the right side.

Before making plans for Pasadena, things need to be kept in perspective. The Broncos dropped to 0-4, which includes three losses against Big Ten competition, yes, but also a home setback to Nicholls.

WMU's weak resume also should be viewed as a positive for the Hawkeyes. With a win at rival Iowa State last week and the Big Ten opener at Minnesota coming up next Saturday, some times human nature produces a letdown. It's commonly referred to as a trap game.

The only trap we saw here was the Broncos continually being made to suffer once Iowa caught them making a mistake. Kevonte Martin-Manley exposed a poor punt team for two touchdown returns. B.J. Lowery delivered two pick-sixes accounting for almost half of the Hawkeye points.

Iowa accomplished some things on Saturday that it hadn't in a while. It scored the most points since putting up 62 against Northwestern in '02. It also tied for the biggest differential in Ferentz's 15 seasons with a 56-0 lambasting of Ball State in '05.

We could go on and on with the numbers game. It's something about which to feel good. The positives signs from Saturday stretch well beyond those notes, however.

In addition to avoiding a letdown, Iowa performed in all three phases - offense, defense and special teams. That's the formula utilized during the most successful stretches of the Ferentz Era.

The Hawkeyes rely on development. Their margin for error, most seasons, is thin. They don't require multiple interceptions returned for touchdowns or punts taken back to the house every week, but they benefit greatly from those plays because they're not just rolling out five-star recruits like Ohio State and Michigan.

This is territory covered quite a bit. It's stating the obvious. It's reiterated frequently for folks that feel like Ferentz's Top 10-ranked salary equates to Top 10 finishes more often than not.

There's not enough space to debate what should be expected from Ferentz. Most fans have found a comfortable place in which to rest after 15 years and that plays out daily on message boards and talk radio. It's the local version of whether or not Pete Rose should be in the hall of fame.

Nobody would try to pass off last season's 4-8 campaign as acceptable, least of all Ferentz. It wouldn't fly no matter what was the coach's paycheck.

Critics view Ferentz as a dinosaur. In a way, his program isn't built for the need-it-now society we've become where Twitter feeds provide instant information and analysis.

Ferentz's teams are more pony express than smart phone. It takes a while for the payoff, but if you're patient, you appreciate the journey.

A strong case can be made that Iowa is improving as this season advances. After turnovers and penalties stung it in the first two weeks, the sailing is much smoother over the last two.

It's important to remember that these are signs of what things might become for these Hawkeyes based on previous patterns under Ferentz. It's by no means to say that they're are headed to great heights. Believing that now it just a recipe for being let down just like screaming that the sky was falling after the 1-1 start causes unnecessary agida.

Exhibiting patience, while difficult, is the best course of action when following Iowa football. It really is about the process.

The football team we see in September isn't the same one we'll watch in November. Sometimes it ends well. Sometimes it might just as well end.

Like the box of chocolates metaphor, we don't know what we'll get. Last season, it was marzipan. Maybe this fall it's caramel.


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