Hawkeye football’s ‘New Kirk’ aggressive approach has sparked excitement

Iowa football has been known to play it safe at times, but this year its new aggressive approach has brought excitement to the program.


David Harmantas

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz paces the sidelines during a game against Northern Iowa at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Panthers 38–14.

Anna Kayser, Assistant Sports Editor

The term “New Kirk” has taken Iowa football and its fans by storm, because newfound aggressive tactics have given the program an edge.

On Oct. 6, Iowa’s field-goal unit went out onto the field and successfully executed a fake. The play — a 4-yard running touchdown in the hands of tight end T.J. Hockenson — gave Iowa fans and head coach Kirk Ferentz a glimpse at what can be done when the Hawks are the aggressor.

Bringing those plans into a game came with a lot of things: a consensus from the entire football staff, but timing was the most important thing. If the situation isn’t right, then the play isn’t worth the risk.

“If I hear enough people saying things that makes me really pay attention and listen a little bit, then I’ll definitely consider it,” Ferentz said. “Still need sound execution, and the guys did a good job with that. That’s the biggest thing.”

It’s a new look for Iowa football, something that offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz came up with to bring to the elder Ferentz.

“It wasn’t anything that he ever talked about to us,” senior defensive lineman Sam Brincks said. “I think he just felt like we wanted to be the aggressor in most games, so that’s kind of the mentality he’s taken toward every game.”

The last thing Brincks worries about in a game is catching a touchdown pass, but with the different sneak-attack plays that Iowa works into the game, it’s something he now gets to think about. 

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The beauty of the plays is that it incorporates different components of special teams to make plays, such as Brincks being a receiver or a kicker turning into a quarterback.

“It’s exciting, I think; for a lot of us, it’s a really fun opportunity for some guys to make some plays,” Brincks said. “We like the mentality that Coach Ferentz has when he calls those fakes. I think it’s good for our team, it’s good for the mentality and what we’re trying to do.”

This season, Iowa’s offense has also been aggressive on fourth down.

In 2017, the Hawkeyes successfully converted 14 fourth downs on 22 tries. This season, they already have 13 successful conversions.

“Knowing that we have four downs to get a first down, you don’t maybe have to force a ball or do something out of the ordinary to get a first down,” quarterback Nate Stanley said. “It allows you to play more in yourself, not do anything crazy or try to make a spectacular play and end up making a terrible play.”

From all sides — coaches, players, and fans — the new aggressive nature means excitement.

It also gives the offense a new mindset that against any team, it’s going to go out and play its hardest to be aggressive with the ball.

“I think everybody knows that we have that [aggressive option], and that can be our mindset going into the game,” Stanley said. “I think everyone enjoys when we play attacking, physical football.” 

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