Similar styles collide as No. 15 Iowa and No. 22 Kentucky meet in 2022 Citrus Bowl

The Hawkeyes and Wildcats both have run-first offenses and rely on physicality to win games.


Grace Smith

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz and Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops stand on a podium during a head coach press conference for the 2022 Vrbo Citrus Bowl at Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando, Fla., on Friday, Dec. 31, 2021. Both shared fond memories of Iowa head coach Hayden Fry. Stoops shared that Fry traveled to his father’s funeral. “He flew in just to pay respects to my mother and our family,” Stoops said. “It says an awful lot about him. He had a great impact on myself, my brothers, and so many other players.”

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

ORLANDO, Fla. — Per The Daily Iowan’s unofficial count, Iowa and Kentucky head football coaches Kirk Ferentz and Mark Stoops said “physical” on four occasions during their joint press conference at the Rosen Plaza Convention Center Friday morning.

Fundamental, big, and strong were the other trademark terms the two coaches called upon as they spoke to reporters for over half an hour.

Stoops and Ferentz’s likeminded lingo is no coincidence. 

Stoops played defensive back at the University of Iowa from 1986-88. He moved into a graduate assistant role with the Hawkeyes 1990. He remained in that position until 1991.

Ferentz was Iowa’s offensive line coach from 1981-89. He’s been the Hawkeyes’ head coach since 1998.

Both men received coaching from former Iowa head coach Hayden Fry. The pair even recanted a few stories about their time together at Iowa under Fry.

Stoops and Ferentz’s similar background has impacted the way they coach their teams, and the styles with which their teams play.

“We’re looking forward to the opportunity to play Iowa,” Stoops said. “I have great respect for coach Ferentz. I’ve known coach Ferentz for a long time in the Hawkeye program, beings I played there. So, obviously I follow them very closely. I have great respect for the way they play, the way they’re coached. They’re extremely fundamental. They play extremely hard, and you always have an opportunity to win when you do that.”

Both the Hawkeyes and Wildcats have run-first offenses. The Wildcats have run the ball 449 times and attempted 338 passes this season. Likewise, Iowa called 477 runs and 374 passes in 2021.

Stoops and Ferentz both believe success on offense starts with offensive line play.

“One thing about the offensive line is, they kind of set the tone for your team,” Stoops said. “. . . I remember [Ferentz] all the way back to him being a position coach [at Iowa]. I was there, and [Ferentz’s offensive line] kind of set the tone at the University of Iowa a long, long time ago. I will not date him on that. But he did a great job with offensive line play.

“You know, we’re proud to carry that tradition at Kentucky,” Stoops added. “We always want to be better, but you gotta be big. You gotta be physical. That’s certainly Iowa, and that’s certainly something we’re trying to be at Kentucky.”

Ferentz expounded on Stoops’ diatribe about strong offensive line play, noting that it and good defensive effort make for a winning formula.

“It gives you a chance to win,” Ferentz said. “That and playing good defense and special teams will give you a chance to win any game.”

In all three phases of the game, toughness is something the Hawkeyes and Wildcats rely on. Given Iowa and Kentucky’s similar mindsets, Ferentz believes coaching Saturday’s game could be like looking in the mirror.

“[It’s] almost like looking in a mirror,” Ferentz said. “We don’t run the exact same schemes, but there are a lot of similar traits in the programs. The guys compete. They play hard, compete, and they make you earn things. They make the opponent earn what they get, and I think that’s a goal any coach has any time you play.”

“There’s a lot of cute stuff you can do, but it’s about being physical, and being fundamental, and playing extremely hard,” Stoops added. “. . . The game of football is not going to change. It’s about blocking. It’s about being physical. It’s about getting off blocks, and containing the football, and playing with great leverage, and all the basics.”

Kickoff between Iowa and Kentucky in the 2021 Vrbo Citrus at Camping World Stadium is slated for 12 p.m. The game will air live on ABC.

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