IOWA CITY, Iowa - One big reason for Kirk Ferentz's overall success at Iowa, and especially against Penn State, is that his calm approach to adversity rubs off on his players.
Penn State knows this all too well, having lost games the past two years despite leading the Hawkeyes in the fourth quarter and appearing to be in control.
"It starts with him, just coaching us on being patient and not trying to do too much, let the game come to you," Hawkeyes defensive end Adrian Clayborn said of his coach.
"It's not good to get down necessarily, but I feel like if you rush it and try to overdo stuff or get out of your defense or your offense, then that's when things go down south. So I feel like if we just wait on it and wait on it and keep knocking, a door's going to open."
That philosophy filters down from Ferentz - who is now 8-2 against Penn State after Saturday's 24-3 win - and his ability to have his players believe they are never out of a game.
The Hawkeyes rallied from fourth-quarter deficits to win five times last season, including against Penn State. They trailed the Lions, 10-5, until Clayborn blocked a punt and returned it for a game-changing TD.
Ferentz vs. PSU
1999at IowaPSU, 31-7
2000at PSUIowa, 26-23
2001at IowaIowa, 24-18
2002at PSUIowa, 42-35
2003at IowaIowa, 26-14
2004at PSUIowa, 6-4
2007at PSUPSU, 27-7
2008at IowaIowa, 24-23
2009at PSUIowa, 21-10
2010at IowaIowa, 24-3
In 2008, Iowa rallied from nine points down in the fourth quarter to stun the third-ranked and undefeated Lions on a last-second field goal in week 10.
The Hawkeyes don't panic when they get down, in large part because Ferentz doesn't panic and is able to get his players to buy into that mindset.
"Coach Ferentz is very collected," defensive lineman Mike Daniels said. "He's very confident in what he does, and that builds a very collected and confident team.
"We feel as though you have no choice but to respect a man of that caliber to be able to - even when something negative happens on the field - he's very very relaxed. He picks guys up."
Few coaches have ever had the kind of success against Joe Paterno that Ferentz has had, with Alabama's Bear Bryant (4-0) and Michigan's Lloyd Carr (9-2) topping the list. Also Bill Curry was 3-0 with Alabama from 1987-89.
"Historically against [PSU], if you're going to have a chance to be there in the fourth quarter, you better play your best football," Ferentz said this past week. "We've done that. In the games we've done that, we've won. When we didn't do that, the game was over pretty early in '07. If you open the door at all for them, it makes it tough to win.
"The common denominator is you have to play your best football. We've been fortunate, done that in some instances. We've hung in there, played well in the fourth quarter."
Penn State, meanwhile, has made key mistakes in big games losing to Iowa. A pass interference call on safety Anthony Scirrotto helped keep the Hawkeyes' game-winning drive going in 2008, and last year the Lions were caught off guard and didn't have the right personnel in the game on the blocked punt.
"They just do a good job," Paterno said of the Hawkeyes. "They recruit well. The kids play hard. They're disciplined. You gotta beat them. They don't beat themselves."
Ferentz's name has come up for years as a possible successor to JoePa, but that's unlikely since he makes $3.65 million a year and is signed at Iowa through 2020.
It's somewhat ironic, given Ferentz's background as a Pennsylvania guy, that he has enjoyed so much success against Paterno. He has Pittsburgh roots and played his high school ball at Upper St. Clair, so he has great appreciation for PSU and its legendary coach.
"I was a young guy in awe of him," Ferentz said. "I'm past 50 and still in awe of him. I had such great respect as a young person growing up in that part of the country. You had him and Chuck Noll, two very local, very prominent coaches to watch."
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and firstname.lastname@example.org.