Zero Chill Friday Night
“Who hates Iowa? WE HATE IOWA!” is a weekly in-season anthem among Minnesota fans regardless if they’re playing the Hawkeyes. For nearly four years, P.J. Fleck hasn’t echoed a hint of that sentiment, only heaping praise upon the Gophers’ southern rival, repeatedly saying he believes Iowa is a model for what his program can become and declaring Kirk Ferentz one of the best coaches in college football history.
Will Fleck’s opinion change after Friday night?
Facing second-and-goal and a 35-point deficit in the final seconds of their Week 11 meeting, Fleck called timeout to run more plays in hopes of avoiding a fourth shutout loss to Iowa in their last 24 meetings. A peeved Ferentz responded with a timeout. And then another...and another before the Gophers scored on a Tanner Morgan-to-Rashod Bateman touchdown.
“They called a timeout, I guess, to get a look at what we were doing and reconsider," Ferentz said. "So we just wanted to make sure we got a good look at what they were doing. No sense in taking them on the bus with us. [The media] have reminded me of that a couple times over the last 22 years.”
Then came the dagger:
"Figured we'd take Floyd with us and leave the timeouts here,” Ferentz added, referencing the rivalry’s Floyd of Rosedale trophy.
Fleck didn’t take the bait, instead playing dumb while addressing his team’s issues in the blowout loss, Minnesota's third loss in four games after winning 11 games last year. During Fleck’s four years in Minneapolis, there have been rumors and reports Ferentz and his staff don’t like how the Gophers negatively recruit against them.
“The guys in Ames and the new guy in Minneapolis seem to have no problem throwing early things out,” Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz said in 2017, referring to Fleck and Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell. “What I’ve learned, certainly about the guys in Ames, we’ll find out about the guys in Minneapolis, what does an offer really mean?”
Minutes later, Zero Chill Friday Night continued at the end of the Cincinnati–East Carolina game. Leading ECU, 42–10, and facing a fourth-and-7 from their own 28-yard-line with seven minutes remaining, Luke Fickell presumably sent a message to the College Football Playoff committee: We’re good and we’ll make statements against bad teams.
After the game, Fickell had a lengthy midfield exchange with ECU head coach Mike Houston. While Houston declined to comment on the exchange, Fickell said he apologized for the fake punt, which wasn’t a called play.
I loved the fake punt. When in need of a playoff miracle to reach the four-team field, you must make statements against bad teams. I respect Fickell’s sportsmanship but there was nothing wrong with a fake punt to run up the score and say, “Hey, committee, we’re really good.”
As cancellations dominated college football headlines this week, this was largely lost in the shuffle:
In seven years as Army head coach, Jeff Monken has taken several, presumably innocent, shots at Air Force, which his team was scheduled to play in Week 11 before COVID contact tracing within the Falcons’ program forced a cancellation.
“I told [AD] Mike [Buddie], ‘Let’s go out there,” Monken said on his weekly radio show. “‘Let’s ask them if they want us to come out there.’ We can play them at the parking lot of the PX or the prep school practice field. I don't care, we can play them anywhere. I was willing to play the game and wanted to play the game. Our kids wanted to play the game and they [Air Force] unfortunately felt like they didn't have enough guys be it from COVID or probably injury and it made it a little more convenient to say no, ‘We don’t want to do it this weekend.’”
Then, Monken went off on Troy Calhoun’s program and suggested those innocent shots weren’t innocent:
“I probably was mad and upset about it because I think there’s frankly intent to deceive in a lot of areas coming out of that camp at times. Recruiting, the things that they say to our prospects. The inaccuracies about the Army. Frankly, I can go on for a long time about some of the stuff that is said and it upsets me and it bothers me that if we are going to be about the military, then let’s be about the military and not tell a young man that he’s making a poor decision because he wants to serve his country in one way different than another.
“I’m upset in general with them pretty much 365 days a year. It’s not just this. It’s multiple things, and it’s not unique to me. I coached at the Naval Academy and the same stuff was happening when I was an assistant there. It’s nothing new. Over years and years of having to deal with the same stuff, sometimes enough is enough.”
Army and Air Force are scheduled to play again next season.
Odds & Ends
Fantastic article from SI’s Emma Baccellieri on Kim Ng’s hiring as Marlins’ general manager … Potential candidates to replace Gary Andersen as Utah State's head coach .. How Alex Trebek almost became host of Hockey Night in Canada … Clemson–Notre Dame could snap 129-year-old college football streak … Matt Nagy has finally given up play-calling duties … Ranking the top 50 NBA free agents … Pandemic restrictions are forcing tons of college basketball recruits to pick schools sight unseen.
Follow me on Twitter, check out my podcast, and bookmark this page to see previous editions of Hot Clicks and find the newest edition every day. Visit our Extra Mustard page throughout each day for more offbeat sports stories.