I still can’t get over how weird last weekend’s win over Minnesota was. Definitely a Top 10 on the ‘Weird’ scale in terms of games that I have actually watched. Trick plays, blitzing on third down, bad targeting calls, bad defense, a lot of points, multiple INTs by true freshmen... that game had it all.
And it could all happen again this weekend for Iowa’s second consecutive road win. This week, they’ll travel to Bloomington, IN (a great place to visit, btw) to face off against a Indiana Hoosiers squad that might cause some trouble.
In advance of that, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz held his normal Tuesday press conference yesterday to provide some further insight into the weirdness that was Iowa’s game against Minnesota, and what to expect from the Hoosiers. Check out the full transcript here.
Let’s start with...injury news!
KIRK FERENTZ: ...On that topic, obviously Amani Jones will miss the first half of the ballgame, Jack Hockaday I don’t think will be able to play. Nick Niemann is still at least a week out so he won’t be able to play, also.
We have two guys that we’ll learn more about as the week goes on in Noah Fant and Ivory Kelly-Martin, and on the good news side, I think at least OJ and Matt Hankins I think are going to be able to go. They both seem to be about 100 percent right now.
So that part is good.
Bottom line is we’ve had two good workouts so far, and the big thing for us is to close out this week and be ready to go at kickoff. With that, I’ll throw it out for questions.
Q. Are they in the concussion protocol or --
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, they’re injured. They both came out of the game. I think the whole world saw that. Right now we’ll see where it goes. I think we’ll probably know more by Friday.
Not great, Bob! I would be surprised if I saw anything from Fant or IKM on Saturday, but who knows. Concussions are tricky. This is an injury depleted defense. And the injuries are starting to add up a bit on offense, too.
Q. How much danger is there in [Noah Fant] not playing this week? How likely is it he’s not going to play this week?
KIRK FERENTZ: I’m not smart enough to say that. The medical people make those decisions, and then if a guy clears with the medical staff then we have to see if they look good on the field. Matt is a good example. Matt was cleared last week, but based on what we saw Friday, it didn’t really give you confidence that he could go in there and play well, and if that’s the case, we’re not going to put a player out there.
Every case is really gray area, no matter what injury you’re talking about, unless it’s a broken bone or something like that, and I think in this case that’s what we’re looking at with both those guys.
Who else is out right now? Nick is open and closed, and Jack really -- very encouraging based on what we saw the last 48 hours. I doubt he’ll be ready this week. It’s possible, but I doubt it. We’re not counting on that. But at least I think next week is probably realistic, and that’s good compared to where it could have been.
Q. You mentioned Amani Jones missing that first half. Have you gone back and looked at the play? Your thoughts on the targeting call? And the second part of that, teaching a defender, a guy coming across the middle, how tough is that for defenders?
KIRK FERENTZ: It’s really difficult, and coincidentally, I can’t tell you what play number it is, 28 or 68, I can’t remember which, but I saw a Michigan State receiver kind of get hit very similar in a similar way, and there wasn’t a flag on the field. So it’s a really tough play to officiate. I think there’s a lot of interpretation in there. It’s all about player safety, which I think everybody supports, and coaches and players alike, but there are tough things about the play.
One thing I do know, if your eyes are down, that increases the chance of a targeting call being issued out there. If you hit and strike with your helmet, that increases it, and if you’re up in that head and neck area, certainly that increases it, too.
It kind of looked like it was more like a shoulder pad, and I thought Amani was trying to get out of the way, but maybe as much as anything it was a really loud hit. If you were at the stadium, it sounded like a shotgun going off, pads hitting pads really. I mean, everybody was on the same page out there. I’ve never seen so many flags on one play, so everybody was on the same page there.
It’s unfortunate. Luckily their guy jumped right up, as did Amani, and nobody was hurt, and that’s the biggest thing. We’ll live with it. It’s just part of football this day and age.
Injuries and this suspension are going to be a big factor in the weirdness of this game. Playing in Bloomington always makes me nervous.
Q. Along those lines, you went to sub package the majority of your snaps on defense. Was that partly because of the personnel that Minnesota had or is it mostly because of depleted at linebacking corps?
KIRK FERENTZ: You know, it’s kind of a match of both actually. I don’t know that we want Amani in there playing linebacker against a team that’s playing with bigger personnel like we had the week before, that probably wouldn’t have matched up so well. With Nick being out, he’s one of our better players, so you just try to get your best 11 guys on the field at all times, plus you play situation. So it’s kind of a little bit of a mix of both.
The fact that Geno has been playing pretty well and doing some good things on special teams, he’s played well on defense when called upon, we felt like that gave us an option, and as we move forward in the schedule, without -- I’ll think for one second here, but I think most of the teams we play right now from here on out offer you some opportunity to play that way if you choose to.
But at the same time, Indiana could change their personnel this week. I doubt they will, but I think that’s something they could do if they wanted to, and then you have to adjust accordingly.
Let’s talk trick play!
Q. After Saturday’s game you joked or exaggerated or, I don’t know, maybe you were telling the truth when you said it was everybody versus one, the decision for the fake field goal. But what was it? When was that decision made? Who makes that decision? Is it an instantaneous decision?
KIRK FERENTZ: I was just trying to add to the stereotype. I’ve kind of been typecast I think over the last 19 years.
Gee, I wonder why! -snort-
No, that’s one thing I think about having a staff that we’re very communicative, and I do try to listen really intently to what everybody has to say on the staff. It wasn’t just LeVar. LeVar was responsible for putting that play in, and we’ve been working it for weeks. But the other guys have to be on board, too. I think it’s not that you’re always going to be a consensus, but I like to listen to what the coaches are saying, and we want to try to give ourselves every opportunity to win.
If I hear enough people saying things that makes me really pay attention and listen a little bit, then I’ll definitely consider it. We felt like that was a perfect spot for it, and we talk about those things during the week, kind of rehash it on Friday when we kind of close the week out. I think there was a consensus there, we felt good about it, much like last year. And then the other part you have to get the right situation because it wouldn’t work in every situation. Not that our prognosis is always correct, but at least we had it kind of limited down to a couple situations where it might be a good time to call it. Still need sound execution, and the guys did a good job with that. That’s the biggest thing.
I think there’s a lot of people who read this blog that would like to see more of that Kirk, so listen to us. We have great opinions (sometimes).
Q. Riley Moss, kind of lightly recruited out of high school, how has he worked his way up the depth chart, passing some guys and all of a sudden gets his first start?
KIRK FERENTZ: ...It gets down to game evaluation. We liked Riley a lot, and then KB was at one of his games last fall. I think it was late September, maybe this first week of October, somewhere in that ballpark, and he came back, I remember him distinctly saying, hey, we’ve got to look at this kid a little closer. We’ve don’t have him right. And that’s one thing that’s really nice when you see a live exposure and a player is really doing well on the field. That kind of really got the conversation going again.
Since he’s shown up here back in June, but especially in August, kind of just -- he doesn’t always know what he’s doing, but he runs around hard and he really plays with energy, and he’s deceptively fast. There’s a lot of good things to work with there. He’s got a great attitude on top of it.
Q. Will he and Brents start again this week?
KIRK FERENTZ: Most likely. We’ll just see how the week pans out. We’ll see if they make it to the plane on Friday without getting lost or having a panic attack, but they got through one week at least, so that’s good.
What is that supposed to mean? That’s a weird comment.
The most important thing I think about both those guys and probably all these guys is we’re seeing improvement during the course of the game, and that’s encouraging. When you see guys growing and their arrows are going up, that’s really positive.
Q. Was Hankins more an emergency situation?
KIRK FERENTZ: He was on Saturday. Based on what we saw Friday, we were hoping he could play. He didn’t appear very confident, and he’s dealing with a couple things. But I think he’s more confident -- I just asked him this morning where he thought he was at. He started out at 100 then dropped down to 95; I said, that’s fine, you’ll be 100 tomorrow. Anyway, I think he’s on the right side now and coming back up, and I think O.J. is the same way.
Q. Can he play with that cast on?
KIRK FERENTZ: We’re going to get that thing scaled down. At least so I’ve been told. That’ll help a lot, too.
Q. Some outside noise is why isn’t Noah Fant playing more. He’s significantly fewer snaps than T.J. What would your answer to those folks be?
KIRK FERENTZ: I don’t really have much to say about it. We’re trying to do things that we think are best for the team, whether it’s how we sub on defense, same thing on offense, and the bottom line is as I said after the game, we’ve got two really good tight ends right now, and they both play really critical roles on our team, but most important thing is, and I don’t know about the noise outside; I’m aware of it, but what I know is what I see from the guys in terms of their demeanor in the building, demeanor with their teammates and everything else, and it’s interesting we’ve had some really good players, a lot of those guys up on the wall over there, that were involved in either defensive schemes or touching the ball. I can’t remember anybody ever coming in and complaining about like, hey, I’m not getting the ball enough or not enough routes for me or not enough touches.
I would throw Noah in that category. You think about guys like Brad Banks, Dallas Clark, Fred Russell, Shonn Greene, who were really good offensive players here, nationally recognized. Fred wasn’t, but he should have been or could have been, and they’ve all had great attitudes. They just have been about coming up to practice and working hard and doing what we can to help the team, and Noah is right there with those guys. He’s been great. Hopefully we’ll have him back this week. It would really help us if he’s there.
I mean, I certainly think that Iowa should use Fant as much as possible. But T.J. Hockenson has been really good. So has Fant. Use both of them more instead of one or the other? I don’t know. This seems a little blown out of proportion to me by the Fant family. Wake me up when Fant plays in a game and gets zero targets. Then we’ll talk.
Q. Indiana threw for over 300 at Ohio State, that passing game --
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, they’re -- we didn’t talk much about that, but they’re similar in some ways to what we just saw, but the big difference in my mind is the quarterback is a very versatile guy. [Peyton Mansell] is a really good thrower. They’ve got a good attack. Their offensive coordinator is a veteran coach that really is highly regarded by I think everybody in football, and they put pressure on you a lot of different ways. Good receivers, good running backs.
But I think the big wild card here is the quarterback. He can pull it down and run. Some of it’s designed. Other things, if it opens up, he’ll just take off. If you lose contain -- I just got done watching a play a couple hours ago where last week’s opponent got sucked inside a little bit and he’s right around the left end for a 1st down.
And those are the things -- things that keep driving going really tend to be tough. We made their job easier on their first scoring drive last week. We picked up a five-yard penalty, right, on a 3rd and 8 or 9, whatever it was, all of a sudden now they’ve got 3rd and 4, then convert it right down the field. So those kinds of plays, to defend those, you really have to play good team defense, and he really plays well, and he plays with a lot of poise for being a young player. He’s a young guy, but boy, you’d never know it.
Q. Will you make a decision at halftime whether [Amani Jones] comes in, or is he coming in?
KIRK FERENTZ: We’ll see. Kristian is going to start the game and we’re counting on him to play well. We’ll just see how it all goes, but it’ll be nice to have him available because we’re thin right now. We’ve got two freshmen right now working in the two deep, true freshmen, and they’ve been good since August, but still, it would be nice to have some guys that have played a little bit out there, four or five of them. Not to be greedy.
Last but not least, Indiana has a defense that could give Iowa some trouble:
Q. When you look at Indiana’s defense, just a few years ago they routinely would allow 500 yards a game, they were kind of boom or bust. Now they’re not the top of the country but they’re competitive there. What has Tom Allen done defensively?
KIRK FERENTZ: That’s his background, and I think that was kind of their achilles heel, if they had one, last time we were there. They could move the ball on anybody, and they’re still doing that, but they had a hard time, I think, just kind of settling in what they wanted to do defensively. I think it was ‘14 out here where they ended up in an odd front, which I’m not sure we saw that coming, so it was a little bit of a departure. But they have an identity now, and I mentioned they’ve changed a little bit from last year, but they basically still are who they are. They’re a four-down scheme. They play aggressively. The guys up front really play hard and play with good technique and leverage, and the rest of those guys are really flying to the football, so it’s going to be a little bit of a challenge for us. It’s a little bit unique for us, so communication is going to be a little bit critical. It’s going to be a process right now that’s going to be critical Saturday.
And then like anything, it’s execution. Hopefully we have a good plan and then hopefully we can execute it, but they can test you and they get really tough.
This is a winnable game, but I’m worried. Bring on the weird.