The bye week is almost over, folks, and everything is getting back into its normal rhythm. As part of that rhythm, Kirk Ferentz was back at the podium yesterday to speak with the media ahead of Saturday’s road trip to Minneapolis.
So let’s jump right in. Check out the full transcript here.
Just a reiteration of some news from last week in Kirk’s intro:
KIRK FERENTZ: Injury-wise, like I said last week, Nick Niemann is going to miss some time. He’s progressing well. Probably still be a couple weeks I’m guessing. We’ll play it week by week and see where that’s at.
KIRK FERENTZ: So just the importance of details and everything we do is really paramount right now and that’s kind of been the theme for the past week.
I think we had a productive bye week and then obviously this weekend our sights turned towards Minnesota and getting ready for this ballgame.
I think as we come into the game probably a lot of similarities between both teams right now. Same record, 3-1, both looking for our first Big Ten Conference win and both teams coming off a bye week. I’m sure they’ll be prepared and hopefully we will be too.
Hopefully you’ll be prepared? You are not inspiring me to have confidence in your team early in this press conference, coach.
KIRK FERENTZ: Obviously it’s a rivalry game. And I think we probably play for the best trophy there is in college football. Floyd is certainly a great, great trophy. Floyd of Rosedale is one of the great traditions in college football, and our players get to experience that, so it’s really kind of a neat thing, and I’m sure they feel the same way.
This checks out.
Minnesota is a team we expect to be motivated. Certainly they’re well-coached and on top of that they’ll be playing at home. We’ve got a big challenge in that regard.
I think we’ve had a good two weeks of practice overall. I think the effort’s been good. The players’ attitudes have been good. I think we’ve made improvement, incremental improvement, and that will show up hopefully as we get out on the field.
Well, ok, maybe I took a page out of the JPinIC book and overreacted up there in a bit. On to the questions!
Q. What does is say about the depth of the defensive line when the conference co-leader in sacks is a rotation guy?
COACH FERENTZ: That’s something we’re pleased about.
...there are certain things you see that make you concerned and know that you have to really work [on] and that’s one area I think where we’re probably a little deeper maybe than we thought. Although we still have room for improvement.
And A.J.’s a guy who is talented. I think he’s starting to find a little bit of a groove in the pass rush sense. I think that’s a good thing for us. As I said a couple of weeks ago it’s a position we feel we have pretty good depth. Three really good players and Chauncey gaining ground, so I think really four guys that we feel can play winning football for us. And for us to have depth at any position is really rare. Nice to have that at least with the defensive line at this point.
Yes, depth is nice, but if push comes to shove this weekend and the defense struggles, Epenesa might need to be a starting rotation guy. There comes a point in the season where you need to primarily play your best players, and if conference play isn’t that part of the season, I don’t know what is. But yes, the defensive line depth is definitely the biggest strength of this team.
KIRK FERENTZ TALKS ABOUT THE PAST ALERT! (can someone make me a graphic for this?)
Q. How important is it to you to inform your team about the Floyd of Rosedale, and how much do you talk about it?
FERENTZ: We’ll have somebody give a report on it tomorrow, give a little bit more information, detailed information than I can provide....My first one was 1981 out there. I’m pretty sure we were ranked. We were on CBS TV.
And my memory is getting a little bad here, but..Sports Illustrated was at the game, which never happened back then. If you’re on TV it never happened either. And we got real tight and didn’t play very well. I think we lost 12-10 or 12-whatever it was. And I had a holding penalty; I remember that distinctly down in the end zone.
What I do remember is when they came across to get Floyd. We had Floyd in our possession. They won the game. And they came across and those are the things you remember.
Once you get into a rivalry game like this, you understand what the trophy’s all about, and so I think those are the things that our older guys talk about with younger guys and all of us as coaches share that, too.
KEEP FLOYD HOME!
Q. What’s the concern with coming off a bye week and maybe a little slow out of the gates on the road?
COACH FERENTZ: I just said that on the teleconference a little while ago. We kind of fooled around with -- I don’t know that you ever have a pattern. And every year is a little different. Every team is different. And this year it’s a little bit on the early side.
As far as you know, being symmetric it’s right smack dab in the middle of start of camp versus the end of the season. So that part I think is really good. We’re only four games into it. We haven’t really played, barely 10 percent of our conference games.
But it gives you time to reassess things a little bit, make sure you really think you have the people in the right spots that you want. And then the trick is how much work do you do, how much work don’t you do with the players, those types of things.
But one thing that’s been pretty much constant, we’ve changed our format almost every year it seems like. And the other thing that’s been pretty constant is usually on Sunday, I come off the field in a bad mood about that day’s work. And that wasn’t the case this year.
We changed the format a little bit. I’m sure we’ve done what we did this year, somewhere in the last 19 years. I really felt like our guys were focused and into it on Sunday which was pleasing to see. And that’s been pretty much a constant with this football team going back to January. They haven’t had many bad days and that’s encouraging.
Obviously we’ve got a lot of work to do. But I think they’re trying, they’re focused. And, so, I think we feel like we had a good practice. I think we’ve practiced well the last two days as well. Hopefully we’ll take that to game day and be ready to go at kickoff.
That’s a lot of text for not a lot of answer. Something changed in the routine that made Kirk happy on Sunday instead of angry. The team is practicing well, folks. I’ll...take it I guess? My thoughts are that Kirk wouldn’t say he was pleased if he was actually displeased. He would just dodge the question completely.
More injury news:
Q. Is Matt Hankins good to go this week?
COACH FERENTZ: Not yet. He’s working through some stuff. We’re hoping he’ll be ready to roll. We’ll see.
Let’s re-live some bad memories:
Q. Are you still confident in special teams, seems those errors against Wisconsin were correctible things?
COACH FERENTZ: I think so. I don’t think of Kyle being a fumbler. Some guys are a little bit prone to fumbles, turnovers. They get the ball, swinging out there, all that stuff. I haven’t seen Kyle do anything like that at all.
And really, in my mind, I’m not dismissing it or saying, okay, it’s okay. Because it’s not. Those two plays really hurt us. But things happen in football sometimes. And I don’t think they’re characteristic. First one, the fumble thing, I don’t think it’s characteristic of him at all. He’s a mentally tough guy, who is really conscientious. It’s kind of a weird play, quite frankly. Seemed like it happened in slow motion. I was standing there watching the whole thing.
It was a huge play in the game because of the field position. It’s tough to get good field position against those guys.
The other one I know was covered last week with the coordinators. But to me, it’s really a teaching moment. It’s a tough play. It’s a real tough play to communicate. And that’s really what it boiled down. And I think one guy was trying to do it. We need to do a better job there. But then everybody else has to help out, too. And the guy that ended up touching the ball was just trying to make a play. He was trying to help the football team. So can’t be critical of him at all.
But it’s more of a team communication. And it’s amazing how that happens offensively/defensively/special teams-wise, if communication isn’t good, it can be really costly. That’s a good example. But it’s a tough play to communicate, especially in a noisy environment. But still it’s going to happen again. We’ll be in that situation again. Hopefully we’ll learn from it.
Q. Does the opponent get any credit, from my view it looked like Wisconsin almost pushed him into the ball? And is that kind of what you’re coached to do in that situation
COACH FERENTZ: If you get that opportunity, yeah. In a perfect world, you want all your guys to scatter at that point. But I don’t think our communication was good enough.
And, again, you can’t just rely on one guy doing it. It’s got to be one guy and that triggers everybody else to help each other out. Brady was trying to help, but he was a distance away from the play. Shaun never could have heard him from where he was at. Brady, he had a good line of vision on it. So I think it’s one of the harder plays in football but hopefully we’ll improve from that and learn from it.
That was actually...a surprising amount of candor from Kirk answering both of those questions. I agree with his assessment, and it seems like we’ll continue to see some attempts at returning punts. But I’ll believe it when I see it. But I’ll also take that answer.
Let’s talk linebacker (again):
Q. Are you done rotating at weak side? Is Colbert the guy now?
COACH FERENTZ: Kristian is still going to play too. He’s swinging right now both ways, outside on both sides, inside and outside. But nothing’s in permanent ink yet. We’ll keep moving along.
Jack’s done a great job. He’s really solidified things. But we can still play better. We can play better on defense. That wasn’t our best outing last time out and there’s some things fundamentally we can do better. And those things showed up on the tape and hopefully we’ve been addressing those. And there’s always challenges. Everybody’s got an opportunity to hopefully push forward here as we go along.
There are other interesting tidbits from the press conference that I’ll let you read yourself if you’d like. I’m here to report what I deem the juiciest tidbits. So I’ll leave you with this assessment on Kyshaun Bryan:
Q. Kyshaun Bryan just decide this wasn’t the place for him?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, we came to a mutual decision last week. And Kyshaun is a great young guy and we wish him the best moving forward here.
Floyd loves Iowa City. Go Hawks.