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KIRK SPEAKS: Purdue

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Nothing like a weekend road trip to West Lafayette to avenge a devastating loss!

NCAA Football: Iowa at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Last weekend’s loss really sucked. It was frustrating. It hurt. It was agonizing to watch, and it was a game Iowa could have easily won.

The last time this happened with Iowa, they had a bye-week to let things simmer and improve before hitting the field again in the friendly confines of Kinnick Stadium. This week, it’s another road trip, this time a trip to West Lafayette to play the dark-horse contender Purdue Boilermakers in a game that now has many people concerned.

Was Kirk Ferentz concerned when he met with the media yesterday to talk Our Most Hated Rival? Let’s see. Check out the full transcript here.

KIRK FERENTZ: A couple obvious observations from the game, our communication and ability to handle the environment wasn’t always what it needs to be, so that’s something we can certainly improve upon. I think Penn State’s defense certainly played a really good game, and didn’t allow us to really play with the kind of consistency we’d like to offensively, so it’s a credit to them.

Sure let’s credit the defense for Nate Stanley throwing three consecutive balls right to the ground...

And then we had some opportunities for some big plays, and it’s true in every game, but when you lose a game, those things are magnified a little bit more and become even that much more important. I think that was part of the deal, as well.

As we move forward right now, I think every good player I’ve been around, every good team I’ve been around has tough days, and that certainly was the case the other day. The other part about that, good players and good people move forward and they learn from those mistakes, and usually those things will benefit them if they take them the right way, and that’s really the challenge that our football team has right now.

It’s challenging for this team to look ahead? Uh oh! -sarcasm-

Let’s start with the question you’re all asking:

Q. Is Nate Stanley going to start?

KIRK FERENTZ: I hope so, yeah. He’s fine. He threw the ball well today, and I think he’s good to go.

He’s fine, but you hope he’s going to start? A follow-up question there would have been nice...something along the lines of ‘Is he actually injured?’ But I digress. Kirk did at least talk about how he thinks Peyton Mansell would perform if he entered the game on Saturday:

Q. If Mansell had to play Saturday, how far along is he in his development?

KIRK FERENTZ: Well, that’s something we’ll find out, because again, you never know until a guy really gets on the field and starts playing. But last year it would have been scary, last spring, and I think he made a big jump in August, and I’d say the same thing about Petras. He made a big jump from spring ball to August. But that’s the next step is getting on the field and seeing where they’re at. They’re doing a good job in practice and hopefully they’ll be ready to go because they’re all one play away from being out there.

Well that’s a bit disconcerting!

KIRK FERENTZ TALKS ABOUT THE PAST AND BASEBALL ALERT FOR THIS NEXT QUESTION!

Q. When a captain like Nate struggles in a game, what do you tell him mentally to kind of bounce back?

KIRK FERENTZ: Well, it’s kind of the point I made a little while ago. I think all good players have tough days, and I talked to him about that on Sunday. I mean, I haven’t been around a good quarterback or a good player at any position that doesn’t have a rough outing. It’s just the nature of sports, especially when you’re playing against a good team, and Penn State is very athletic, very aggressive. They had a great effort, made it tough on us, and it wasn’t like we played a perfect game as a unit offensively, so a lot of that goes into it.

Quarterbacks obviously garner a lot of attention, and it’s just part of the deal. But probably the best story I can give you, somebody pointed out, Chuck Knoll made a reference one time about Bradshaw had had a tough day, and he mentioned Nolan Ryan, who in the ‘70s and ‘80s was a pretty good pitcher. So he’s out there on the mound. The distance to the plate never changes; the ball is perfectly round, and if you get a scuff on a baseball they put a new one in there, somebody sneezes on one they give you a new one, and you’ve got all the time you want in between pitches. Nobody is going to hit you in the face when you deliver the ball. He threw no hitters, he also got knocked out in the first inning. To think of a quarterback is going to go out with a ball that’s not real symmetrical and in conditions that are very, very tough and challenging, to think quarterbacks aren’t going to have struggles at some point, that’s probably not realistic.

That’s how I look at it, and we don’t have a better guy on our football team. Nobody works harder, more invested, so he’ll bounce back.

Uhhhhhhh...ok then! Yes, let’s blame the symmetry of the football for Nate Stanley’s struggles. And yes, the conditions were bad. Why didn’t you run the ball more?

Let’s talk Noah Fant!

Q. Back to Noah, he didn’t catch his first pass until later in the game. Is that more what Penn State did or what you guys were doing or both? How do you explain that?

KIRK FERENTZ: Well, we’re not intentionally not trying to get him to not catch a ball. That would be pretty dumb on our part.

-snort-

Yeah, it’s a lot what they do, and we have two pretty good tight ends. So I think if you’re looking across the ball at us, if you’re going to defend us, you’re going to try to minimize their activity. I think that’s a good plan.

We’re going to see more of that as we go along, too, so yeah, you try to design plays for certain players. Everybody does that in the game plan if you’ve got good players, and then it’s a challenge of do you get that opportunity to get them free, and that’s always the cat-and-mouse game that goes on.

Yeah, I think that’s a good game plan, too. But that doesn’t really account for why he wasn’t in the game for the final drive, but I digress. Let’s move on to the good and bad of calling trick plays and get a little more insight into how Kirk thinks of them:

Q. The last couple years the trick plays have become more apparent. Did it take you a while to kind of come around to those to use them so often? It’s 50/50 whether they work or don’t work --

KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, that’s the danger zone, but that’s like a lot of plays. When they work, they’re great. If they’re timed out properly -- you know, the Ohio State game we just felt like we needed that to really jump ahead. But yeah, I’m definitely more open to them now in the last four or five years than I was say 15 years ago for sure. They have advantages, but the key is still execution like anything, offense or defense, same deal.

Q. Why are you more receptive to it now than 15 years ago?

KIRK FERENTZ: Just conversation, staff conversation. We do a lot of that more so in the out of season, but just our approach, how we want to do things in general just in principle and philosophy. It’s got to be calculated and you just can’t do it at an emotional time, which some of those come that way. But you want to try to have a good plan, good place for them.

I’m willing to go on the record and say that most of the trick plays this year have been really good. But that trick play with Mansell still irritates me three days later.

Injury news!

Q. Ivory Kelly-Martin, I think the radio said he left with an injury. Is he okay?

KIRK FERENTZ: He’s a little sore right now, but we’ll see. I think he’ll play. He should be go to go.

Great! It makes me sad how much injuries have played a role in this season for IKM.

Q. How about Brady Ross? What’s his time frame?

KIRK FERENTZ: He’s still -- next week would probably be pushing it. The guys that have been out are out still. I don’t think I’m missing anybody, and then Shaun is really the only new guy where I know he won’t be there Saturday. Yeah, I know that.

Injuries are never good, especially when they lead to questions on the depth chart...for example, the Iowa defense:

Q. Middle linebacker is an “or” right now. What are you looking at there?

KIRK FERENTZ: We’ll see. We’ll see how it goes. Kristian started it out, and then he sprained his foot a little bit, so he had to come out. He’s been practicing now, so we’ll see how the week goes, but we feel comfortable with both those guys playing that position, but Kristian and Jack, too, has played the other position, too.

If there’s a silver lining for all the shuffling that we’ve done, at least I think we’re developing some position flexibility, and Nick the same way. We’re probably healthier at that position than we’ve been since the start of the season.

Q. Along those lines, with the personnel that you used it’s kind of hard to remove Geno Stone from the lineup, Nick Niemann didn’t play a whole lot, and you’ve kind of regarded him as one of your best players. Is there any kind of look at maybe sliding him inside especially because Purdue you’re probably going to have to go --

KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, we’ll look at that for sure, and like I said, the good news is we’ve had a lot of guys play that we weren’t sure how they’d play, and they’ve played pretty well, including Djimon. So we’ll try to -- the more flexibility we have, the better it is for us, and we’ll just kind of take it week by week here.

That should be interesting. And last but certainly not least, let’s talk about Iowa somehow still controlling its own destiny in the Big Ten west heading into Saturday’s game in West Lafayette:

Q. How did you approach following this loss knowing there’s still everything on the table for you guys? Do you bring in more big picture stuff, or do you stick to -- how did you --

KIRK FERENTZ: Very briefly, every week I just talk about the big picture, but that’s brief. Like it’s hardly worth talking about because whoever played Arizona last week, if they were talking about the big picture, that picture changed. That’s college football. I mean, Oregon State beat somebody, too. Every week you see a handful of scores that, boy, how did that happen? So the experts aren’t always right.

And really the best way to do anything is just try to take things a step at a time, as mundane as it sounds, and a week at a time, because that’s really all we have any control over right now, and to worry about anything else at this point -- and it’s pretty simple. The more you win, no matter what happens, it’s better, and the more you lose -- that’s why I always get a chuckle, this is the week of the College Football poll thing, right, the power poll? Like Alabama, they’ll probably last all four weeks or however many weeks, but outside of that, that thing is really wrong frequently.

“The College Football Poll Thing.”

So wasting time on that stuff, it’s great for fans, it’s great for the media, but it’s not really productive for players and coaches to focus on that because it’s going to change anyway, and it really doesn’t matter, and if you end up one out or whatever, you’re still in a pretty good neighborhood if you’re up in that discussion.

Bottom line, one thing I’ve learned is there’s no downside to winning games. If you win games, then you figure it out from there. We didn’t get to go to the whatever bowl in 2002, right? Ohio State went, we didn’t. I didn’t lose a night’s sleep over that one, I’ll promise you. I felt pretty good about what we had done that year, and that’s the goal is just keep playing better every week. That’s the goal.

Yes Kirk, I agree: there is no downside to winning football games.