The Iowa Hawkeyes have touched down in Tampa Florida ahead of next Tuesday’s Outback Bowl matchup against Mississippi State. Our own BoilerHawk already gave you the breakdown of which former Iowa Outback Bowl appearance the 2019 iteration might look like, so now it makes sense to hear what the man in the headset had to say about the matchup after the first practice in...paradise. Check out the obligatory “Coach, how’s it feel to be in Tampa?” question by checking out the full transcript here, but we’re going to get right down into the good stuff below.
Q: How do you approach not having Noah (Fant) here. How have you guys discussed a change in the game plan?
KIRK FERENTZ: It’s no different than if a player is injured. You look at what you think you are going to have going into a game and you never know until you get to the game. Then try to balance things out. We’ll change our personnel groups a little bit, certainly. The percentages will change, but we will still have two tight ends on the field, that won’t come out of our playbook, but it might alter our percentages a little bit.
We have other good players, too. The receivers are doing a good job, so if we’re out there in a three-wide receiver set, we feel good about those guys and just try to be smart about what we plan.
There you have it. Still a two-tight end heavy offense, as well as some three wide receiver sets. Sounds like we might see some more shotgun action? Or shots down the field, potentially? I’m interested. Some good follow-up questions to this regarding the NFL...
Q: Did any of your guys get back the NFL stuff yet?
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, they all got it probably a week ago or something like that. Like I said last week, we’re just thinking about the game right now, Mississippi State. I don’t expect anybody to make an announcement either way during the next couple days. It’s about the game.
Remember, a couple weeks ago on early signing day, Kirk specifically mentioned not to ask the players about the NFL on the bowl trip. Good for the media to at least ask the head guy about it here, but I’m not sure what they really expected him to say.
Q: Does it look like your staff is going to stay together?
KIRK FERENTZ: I haven’t heard anything to the contrary unless you guys know something I don’t know.
Another interesting question here. Are there rumblings out there on the message boards about staffing changes that I haven’t heard about? If so, please share!
Now let’s talk Mississippi State and Outback Bowls of ole.
Q: You have talked about facing the 2013 LSU team having so many talented players. Does this Mississippi State team remind you of them?
KIRK FERENTZ: Especially on the defensive side of the ball. They have some really talented guys. They play well collectively. You look at their stats and it’s been steady. Not many teams have run the ball well on them. They do a good job of taking that away and they get you in third-and-longs. Their third down defense and offense percentages are both pretty healthy and they’re good in the red zone on both sides.
Which version of the Iowa offense shows up will be pretty much the entire story of this game. The MSU defense is solid, and if Iowa can’t get things going, their offense will more than make up for it through the air against Iowa’s young corners. Speaking of offense...
What do you see as the main issue on offense the last two times here; not many points?
The thing that stands out to me, two years ago, was we had a couple critical plays that we couldn’t make. I think if we make those it was a whole different game. I think the score is totally unrepresentative of the game, but we didn’t make the critical plays and Florida did, so we lose. It got out of hand or whatever at the end of the game and it wasn’t very pretty. And then 2013, that was ancient history, I can’t even remember who was playing quarterback that year.
Is Kirk throwing shade at C.J. Beathard here? Speaking of not remembering Outback Bowl games, I’ve completely blocked the 2017 Outback Bowl out of my mind. That game was horrendous. But then again, the stat sheet makes the 2014 single-handed beatdown by Odell Beckham Jr. look way better than it was. I knew he would be incredible in the NFL after watching that game.
And last but not least...
Q: Are the wide receivers ready for more percentage of balls going their way? Kelton (Copeland) said it is a short rotation because he wants Ihmir and Brandon. Is this group ready for that?
KIRK FERENTZ: I think Nick Easley is one of our best offensive players. Compared to a year ago, we are so much further down the road. We have some other guys coming in behind them who are doing a good job, too. They’ll be fine. Mississippi State has good man coverage with good defensive backs, it’s going to be a challenge for us. The whole thing is going to be able to protect and give our guys a chance to do what they have to do.
Expect a lot of targets for Nick Easley! Don’t read that, Mississippi State!
We’ll have more coverage for you as the bowl game gets closer, so make sure to check back here often!