Another year, another opportunity for the Iowa football team to win the Big Ten West division down the drain. And just like in previous years, it’s frustrating to dream about what could have been.
And yet, the season moves on. As he always does, Kirk Ferentz met with the media yesterday ahead of this weekend’s matchup: the...undefeated, No. 9 in the country, Minnesota Golden Gophers?
Last week I said there was no chance they would win the Big Ten West. This week..I still think that! I smell an upset in the water at Kinnick Stadium this weekend. Know why? Because this game is mostly meaningless, and that means Iowa will play its best game of the season.
But what does Kirk think? Let’s see! Check out the full transcript here.
KIRK FERENTZ: Minnesota comes in here 9-0 ... they’ve earned it, playing well in all three areas, and that’s where our attention is right now. They’re a big, physical football team, especially on the offensive front. They have a huge offensive line. They’ve got good receivers ... they’re still a very dangerous group, big-play guys, throw the ball down the field well and all that, and they’ve got three running backs that really do a good job running the football, and then the quarterback has really played well for them this year. I think his statistics speak to that...
... they’re coming off a really big win against a very good football team, and I think the overriding impression is the big thing ... if you’re going to beat them, you’re going to have to really earn it. For us it’s going to require us to play well in all three areas, certainly play as well as we have all season long to have a chance to pull this off. That’s kind of where our focus is right now.
Boy, is this weird to hear. Yes, Kirk is complementary of every team, every week. But it is just so strange to see an undefeated Minnesota squad. And everything Kirk says here is true. This team is talented, and they’re fun to watch, and it will take a really strong performance from the offense and the defense, neither of whom played a particularly good game last weekend.
That’s not encouraging! But also this Minnesota team reminds me of the 2015 Iowa squad, which means they’re also completely beatable. So do other people!
Q. Do you see any similarities to kind of what happened to you guys in ‘15?
KIRK FERENTZ: I mean, they’re 9-0 right now, and that’s hard to do. We’ve only, I think, experienced that twice .. Not many teams have. Take Alabama and Clemson out of the mix, it’s really difficult to do that.
It speaks really that they’re wired in. They’re playing well weekly and finding a way to win. It’s a little bit more challenging than just saying it.
Well this is about as much of a non-answer as you can get from Kirk.
Now let’s talk injuries:
Q. Do you think maybe sooner on Brandon than later?
KIRK FERENTZ: At least it’s encouraging. He’s actually out there running out the trainers and starting to move around, change of direction, those types of things. We’ll see how fast it comes along, but it’s at least encouraging.
Well, at least there’s progress?
Q. Historically you’ve been able to circle the wagons after tough losses and rally, and probably the greatest example is three years ago Penn State to Michigan, but other years, too. How have you been able to do that as a program, to just put what happened behind you and focus and move forward and have success?
KIRK FERENTZ: I think probably every coach believes this: The biggest challenge is you’ve got to turn the page at some point, whether it’s the 24-hour rule, whatever catch phrase it is that you use, at some point you have to do that. And it can be really challenging after a great win, too.
...But losses hit you ... the trick is you have to somehow find a way to put it behind you and really just kind of move on.
...There’s always a little residue there. But at some point you’ve got to get your attention, and when you play a team like Minnesota, 9-0 football team, that shows you how important every second is. We can’t be looking backwards, we have to be looking out the front window here and doing what we can do to get ready for a really tough opponent.
It’s a discipline, I think, that takes mental toughness for people to do that because it’s real easy to feel bad about that, and that’s natural, but you can’t do it, you just don’t have that luxury at least in season to do it.
So, upset confirmed? Not so fast...
Q. Do you feel like the offense right now has 90 percent success plays, stuff that you can rely on? It feels like that’s really elusive.
KIRK FERENTZ: I don’t know. It’s all about your execution and what have you, and also the teams you play. We’ve played some really good defensive football teams, and that’s one thing our conference is really strong in that area. We’re playing as good a defense in the Big Ten, I think, as anybody.
This is obviously another deflection, but also let’s read between the lines here: this is not a ringing endorsement for his offense!
Q. Three years into your new offensive coordinator, how would you assess the progress? Has it been slower than you hoped?
KIRK FERENTZ: I’ll leave all the grading and evaluations until postseason. That’s kind of my mode of operation. We didn’t score enough to win the other day. We didn’t stop them enough to win. That’s kind of the long and short of it. They got more points than us.
Neither is this! It doesn’t seem like Kirk was short with reporters here, but it continues to be telling that the questions Kirk continually sidesteps are the difficult ones. This certainly isn’t new, but it always also takes a different light when the season has turned somewhat sour.