Winning is fun, huh? I sure had fun. Rocky Lombardi, however, did not have fun last weekend as Iowa routed the Michigan State Spartans for the first win of the season.
This week, things might be a little more difficult. Iowa has its first Friday night game...ever (don’t check me on that), against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in Minneapolis. First and foremost on my end, props to Charlie Jones for winning Big Ten Special Teams player of the Week. He was certainly a surprise on Saturday and I hope we see more of him.
Now, onto the press conference highlights. As always, click here for the full transcript, otherwise, my highlights are below.
KIRK FERENTZ: Floyd was in the weight room so I think that was a good reminder just that this is a rivalry game. Every game is important. Every win means a lot but it’s just a reminder that this one typically is very hard fought and nobody owns the trophy. You get to keep it for a year, or this time maybe less than a year, a day less, but nonetheless it’s a one-year rental, so it’s up for grabs again Friday. We’re going to have to work hard to get it and that, especially when you consider what we’re playing Minnesota.
KEEP FLOYD HOME.
Q. How dangerous is a team like Minnesota who has a ton of potential, but they have kind of underachieved in many people’s minds in their first two games but seemingly put it together a little bit more last week?
KIRK FERENTZ: ...They have big play explosive capability on any play anywhere on the field. That’s the first thing to worry about. And then secondly, they know who they are. They have got an identity in all three phases; a very clear identity, in my opinion, and I really respect that. And then most importantly their players buy into that identity and they play hard and they play hard within the system. So they’re sure like a lot like us.
...There’s a process to all this and I wouldn’t even want to predict, it would be 3-0 on Friday night or it could be 43-42, one of those things. So you just, but my guess is it will be close and it will be hard fought for whoever wins.
Ah, the classic Kirk Ferentz non-answer to a question. Well, I really hope this game is not 3-0, whether Iowa wins or not. That might be worse than the 9-6 Iowa-Iowa State game from years ago and that was BAAD.
Q. It was before the 2018 season that you made LeVar exclusively special teams coordinator. No other, took the position thing away. How have you seen that, him really dive into that role because your special teams obviously are thriving right now? And is this kind of what you envisioned when you made that change?
KIRK FERENTZ: Tthat’s what we were hoping for and the key point was the expansion of the staff when the NCAA switched the rules....
...LeVar’s had a tremendous impact on those guys just from the psychological and mental standpoint. They’re being coached daily by a coach, their coach. I think that’s been good. And that coach’s focus is on that, as well as the supporting cast.
LeVar was excited about it when he started and he’s done a wonderful job and we were really lucky to have Kevin Spencer join us as a consultant. Kevin was a guy I worked with a hundred years ago and, I don’t know how old Kevin is, early 60’s, but anyway he’s the youngest 62 year-old-guy I’ve ever been around. He was a great mentor to LeVar; was able to help him with organizational things. Here’s what you need to be doing, and then was a great resource for him and continues to be, more by phone now obviously. Kevin’s out in San Diego. But to have those kind of resources, somebody to give you a little bit of guidance and, Hey, have you ever thought about this, thought about that? So just it fell into place for us, and three games into it, at least, it’s paying off for us.
An interesting bit of behind the scenes here. Levar Woods has certainly made a name for himself this season in particular, and it’s really good to see the program emphasize the importance of special teams after...well...too many special teams failures to name over the years.
Q. How important was last week’s win and the way, the decisive way you won it? Did you sense any problems keeping guys, especially the young guys, believing in where this team was headed after the two tough losses?
KIRK FERENTZ: ...And a lot of players ... don’t really respect what it takes to win a game. They don’t always respect the fact that any opponent that we play is usually pretty competitive and pretty tough and they want to win too. So it all starts with an appreciation for what it takes to win a game, just one game. And then to put them back-to-back and back-to-back, that’s a whole different challenge...
...Then the other part, yeah, it was great to win and the way we won was fantastic, but the biggest thing, we needed to play well. We needed to play well for sixty minutes and it wasn’t perfect. We had some flaws ... But at least we acted like a football team for sixty straight minutes start to finish. The bench was good. We just conducted ourselves like a winning team. And if you do that then you might have a chance to win. But boy it’s hard to win when you’re not doing that and we have left the door open a couple times this year. You don’t get them back. You don’t get them back. That’s the other lesson everybody learns fast.
“We have left the door open a couple times this year. You don’t get them back.” That is an understatement, but I digress. I highlighted this because of what Kirk references about the back-to-back-to-back style of Big Ten play this season. Obviously time will tell what the end product is of this team, but I think every criticism from week 1 and 2 was fair, while also thinking that this team would have really benefitted from some non-conference opponents. This is a developmental program, and I knew it would always take time for this team to get into the swing of things.
Last but not least:
Q. I’m going to try and combine a few things here. Just minutes ago the 50th college football game of the season was postponed or cancelled. Yesterday, we got the release that 30 Iowa athletic department student athletes and/or staff members were positive in the November 2 to 8 time frame. How have you guys been doing as a football team? Have you contributed to that figure of 30? Have you, what are you doing to dodge these raindrops?
KIRK FERENTZ: Gary actually called me last week to talk about the spike on campus. And so I hit that immediately the next morning with our guys. We don’t talk about it everyday, but just about everyday I just keep mentioning to them that it’s very real, if you’re paying attention at all, nationally and there’s more news last 24 hours nationally about college football teams and pro teams and high school teams, I mean it’s everywhere. So the message is, now until January, we all just have to be as vigilant as possible and do all we can. But all that being said there’s no guarantees. My sense is our contributions have been very minimal and I’m really happy to say that — I don’t want to talk about it because I don’t want to jinx us. But I think a big part of it, especially for college students, is they really have to kind of live like hermit ... So I guess they’re probably living like a lot of us. We come from home to here and then go home. And that’s kind of what we do. And I think that’s my sense of our players right now too. I will share this with you, when the season got dropped on August 11, our guard was dropped, I can tell you that, and our numbers did go up. We added to the statistics. So there’s a direct correlation, in my opinion, I’m not a scientist, but there’s a direct correlation to just how careful you are and just how mindful you are. And basically for our guys my message is, we all said we wanted to play and we do want to play, so what are we doing to help it?
Interesting input here. Maybe the high numbers earlier in the season were positive for the team (hopefully no one has serious long-term implications, obviously). So far so good for this program, and hopefully I’m not jinxing it either, but I do hope it keeps up.
Again, check out the full transcript for more about all the program’s transfers, Friday night football and more. Go Hawks.