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KIRK SPEAKS: Wisconsin

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Is this the year Kirk Ferentz and co. can finally beat the Badgers?

NCAA Football: Iowa at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Last weekend was a tale of two halves for the Iowa football team, and in particular, Spencer Petras, who played his best single half of football after easily playing his worst single half of football.

The end result? Iowa’s sixth straight win over Illinois. That’s fun! This season has turned out to be fun! But now Iowa faces its nemesis, Wisconsin, albeit a weakened version. Is this the year Kirk and crew can get over the hump? Let’s see what Kirk had to say to the media about it. Highlights below, full transcript here.

Let’s start out here:

Q. The 22 seniors, they’re listed in the game notes as playing their last game. Have you had any conversations about who could come back? It’s an unusual year. Duncan told us he’s not coming back, same with Niemann. Do you know who is coming back or not?

KIRK FERENTZ: To answer your question, no....

Whenever the season ends, we’ll sit down and visit with guys...

It’s been a unique year. What hasn’t been different this year? Strictly up to them. We would welcome all of them back. There may be a few that will be interested. But I also know everybody has a clock. I think we’ve seen that clock change a little bit in recent years. There’s a time for everything. The old song: Turn, Turn, Turn. There’s a time for everything. Whenever guys feel like it’s a time to move on... At least they have an option this year so it’s a nice change.

Nothing super surprising here, but an interesting insight to me. Certainly an unprecedented situation for not only the players but also for the coaching staff in looking forward to next season...I think more guys will depart than stay in my opinion, but who knows? Also lol at Kirk saying ‘turn, turn, turn.”

Culture update!

Q. You talked this summer about a coaching approach that was demanding without being demeaning. Since the summer, how have things gone in that regard in the building? Any issues there, concerns? What have you observed? What you heard feedback-wise from the players?

KIRK FERENTZ: I can only answer to basically what you just mentioned, the feedback part. It’s been positive. I check with the leadership group weekly about issues, things that we need to be aware of, things we need to address, et cetera.

Everything has been very positive. I think you’re seeing that with the way guys are playing on Saturdays. That’s your window. The media interviews you have on Tuesday, then what you see Saturdays, talk to them after the games. Usually to me that is the best window you have.

Seems like things are going pretty smoothly. It isn’t perfect. Nothing is perfect. I think we’re being diligent in all regards, everybody involved that’s working with our players. Think we’re all aware of what we’ve been through over the last six, eight months, whatever it may be. I think everybody is doing a good job putting a good foot forward. As far as I know everything is going well.

Anyone know if the players were also asked about this? I’m certainly glad to see that he’s asking the leadership group weekly about whether there’s anything they need to be aware of, but honestly, we need to hear this from the players too for it to not ring hollow. Regardless, it does seem like the program is on the right track.

Q. Do you feel confident the five transfers you’ve had so far are outside the racial disparities conversation?

KIRK FERENTZ: All I can do is share you with the conversations I had with them. I’m not going to get into that full extent. That’s one of the questions I asked each and every guy. Do you feel you weren’t being treated fairly, et cetera? Everybody gave the proper answer. You have to go to the source to get the honest answer there.

That was not the case with any of them ... All five guys are great guys. Got no issues with that. Wish them all the best as they move forward.

Interesting rhetoric here: “everybody gave the proper (emphasis mine) answer.” Am I reading too much into that? Maybe. But given what we know about the program, maybe not?

Q. Obviously you’ve talked and we’ve talked about the development of Daviyon Nixon as a football player, what he’s accomplished this season. Talking to him about the things that he’s overcome personally with the learning disability, to get to this point, how much appreciation do you have for that part of it as his coach?

KIRK FERENTZ: ...Going to college is not easy for a lot of people. It wasn’t for me. I know that. Playing football, major college football, which I’d never experienced, that’s hard...

...That’s why you have such respect for the players that play.

...Going back to Daviyon, he’s just done a wonderful job. I think I mentioned last week, maybe I didn’t, after the game, I remember watching our game against Illinois a year ago, watching he and Zach VanValkenburg out there when the twos were out there. Both of those guys looked fairly pedestrian. I don’t mean that in a negative way, but they just looked okay. They were out there killing time while the other guys were resting. Got the varsity back in there, played a little defense.

Neither of those guys are playing pedestrian right now. Daviyon is playing as well as anybody as an inside player for us, extremely disruptive. Just doing a really nice job, giving us a lot of life, energy, leadership out there on the field. Zach is playing at a high level, too.

We just talked about Mike and Josh Jackson. Doesn’t always click for guys at the same time. That’s the interesting part. As long as they’re trying, as long as they’re giving the effort, making the effort, you stick with them because you just never know what’s going to unfold. Doesn’t always. Sometimes you have stories like this. Daviyon ends up on an All-American list or two, legitimate first team, that wouldn’t shock me because this guy is playing really well.

It’s a real tribute to him to stick with it. His family has been really supportive. We’re just thrilled he’s on our football team.

I am thrilled too. It’s a shame there’s probably not a chance in the world he stays, but I’m going to enjoy the hell out of watching Daviyon Nixon play until then. Easily one of the most electric players on this team.

And last but not least, the elephant in the room (sort’ve):

Q. Is this a program you measure yourself against? They have been kind of the flagship program of the Big Ten West since divisional play started.

KIRK FERENTZ: I told that story many times. 1989, we’d love to play them twice, play a doubleheader. They were really down and out for whatever reason. I can’t explain it. When I got here in ‘81, they were outstanding. But that was not a good decade. By the end of the decade, they had really struggled with the football program.

Barry got hired that year. It’s been really good since then. Took them two, three years to get where they wanted to get. They’ve been doing it well ever since.

Back to when I got here, that was the first team we looked at. Not that we live in the same neighborhood, but we’re a lot more like them maybe than we are an Ohio State. Let’s see if we can’t try to get to that level.

We’ve been there. We went ahead of them for a little while. It’s kind of gone the other way. We’ve had some great games over the years. I do know this from experience: If you’re going to beat them, you have to beat them. It’s not easy. We have to play our absolute best game.

We have a tremendous amount of respect for what they’ve done. Obviously several coaches since Barry’s transition to the athletic director position. They’ve all been outstanding people and outstanding coaches.

I have a great admiration for what they do, great respect for what they do. Bottom line is they’re the winningest team on our side of the bracket last five years. That says it all right there.

Kind of a dodge, but the answer here, from reading between the lines is: duh.