Folks, last week was not fun. And the fact that we have a bye-week this week is also not fun, in that we don’t get to watch Iowa football (although maybe that’s ok?) and the fact that we don’t get an immediate chance to right the wrongs of the Purdue game (although, come to think of it, maybe that’s ok, too. Let it stew).
Because of that, Kirk Ferentz didn't do his weekly press conference. Instead, the coordinators took the podium to talk about the state of the team heading into the second half of the season. For all intents of the post, let’s focus on what you want to read: the quotes from Brian Ferentz and Phil Parker. Let’s start with everyone’s favorite offensive coordinator, shall we?
Q: What disappointed you the most Saturday?
BRIAN FERENTZ: Our third quarter. That’s why I made a poor attempt at humor. Maybe been hanging round Ken O’Keefe too much. If you look at our football team and how we need to play, I’d go back to the Maryland game in the second quarter we didn’t have a lot of answers early on, but then put together a nice long scoring drive to make it 10-7. Then special teams comes up with a huge play and two plays later it’s 14-7. Then defense makes a play and we get it right back again. We need to play off each other like that. We might have gotten a standing 8 count against Penn State early on. Finally got going and Charlie gets a score. If you’re going to get a win, need to put together drives like that. I thought we were looking at the same thing in the third quarter Saturday. We only got 4 plays, then defense gets the ball back, and we go 3 and out. To me that’s the part I look at. It ties back to who we’re going to be as a team. Those are the situations where we have to come up with something. It hurts and it’s disappointing. Some of those standing 8s turn into 10 counts. If you play or coach long enough you’re going to take one of those on the chin. Now it’s how you respond.
I included this entire answer because I think it’s interesting how Brian Ferentz basically...doesn’t take any responsibility here? Nowhere in that answer do I see ‘I should have changed my approach because of X, Y, and Z.’ That’s a bit concerning to me.
Q: How would you evaluate Spencer through 7 weeks?
BF: He’s won 6 games and lost 1. Try to remind him of that because he’s a perfectionist. If you do this long enough, you’re going to take a couple on the chin. To see the hurt and the disappointment in the locker room after a loss hurts. I remember seeing him after the Purdue game and thinking they pay me to do this, but here’s a 21 year old guy who laid it all on the line and now has to go answer questions. I gave him a hug and told him it’s going to be all right and he’s going to have games like this and can only learn from it. The adjustments? First, we’ve got to protect him better. Second, got to get open better. Then if there are makeable throws and he misses them, those are on him.
Well, both things are true here, Brian. He’s absolutely right that Spencer is just a student doing his best and answering questions. But he also does make bad decisions in games at times — especially last week — which begs the question of why we’re not even sniffing the thought of seeing any backup quarterback play. But alas.
Q: Coming off bye week, what are your goals?
BF: ...first down, not nearly as efficient as we need to be. Why is that happening? First place you need to look is in the mirror. It’s a lot easier to start pointing fingers, but look at what you’re doing yourself first. Then need to act on it. What are the actionable steps to improve it. We practiced this morning and will practice again on Friday. You’re not making wholesale changes, but fine tuning things and moving forward. Other part is you’ve got to come up for air. It’s a lot of fun what we do, but we’ve been at it for 7 weeks competing and 4 weeks of camp before that, so that takes tremendous focus and during bye week need to take a step back and get some perspective. Last thing during bye week is looking forward to see what the next five weeks look like. You don’t know what every game is going to look like, but trying to get a global understanding of what’s coming up on the schedule. Some new coordinators coming up, so try to look ahead at those so you’re not starting from scratch when it gets to those game weeks.
So what I’m hearing is, they’re not making any sort of changes to the offensive philosophy? That does NOT seem smart!
Q: You spoke to some actionable things to the bye week. What are some that you can implement?
BF: I don’t want to be coy, but there are some things that are better left unsaid. There’s always better ways if you study and learn that you can use personnel better and put people in better situations, affect a defense a different way. Can we do what we do best in a better way or make it look different without them know what we’re doing. It could be a shift or a personnel group or one person doing it instead.
I understand that Brain isn’t going to come up and reveal all his secrets to tip off opposing coaches, but boy, I am just not convinced after reading through the full transcript here that we’re going to see any major changes to this offense. Buckle up y’all.
First things first, injury update:
Q: Riley back for Wisconsin?
PHIL PARKER: I think he looks good. Positive out there walking around. Not sure where it stands, but I wouldn’t bet against him. Whenever doctors release him, but he wasn’t going to practice this week anyway. Perfect time for a bye week to rest some of those guys.
Well, that’s some encouraging news, at least!
Q: What is the health status of Craig and Jones?
PP: Jones practiced today. I think Craig is going to be okay. I expect both of those guys to be ready for Wisconsin.
Q: When you look at Jestin Jacobs, he’s played some different roles - pass rush, weakside, and outside - what do you see going forward?
PP: We talked about it and playing more first and second down or playing three linebackers on passing situations. It’s something we want to look at it and looking ahead what do we need in this game or that game so should install this week. We’ve got a good start on that right now.
GET THIS MAN MORE INVOLVED. Jacobs has been huge all season, and I am very excited to see what he does in the future.
Q: What is your evaluation of the defensive line? Some disruption but probably not enough against Purdue.
PP: Last week we were short two guys, Ethan and Craig ... Maybe 7-8 instead of 9-10. The thing about playing that team is the ball comes out quick. It’s hard to get to the QB. We have to do better in the back end of matching up things and helping us out. I think the way we’re going with our front has come a long way. They’re further ahead than I thought they’d be at this point.
Admittedly I did not get to watch much of this game, but I remain pretty convinced that the defensive line is not the weak point of this defense — that would be pass coverage. That being said, down a few guys, I can see where it would be hard to blitz effectively in last week’s situation.
Q: Looking at Wisconsin, you’ve gone 4-3 and even 4-4 one year. How does Kaevon take that if he’s not going to play as much?
PP: It’s going to be a very physical game. He’s been playing well, really like how he’s been tackling, and might rotate him in where takes some pressure off Dane at safety. I really like what he’s doing. Could be more of a factor in the future. Have to watch how much wear and tear on Dane too, so could split time like defensive line. Usually aren’t in that situation on the back end.
Interesting insight here. I’m sure we’ll hear more about it next week.
LEVAR WOODS: Happy with our punter and how he’s flipped the field. Happy with our field goal kicker and kickoffs. Couple kicks and punts you’d like to have back, but you don’t get those. Happy with return game, but more opportunities out there. That’s what this week is about is finding the little things we can do better and finish some plays to help team. Looking at schemes and personnel and everything we can this week.
I am also very happy with how our punter flips the field! Shudak missing last weekend was a bit strange but overall he has been pretty consistent. Levar is a great coach and special teams has definitely been a huge part of this team.
Q: Tory’s ability to kick the ball and stop it at the 3 and your gunners go get it. How much work do they do? What drills can you do? And how much pride do guys like Ivory and Terry take in it?
LW: I think you hit the nail on the head with the word pride. Ivory Kelly-Martin and Terry Roberts take their jobs seriously. When Terry was playing defense last week, he came to me and said don’t you dare take me off punt team. As far as how much we work on it, it’s definitely a point of emphasis.
And boy, does it make a huge difference.