Existence is pain. Especially if you’re a Hawkeye fan. Any chance of this being a magical season has pretty much gone down the drain after the demoralizing loss to Wisconsin last weekend. I’m extremely online (obviously), so we should probably take this with a grain of salt, but it feels like fan displeasure, particularly with Brian Ferentz — and to some extent, elder Ferentz — has reached an all-time high.
But this is Iowa football. The only answers you get to your questions will be non-answers. And such was the case from Kirk Ferentz today when he met with the media ahead of this weekend’s matchup against Northwestern.
Check out the full transcript here (for real this time, sorry I forgot it last week) and my highlights below. Buckle up. If you’re an unhappy Hawkeye, you’ll find a lot in my highlights to be unhappy about. This might be a bit long, because I thought the media did an exceptional job today of asking tough questions that a lot of you will want to see answered.
Interestingly, there was no intro from Kirk this week (that was included in the transcript, at least).
Q. (Question about the offensive line)
KIRK FERENTZ: I think we’re thin at pretty much every spot up front outside of the center position. I don’t think we have a lot of flexibility right now, and I think probably the guys that are at guard will stay there, and the guys that have been playing tackle, three guys there, we’ll just keep working with those guys and see how it goes.
Down the road, you never know, but right now, the immediate future, probably what you’ve seen is what we have. We’re best served just to keep those guys in their spots.
Well, given what we’ve seen, that’s not great, but, not unexpected either. Let’s just hope they improve.
Q. How do you get someone like Tyrone more involved on offense?
KIRK FERENTZ: That’s a question we’re trying to ask and answer in some ways. He’s got film, plays on film that have been documented, and certainly if we can get him more involved, that would be a good thing. But it’s easier said than done. We’re trying to probe every option there might be to try to get the thing moving a little bit more.
This right here really frustrates me. A simple answer of ‘We’re going to give him more opportunities,’ you have a good answer that doesn’t give up your game plan. I like hearing about “probing every option” (also lol), but also, it shouldn’t be as hard as he makes it out here?
Q. During times like this it’s easy to ask what kind of changes need to be made. How do you make changes during the season, and is it more a matter of just being better at what you guys do?
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, it is. You can’t change your system wholesale in season. That would be really counterproductive, and you can’t go out and get mercenary players, either. That’s not part of the deal in college football.
...Really all you got to do is look at the last three years. We lost three in a row three years ago; we lost two in a row the last two years, and things turned out. I think everybody was fairly happy at the end of the season. At least internally we all felt pretty good about our team and the way we did things.
Here’s another frustrating answer (at least to me). It’s another example of knowing exactly what to expect from Kirk, in everything from how he addresses the media to what play he’s going to have Brian call. Obviously he’s not going to ‘change the whole system wholesale’ in the middle of the season — we all know that. But saying that execution is the only thing that needs to be changed here is just incorrect. Admit that you’re going to change some things — particularly on offense. You've scored 14 points in two games. Execution can only go so far when you’re trying to righten a ship. To me, saying execution is the only thing to change means that Kirk is ok with the results of the last two weeks.
Q. We talked to Spencer; he said he’s okay to play and all that, but just checking the box, he’s your starter, right?
KIRK FERENTZ: Expect him to, yeah.
Q. When your offense struggles, it seems like one of the narratives that comes out is you have to modernize. When you hear that, what’s your reaction?
KIRK FERENTZ: ...The trick is getting everything to mesh at once, to get that ‘02 offense and that ‘04 defense to be on the same team. You get that, boy, I will tell you, you’re in business ... [but] you just never know where those strengths are going to lie on a football team and then you just try to yield toward them.
But yeah, I’m not even sure I know what modernize means anymore, quite frankly. To me the end game, the end result we’re all shooting for, it’s not about winning or losing but really it kind of is because that’s how people feel good or they feel bad, and my wife has said that for probably about 40 years now, it’s as simple as that.
I feel like we’ve for the most part been able to find a solution somehow, some way fairly consistently. Nothing is perfect certainly, but fairly consistently. That’s what we’re trying to do right now. We’re trying to find the next solution.
Yes, there has been a lot of consistency in all 8 weeks for this team on offense — it’s been really, really bad. ‘We’re trying to find the next solution’ but also, it just requires more execution, as he said earlier in the press conference? BIG dodge answer here.
Q. There was an article in the Wisconsin State Journal on Monday where there several Wisconsin defensive players quoted as saying every time Iowa came to the line, they knew exactly what running play was going to be run. I know in the past, you’ve talked about the self-scouting especially in the bye week. How do you react to that, kind of the predictability question?
KIRK FERENTZ: I’d say based on their stats they’ve had a pretty good idea of what everybody is running against them because nobody has really run it well against them outside of Michigan. I think that’s the only team. And Army, too. Army, that’s what they do, option attack.
We are fairly predictable and there’s certain formations, all that type of thing. But I’m not too concerned about that really, quite frankly. They played a heck of a defensive game, and they have been. They’ve been playing pretty consistently all year outside of that Michigan game.
Brian runs one of the lowest rated offenses in the country in yards per game, but isn’t concerned about his formations and play calls to be predictable? I don’t know what I expected from an answer here, but it wasn’t something this ‘meh’ about the whole situation. He talked earlier in the press conference about how in recent years, they’ve had teams that lost multiple games in a row and fans have still been happy with the result of the season. Sure, that’s true to an extent, but also, in those years, the Big Ten West didn’t look as winnable as it conceivably did for us two weeks ago. Those teams weren’t getting crushed by opposing defenses. Maybe this team is just regressing heavily to the mean at this point, but even so, I’d expect to see something from Kirk that says he and the team are fed up with the last two weeks, that there are plans in place to make sure the result is different last week, instead of just executing the predictable formations better.
Q. No longer controlling your own destiny, but how confident are you in this team still being able to take a Big Ten West title?
KIRK FERENTZ: All we’re trying to do is win this week. Simple as that. That’s really what we need to be focused on right now. That’s really where it’s at.
I hope our players understand that. Like all that stuff, that type of talk, that’s our goal, obviously, why wouldn’t it be, but the rankings, all the other stuff right now, just it comes if you deserve it, and you find that out at the end of November. Right now we really need to focus on this week. If we deserve to be there, we’ll be there, but you’ve got to earn that.
Winning the Big Ten West is their goal? If we deserve to go to Indy, we’ll be there, but we have to earn it? Again, a completely predictable answer here, but frustrating nonetheless. Some candor would not have hurt here. Alas.
Q. Is there any validity in your mind, Alex is a little bit more mobile quarterback, they’re having protection problems, put someone in there who can extend plays a little bit more? I’m not saying a starter, just like during the game even?
KIRK FERENTZ: Really haven’t given any thought. Purdue did a good job rotating quarterbacks, had a lot of success doing that, but we haven’t given that much thought at this point.
Q. That’s not something you think about? Protection is not good, maybe we should have a mobile guy in there —
KIRK FERENTZ: No, we’re trying to focus on improving the protection right now. Hoping we get to that. That may be plan C. We’ll see.
Another instance of completely not surprising, but hey, a mention of a plan C! Who knows what will happen! (Alex Padilla will almost certainly not see a meaningful snap barring a Petras injury is what will happen).
I’m frustrated with the current state of the season, and yet also simultaneously hoping for another disastrous game this weekend. A performance where we come out and explode for 42 points or whatever inevitably puts us back in this same situation next year, and the year after, until Kirk retires.
Time is a flat circle. Go Hawks?