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KIRK SPEAKS: Michigan Wolverines

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It’s the Big Ten Championship, y’all!

Iowa v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Just like we all expected, we’re back again for the Kirk press conference recap...for the Big Ten championship!?

In an unlikely turn of events, here we are, in one of the biggest games of Kirk Ferentz’s career against the Michigan Wolverines, who are fresh off their first win over Ohio State in a decade to earn themselves a spot in this game.

Everyone is counting us out (and it’s not surprising) but who knows what will happen! Let’s hear from the head guy about what he thinks. Full transcript here, my highlights below.

Let’s get right into it at quarterback — Spencer Petras will be your starter.

Q. Your decision-making process about quarterback, what ultimately led you to the decision you made?

COACH FERENTZ: It was a gut feeling Saturday. We just went with it. And we’ll continue to do that moving forward. But we’ll start the game with Spencer. I thought he did a good job. He’s done a lot of good things for over two years right now, and we haven’t forgotten about that at all.

No surprises here. I thought Petras played well when he came in on Saturday. The interesting part is Kirk mentioning that they will continue to go off of his gut feelings moving forward. What that means, I have no idea. How long — or short (but let’s be serious, it’s long) — of a leash Petras will have, who knows. This Michigan defense is really talented and it very well could be a repeat of the Wisconsin game but worse if the line doesn’t play well.

But let’s see what Kirk says about it!

Q. Saturday will you go into the game with the same approach, with the quarterback situation that, hey, if it’s not working —

COACH FERENTZ: We’ll keep every option open in all positions. One thing we want to make sure Alex understood, whenever Spencer was healthy, I guess it was two games ago, seems like a month ago, we didn’t want him looking over his shoulder. Same thing for Spencer. Whoever is in there has got to play, and we’ll handle it as we went. Or as we go.

We don’t want a guy looking over the shoulder, start that kind of situation. It’s not good for anybody.

So you’re going to go with your gut, but also, no one has to look over their shoulder? It doesn’t work that way, Kirk! I get that he doesn’t want to come out and say ‘we’re also drawing up a package for Alex, but still, this could go very poorly.

Let’s keep it on the topic of quarterbacks.

Q. Deuce, transfer portal out there. What were your conversations with him regarding that?

COACH FERENTZ: ...Usually when players have that thought, my first question would be, have you thought about it, spent a lot of time thinking about it, who have you talked to, those types of things. Then the second question is, do you need more time to make a decision?

And then the only other thing I’d add to it is with the quarterback situation, it’s a little different as we know. I know the portal has changed the world a little bit. But I’ve always looked at quarterbacks separately. We have had three guys.

I’ve talked to Deuce about this, we’ve had three guys who left here, did well at their next stops. My guess is he’ll do the same thing.

...He wants to get somewhere where he feels like he has a little bit better opportunity, and fully support him. He’s a tremendous young guy. He has a really good arm. And I joked about him last Tuesday, but he made some really good throws that day. Probably been more appropriate if I said our third quarter instead of naming his name.

But I’m not real comfortable with any third quarterback being in the game until they get to work as a 1 or 2, but he’s a talented young guy.

More on the much spoken about comment from Kirk after the Nebraska game:

Q. Speaking of your comment the other day, of course you mentioned you were joking. It seemed like you were joking.

COACH FERENTZ: I hope you took it that way.

Q. But if your quarterback, third team quarterback who feels like he’s not getting an opportunity, probably doesn’t take it as such. Did he ask you about that? Did you bring it up to him?

COACH FERENTZ: I brought it up to him. In retrospect I wish I had not named the name. In the team meeting, that might be — hopefully everybody laughed, that type of thing, because the bottom line, I’m not going to coach a player through the media or say something that’s hurtful or malicious towards a player. To me, it’s not appropriate. I did share that with the team on Sunday, that exact point.

I wanted to make sure I understood, if I have an issue with any player, we’ll have a private visit. That’s where that will be, because I don’t like to air that kind of stuff out in public. It was by no means that way, but in retrospect I wish I hadn’t said it, quite frankly.

So there’s that. I wish Deuce nothing but the best — and every indication seems like this wasn’t caused by Kirk’s comment by any means. But it’s a rare media slip-up for Kirk, so it’s worth noting.

Q. Do you have a different feeling going into this game than you did in 2015?

COACH FERENTZ: Yes and no. I don’t think we were feeling pressure back then, that undefeated thing. We just wanted to go there and win the game. It was a hell of a game. It’s ironic. We went 12-0 that year, but I got more compliments about our team after that game than I did any of the other 12 or maybe those other 12 combined, just because both teams competed so hard....

But I don’t know if there’s any difference here. There’s similarities. I know we’re playing a really good team. We’ll have to play our best football of the year to have a chance to be in it.

I think this team is very different than the 2015 team for so many reasons. The biggest one being that they have won games that they had no business winning (see: Minnesota and Nebraska for example) and yet, they won them. I agree that the team will need to play a complete game of football to win this game, and I would like to see the offense finish more drives with 6 rather than 3. But at the end of the day, if it’s a win, does it matter?

Q. How do you establish a run game against such a good Michigan front?

COACH FERENTZ: We’ll have to bang away at it, see what we can do. Starts with blocking. Try to block them and pick runs maybe that are smart. And we’re still working on that part of it. These guys, they’re really big inside. They look like a pro defense. They’ve got big, strong players inside.

They roll a lot of guys through, depending on your personnel. The outside guy, 97 is not coming off the field. But on the other side they’ll put a big physical guy in there if you’re in a run group, if you will.

So they match up strategically. They’re smart that way. So they pose a lot of problems for you, they really do. We’re going to have to — and I don’t think we’ll be running for 300 yards. That’s not realistic. But we have to try to find a way to run efficiently.

This line might struggle against Michigan, even though they’ve improved over the last few weeks. So maybe we’ll see some heavy shotgun action from Brian?

hahahaha who am i kidding

There’s a lot more stuff in there, but so make sure to check out the full transcript for more. But most importantly, GO HAWKS.