It’s kind of a weird time to be an Iowa fan right now. On one hand, we’re the No. 5 ranked team in the nation, who has started the season 3-0 and has won 9 in a row dating back to last season. The defense is great and we have probably the best punter in the nation. But the slow start to the offense over three games and the...inconsistent play of quarterback Spencer Petras has seemingly divided the fanbase. Some people think this team is bound for glory, while others are living in doom and gloom. I’m just along for the ride. I am also just a blogger. For better insights into the team, let’s see what Kirk Ferentz had to say about this week’s matchup against Colorado State, what is hopefully a solid tuneup game to end the non-conference season as expectations continue to climb for this team — from the fanbase and on a national scale.
Check out the full transcript here, highlights below.
KIRK FERENTZ: ...It’s always good to get the victory. It’s number one on the list, and we basically have two goals every week, to try to win the game that’s at hand and hopefully show some growth as a football team...
And after watching the tape, I think we saw a lot of really good things, especially up front on both sides of the line of scrimmage ... Just little intricate details and good reactions by guys that maybe weren’t doing things quite as well a couple of weeks ago. We thought we saw some growth there.
Certainly offensively, pleased with that drive we had in the second quarter. And I thought we did a lot of good things.
Well, I certainly agree that I liked what I saw from both the offensive and defensive lines. The offensive line in particular, with the return of Kyler Schott from injury, seemed to make a big difference. This was the best we’ve seen the run game all season. As for the play of Spencer Petras, well, that was inconsistent at best, but he again hasn’t screwed up majorly, so it’s not like we’ll be seeing anyone different under center anytime soon.
Speaking of the o-line...
Q. What kind differences did you see in having Kyler Schott back on the field this past weekend, seeing him in practice again?
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah. Just in a nutshell, Kyler knows how to play, you know. I guess that sounds pretty basic and mundane, but guys that have been out there just react a little bit more naturally and a little quicker ... The more of that you can add to your mix, the better off you’re going to be. But he’s not really, like I said, in game shape yet. I don’t think he finished the one drive he was in on. Maybe it was that long drive. But he had to come out. It’s going to take a while to get him back where he can play a full game, but it’s good to have him in the mix. In the meantime we’re getting a lot of other guys that are getting really valuable experience, and that’s a positive, too.
The longer Schott can play in a game the better for the offense, but I remain unworried about the offensive line as long as they stay relatively healthy. I expect to see improvement from this group every week, honestly.
Q. You’ve got a three-week sample size now of your offense so far this season. What do you like about where they’re at right now and what’s the next step?
KIRK FERENTZ: I think we took strides. We were a little more detailed. And I thought today was probably our best offensive practice this year, which maybe coincides with fall. It felt like fall, it I think this is the first day of fall. But it looked — we just seemed a little more cohesive out there and a little better with our execution, that type of thing. It takes time. It’s frustrating at times, and you want things to go faster and all that, and we’re not there yet, but at least I think we’re moving in the right direction. And saw some things out there Saturday. Again, that drive obviously sticks out. I can’t guarantee that we would have continued to drive on that one play on our sideline, but felt like we had a little momentum going. And wasn’t meant to be. But just general seeing some execution. A lot of it has to do with what goes up front. I think those guys played their best. I know they played their best Saturday relative to the other two games.
Ah, execution, and the best offensive practice of the year. Let’s hope this is true and not a ‘Josh Oglesby hits all the 3-pointers in practice’ situation. The general consensus seems to be that the offense will be what stands in the way of this team competing for a division and conference championship. But again, as long as Petras continues to not make mistakes and the defense continues its excellent level of play, do we need more? Margin of win doesn’t take away a win, whether it’s against Kent State, Iowa State, or Penn State.
It is highly likely this will never be an explosive offense. Kirk talked multiple times about the first-half ending drive that took nearly 9 minutes of game time. We’re talking Iowa football, folks. Expect more of that before you can expect Petras throwing bombs like Dustin Crum every drive.
Let’s talk receivers.
Q. You made a point to get Tyrone Tracy involved more last week. How important is it going to be to get Tyrone involved in the offense for you guys going forward?
KIRK FERENTZ: I don’t know that we necessarily went in the game saying we gotta get him X amount of touches, but he did have more, and that’s a good thing for us, and it’s something for us to be mindful of. Sometimes you can’t always control that. Yeah, he’s a really good football player and a great young guy, and he knows what to do with the ball in his hand. My biggest fear, and I may have said this Saturday, sometimes I think we’re trying to do too much with one play. Just let it play out. And it’s kind of like defense, you get turnovers by just playing good defense and being aggressive and then the ball will come to you when it comes to you.
I’ve been liking what I’ve been seeing from Tyrone Tracy more and more every week. And there’s an emphasis again of ‘trying to do too much with one play.’ I repeat: this will never be an explosive offense.
Q. Pretty rare that you rotate six receivers. It’s usually four.
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah.
Q. What has made you kind of expand that?
KIRK FERENTZ: Just like the line discussion earlier, it just depends on who’s — what’s the level, and if you got three guys up here and everybody else down there, those three are playing. But it’s really pretty close right now. Arland and Keagan, they’re young guys, but they do encouraging things. If somebody starts to really separate, we’ll probably lean a little bit more to the left or right. But for right now I think we’ve got a pretty healthy situation. We’re seeing some good things. It’s good to see a guy like Jackson Ritter jump in and make some plays; made one the other day again, right? Those are encouraging things. Those are little subtle things that hopefully will help us build as we go.
One person I have not been overly impressed with is Nico Ragaini. For whatever reason, he seems to have fallen off this year. So the fact that we’re seeing more of the younger receivers is a good thing to me. I hope they get more snaps this weekend - especially Jackson Ritter, as Kirk mentioned above.
Q. With this being the last game before a really tough stretch of Big Ten play, is there a sense maybe of urgency of like batting down the hatches?
KIRK FERENTZ: We’ve been doing that for three weeks, and I’d consider last week’s game a tough game ...
And I’ve said it before, too. I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about opponents. You do whatever work you do in the off season, but I would say I’m not a fanatic and it’s up to the coaches to depend how much time they want to invest. To me the focus has always been more about what’s in the building here and what we can do to improve.
If you’re good enough, you’re good enough, and all you can worry about is how fast you can get better, and obviously you gotta match up against your opponent, and that’s part of coaching, too, and that’s what we do during the game week. But the bigger target is just what I said we’re trying to win games. Basically we have to be moving forward as a football team, and if we do that, we’ll get what we deserve at the end of the year. But it’s week by week right now, and it’s always a challenge.
Interesting deflection here. It’s normal Kirk coach speak, but I’d be very curious to see what he thinks this team ‘deserves’ for the end of the season right now. The phrasing of this question is kind of annoying, because ‘batting down the hatches’ isn’t what will happen. But you have to think that Kirk will be watching what works and what doesn’t this weekend before he goes into conference play. Maryland and Penn State are in the rearview mirror, and while they’re not division games, a lot will be determined by them. So you know that this week will be all about seeing what will work and what won’t going forward.