I’m gonna cut right to the chase. Iowa heads to Ohio State this weekend for the first time since 2013, this year on the heels of one of the most demoralizing losses I can remember in the Kirk Ferentz era.
Facing Ohio State on the road will not cure what ails them. We all know it. But let’s see what Kirk has to say about all that, shall we? Spoiler alert: there’s literally nothing in this press conference that you haven’t heard all season. It’s like that every week, but we’ve reached the broken record portion of the season. This is gonna be a quick and dirty recap.
Check out the full transcript here.
Q. What were impressions during the bye week of watching film with the offense, and what can you do to improve the unit?
KIRK FERENTZ: The big thing we do in the bye week, typically, is look at our system. And then bigger thing is look at personnel, talk about that, make sure we’re all kind of on the same page. We’re continuing to develop and evolve, if you will, and the whole thing is about us getting better and executing better.
The last time I talked with you guys was after the ball game in Illinois. And you talk about two 3-point losses. You can pick five, six plays out of any game. If you convert a couple of those, it might be a different story. Might be. You never know how it’s going to turn out.
Like every year, that’s kind of our focus right now. With our players, how can we do things as intelligently as possible and then execute the plays that are out there to be made, the makable ones.
Ah, execution. Classic. We’ve heard that before. Let’s dig deeper.
Q. How do you go about doing that?
KIRK FERENTZ: Practice. There’s no pixie dust. And it’s the two things I just mentioned. You try to create your schemes to fit what your personnel can do the best. And hopefully, we know more about our guys now than we did six weeks ago. That’s a transitional thing too because you have guys with injury situations, et cetera. So it’s never the same.
You know more about your football team so you try to be a little bit more intelligent about your planning. And then we got to execute better. That’s focus, concentration, repetition. And part of it’s us, and part of it’s level of competition too. So it’s a complex equation, but there’s no way I know of, at least, to getting better other than just working at it.
Working at...what though? Is the offense so bad that they’re still working on everything? Yes. I’m gonna start calling this team the Practice Squad. We hear more about practice performances and about practice in general than we do about what actually happens on the field.
Q. Kirk, obviously, you want to score touchdowns. How important is it Saturday to keep their offense off the field, to stay ahead of the change to keep your offense on the field?
KIRK FERENTZ: That’s the challenge. If you listen to our defensive guys, the thing that impresses them ... it’s tough to knock them off the tracks. It’s tough to get them behind in the count. Good defenses try to do that to offenses, make them have to go the long field or third and longs, those kinds of things.
It’s not easy to do with this football team because they’re really adept at what they do. They have that explosive capability too with the receivers. They had two first rounders last year. They feel like the guy on campus were better than or as good as. Gives you an indication of the kind of talent. Like the team we played a couple weeks ago, every play you’ve got to be on top of your game, or it can be sudden death real fast for you.
Lol. Misunderstood question, or total dodge because he knows his offense can’t stay on the field for more than 3 plays at a time? I’m going to go with the latter.
Q. From an injury standpoint, what’s the latest on Diante Vines and Keagan Johnson?
A. I think Diante has a chance. Keagan, when he’s ready, I’ll let you know. He’s still trying to get back.
I’ll be a broken record too: we’re not going to see Keagan Johnson play the rest of this season.
Q. When you’re in the red zone and in the passing game in the red zone and, specifically, inside the 10, what’s kind of your coaching point — you want to score touchdowns, obviously.
KIRK FERENTZ: Sure.
Sure, I guess you want to score points, if you have to.
Q. But is there either a risk averse strategy to go along with it. Like, look, if it’s not there, throw it away. Or is it just —
KIRK FERENTZ: Depends on down and distance. One thing you don’t want to do is go backwards and knock yourself out of field goal position. That wouldn’t be inside the 10, necessarily.
I think we had a couple the last time out there were in that 20-yard line zone. If you take a sack — now I’m thinking about a game specifically about 20 years ago. It wasn’t involving us. But someone took one, a painful sack. The guy held the ball. Knocked them out of field goal position.
It’s challenging when you get inside the 10. There’s not a lot of room. The defense knows that. They can really cheat, if you will, because there’s not as much field to cover and play things a little tighter. So it’s tough. There’s different ways. You can try to throw it in the end zone, try to hit something underneath and maybe run it in, those types of things. But it’s tough. That’s why the points are tough down there. Obviously, if you can run the ball, that’s a good starting point too.
‘Sure you want to score touchdowns but what you actually want is a field goal’ - Kirk Ferentz, basically, in the year of our lord 2022 going against an Ohio State team that scores nearly 50 points per game.
Q. Kirk, after the Illinois game, you said you thought the team took a step back offense level. Over the bye week and into this week, what are the one or two things you sort of keyed in to regain that step and continue taking those steps?
KIRK FERENTZ: There’s nothing much I can tell the guys, and they knew that. They can feel that. Just like as crazy as it may sound, we lost against Michigan, but I think the guys that I was referring to, I think they felt like they took a step forward and gained a little confidence. But we got knocked back a little bit last time out. Now the challenge is can we get back on our feet and compete better. Again, talented group of guys. They play eight, ten guys. I’ve lost count how many guys play on the defensive line. They’re all good, go hard, pretty athletic and stout.
It’s a new challenge, a different kind of challenge than we faced at Illinois. Halfway through, Illinois’s proved to be a pretty good defensive football team. So are these guys. So it’s a different challenge. Let’s see how we handle this challenge. Our eyes forward right now.
Including the full answer here because again, this just a complete dodge. ‘What are one or two things you worked on in the bye week?’ ‘Competing better.’ Cool.
Q. How would you evaluate Spencer Petras after six weeks?
KIRK FERENTZ: He’s done a good job handling the circumstances. That’s really going back to the evaluation question. That’s how we do it. We try to be realistic about what the picture looks like and then make a fair assessment. He’s done a lot of good things. I think he’s improved, gained confidence, as crazy as that may sound. I think he’s doing a lot of good things out there. We just need to get better collectively offense level. That’s my encouragement.
I’ve heard this same answer for three years now, and yet my eyes apparently deceive me when it comes time to the actual games. Oh wait, sorry, we only focus on practice for the Practice Squad.
Also, lol at ‘my encouragement is to get better at every level.’ That sure gets me motivated.
Q. How confident are you in the QB situation if Spencer couldn’t go, if he’s injured?
KIRK FERENTZ: I’ve said it before publicly and feel the same way. Alex has played, stepped in, and did a good job. I’m guessing he’ll do a that. He’s practicing well. In our opinion, Spencer is practicing better right now.
PRACTICE CHAMPS 2022!!!!!!!!
Q. Coach, what is the locker room like?
KIRK FERENTZ: Today or Saturday or, you know —
Q. (No microphone).
KIRK FERENTZ: I think good. Our guys are respectful of their opponent, first of all, which we try to be each and every week. They’re realistic. They know what we’re up against. They’re anxious to start playing again. The bye week was good. It was good for everybody to have some air and separation and just kind of get their thoughts back together.
Again, I think bigger picture, which we’re past the big picture stage right now, but the bigger picture is it’s a six-week season. Sunday, it transitioned into this week, and that’s all that matters right now.
We’ve got our hands plenty full just trying to get ready for this team, but we’re excited to take the challenge.
Kirk knew exactly what this question meant and shocker, dodged it in Kirk Ferentz fashion. Then again, that’s the second time in this press conference that he mentioned how good it was to be apart as a team. Tell me there’s some animosity without telling me there’s some animosity.
Let’s end with this:
Q. You touched on the 2017 game. In your opinion, is that kind of one of the more complete performances you’ve had from the program under your tenure. Is it going to take another complete performance to get by Ohio State?
KIRK FERENTZ: I wish I could tell you what we did that week that was different than anything else we do. The fact of the matter is sometimes things just happen and sometimes, rarely, it goes like that one did. Usually, it’s the other way.
Boy, I didn’t see that coming. And boy, you just get hit by a train. That’s one thing I’ve learned long before I was a head coach that sometimes that just happens. And when it happens on the good side, man, that’s a great feeling. But typically, you go back and look and there’s nothing mystical or magical about it. It just happened. And that day, things really clicked. Hopefully, all the plans we draw up are with the idea of having success, but there’s other days too where, boy, I didn’t see that one coming and nothing worked. And, boy, it’s a tough feeling.
So it would be great if they balance out, but they don’t.
It’s nice to remember that we had fun watching this program once.