We’re going bowling, baby!
Did I think this was going to happen a few short weeks ago? Absolutely not! is it fun to be here? Yes! Is it also frustrating? Yes! Listen, I want this team to win every weekend. But if this team continuing to win games is Kirk’s reasoning for keeping Brian next season, I’m gonna be mad.
This team, like last year’s team, wins despite the offense. Let’s get that straight.
Anyway, another tough matchup this week, on the road against Minnesota. I got a bad feeling about this. But does Kirk? Let’s find out! Check out the full transcript here, and my insights below.
Let’s start on the injury front (there was no mention of Kegan Johnson here, but was asked about in a question later):
KIRK FERENTZ: And injury-wise, I think we have a chance of getting Arland back. He has practiced the past two days and hopefully going to be okay. And Beau Stephens I think is questionable at best. We’ll be prepared to go without him.
Good news, bad news here. Would be great to have Arland back, buuuuut maybe not at punt returner? More on that later.
Q. You went back and looked at the Wisconsin tape, what were some of the main takeaways about the struggles that the offensive line had?
COACH FERENTZ: They did a good job with their plan. They had some movement involved and did some things that maybe we didn’t anticipate. And it’s usually little things add up to big things. That was certainly the case.
And the other element I would throw in, there were a couple of sacks that were a little disappointing. Just thought we could do a little bit better there. We’ll have to do better in there, most of it on third down. Just losing some one-on-one matchups, I’d like to think we can do better at.
Felt like we took two steps forward the previous two weeks and then lost a little ground. But we did some good things, too.
And I didn’t mention but the end of the half or end of the game there, being able to hold on to the football. We didn’t cover a lot of real estate, but got a couple of first downs and made them use their timeouts, those types of things. That was big too. Wasn’t all bad. The effort’s good. Just gotta keep pushing forward.
Oh man was the offensive line BAD. Any progress that had been made pretty much went out the window for most of the game. Going to be hard to win anymore games with performances like that.
Let’s get to the question on everyone’s mind:
Q. Will you keep Cooper at punt return this week?
COACH FERENTZ: We’ll see. Chances are — it’s funny thing about that, Saturday coming into the game on the bus, and it just — he does a great job back there, obviously, but the bad news is we lose one of our best corners, the guy who blocks the gunner.
So you win back here but you lose, maybe Arland can do that, I don’t know. But you get spread a little thin, but we’ll wait and see. We’ll make a decision on it later in the week.
FOR THE LOVE OEF ALL THAT’S HOLY KEEP HIM THERE.
Q. Minnesota’s secondary is probably among the best in the conference. What sticks out about them and how do you guys, after maybe a little bit of a rough patch offensively, how do you get that momentum and what are you planning to do against Minnesota?
COACH FERENTZ: We just go back to work. They’re a veteran group. That’s a big part of it. Usually when you have a veteran group, it gives you an edge. And all their guys back there have played a lot of football, and good football, not just played football. But they’re good football players.
And they’re aggressive. They’re physical...
The bottom line is they play it really well. They know what they’re doing. There’s not a million things going on but enough to keep you off balance. And from my vantage point it looks like their players really understand what they’re being asked to do. And consequently they play fast.
And they’re aggressive and physical and tough and it’s going to be a challenge for us. Last year they had the ball 40-plus minutes. And it’s a complement to both sides, their offense as well as their defense.
So...you gonna answer the question here or what? I guess you were asked ‘what sticks out about them’ but is there just...no plan to combat this? I wouldn’t be surprised!
Q. What can you do to establish the run going up against another formidable defensive front?
COACH FERENTZ: We know where they’re going to be. I’m pretty sure of that. I’m sure they’ll have a wrinkle or two. I really admire them. They’re that way in all three phases. They have a clear identity. They’ve morphed into that, and they’ve had great success doing what they do. So I think wrinkle here, wrinkle there, that’s football, but ultimately the game will get decided most likely with the team that’s most solid fundamentally.
The turnover takeaway battle is going to be important. And just handling whatever conditions that are out there and expect them to go the whole game. That’s probably what it’s going to come down to.
THAT’S FOOTBALL ALERT!!!!
Getting the run going is going to be huge, because I’m guessing the passing game is going to struggle a bit. Drink every time Kirk says wrinkle in this answer. Establish the run early here, hopefully that can help the pass game a bit. Thought I’d give you an answer, since the coach didn’t.
Q. Couldn’t help but notice at the end of the day, when the trophy was getting carried off the field, that Keagan Johnson was right there with his teammates. He was smiling and as happy as everybody else there. What’s his attitude been like since he’s been out and what kind of teammate is he?
COACH FERENTZ: That’s probably representative of it. And I’ve said it before, I’ll say it forever, as long as I’m in coaching. The worst part about football is injuries. It really is.
And just being out. And if it’s a day, you feel like you’re an outsider if you miss one day. When you’re talking about a series of injuries, it’s been a long, windy road, extremely frustrating.
And so you get the frustration part because you’re not playing. You’re frustrated because you don’t feel like you’re making progress like you want to. And then you’re frustrated because you don’t feel like you’re part of the team even though you are. It’s still not the same you’re not in the huddle. Not in drills, things like that.
It’s a credit to him staying upbeat. All you can do is try to make lemonade out of lemons, I guess, that’s about all you can do. But to try to deny it or say I’m fine. He’s not fine. Nobody is when they’re out. It stinks.
Great question, interesting answer here in between the lines a bit. “A series of injuries?” Is that new? “You’re frustrated because you don’t feel like you’re making progress like you want to.” Are we getting bit of the inside scoop here, or just a bit of a common answer from Kirk? “He’s not fine” - AKA “Our staff thinks he is, but he says he’s not?” I’m not sure. But I’m here to overreact.
Let’s end with this:
Q. Some of the players credited your leadership for really galvanizing this team and getting things back on track. Is there a season in your almost quarter century that you looked back on and use it as an example to the players?
COACH FERENTZ: There is a ton of them. That’s competition. Unless you’re really fortunate and there aren’t places left anymore where you — pretty much every week you’ve got the edge. And that’s competition. It’s the real world.
You’ve got two choices. You keep pushing forward or you surrender. Got 12 games scheduled, so have a bad one or a real good one, you’ve got to move on and see what you can do about the next opportunity. That’s all we’ve tried to do.
There’s a ton of examples, whether you talk about a position trying to develop or certain challenges the team might face and all that kind of stuff.
That’s one good thing I guess about being around a while is you have — I can go back to the ‘80s, Dave Browne was our captain last week. His senior season, ‘84, and we were 0-2, I think we were — I can’t remember, 5-3, whatever it was. Ended up winning eight games.
I was there for a pretty good stretch in the ‘80s, historic time. That year I remember after we won the Peach Bowl, maybe it was as gratifying a win as I can remember because where that team came from at the onset. Talk about two bad offensive performances, Nebraska and Iowa State to lead it off. Look it up. I mean, it’s ridiculous.
So to end up being a pretty good football team at the end of the year it was really gratifying and the players felt good about it. That’s the most important thing when it’s all said and done.
Ok. I absolutely applaud these players, especially the defense, for not giving up on the season. I don’t know that I could do the same in the situation with all the stuff being said (and written about by people like me). That being said, I take umbrage with Kirk’s final statement here. Is this team actually going to end the season as a “pretty good football team?” Would they end the season a “really good football team” if we had a competent offense?
It’s great that there’s a chance for this program to win the division two years in a row. But also, that would mean there’s a high possibility of this team getting embarrassed in Indy for a second year in a row. Like I said at the top, the newfound successes of the team cannot be used as rationale for going into next year without a deep evaluation on offense, and that’s what I’m worried about.
But I guess we’ll see. For now, we’re just all along on the ride.