Well this season has been...unexpected to say the least. I still don’t know how good this team is? One thing I can say for certain is that this team defies logic. So what will happen in the last home game of the year against a Nebraska team who has absolutely nothing to lose and a huge desire to beat Iowa?
Who knows! I sure don’t! Does Kirk? Let’s see! Full transcript of his press conference here, my highlights below.
Let’s start out with the big injury news:
KIRK FERENTZ: Injury-wise, don’t expect Sam or Monte to play. Don’t think that’s realistic.
Not great, Bob! Expected, but not great regardless!
Q. Kaleb Johnson going to be available? Is he fine...
KIRK FERENTZ: He’s fine.
Q. What’s the severity of the injuries to Sam and Monte? Do you expect them back for a potential game next week?
KIRK FERENTZ: Better news. It could have gone either way. You never know what to think coming off the field. They both got tested yesterday. I think things look about as good as they can. We’ll just take it a day at a time. The door is open, but not this week.
Well that’s good I guess. I still can’t believe Indy is a possibility but I digress.
Q. Do a lot more 11 this week with no Sam, fullback?
KIRK FERENTZ: Changes things. Sam is Sam, arguably our best guy on offense. Then Monte can do so many things, play in different positions, help us. It kind of limits what we have to do. We have to be smart about it.
The good news is Luke Lachey has improved week over week the last couple years, has done a good job. Ostrenga did a good job jumping in there. We’ll have to play him more. We have to find a way to get it done. We’ll adjust our personnel a little bit.
I think the portion of the game last week without Sam LaPorta was very telling. The offense went from humming to nothing, quickly. Has Luke Lachey improved? Absolutely. But he’s not LaPorta. But maybe he can at least look a little more like them after a full week of practice as the main guy. We’ll see. But if the offense struggles more than usual, this will be why.
Q. How would you describe Jack Campbell’s importance over the last few years to this defense?
KIRK FERENTZ: An exceptional player, exceptional team member on top of it. To me that’s where the double value is. That’s what good players do. Like, they not only play well, but they also make the guys around them play better. He’s definitely done that.
Whether it’s on the field, off the field, away from the building, it’s not hard to like everything he does. A top-notch guy. Great to see him. He’s a finalist in the Butkus Award. That’s really neat and great. I’m sure the other four guys are outstanding, too.
He’s a special player. He just kept getting better. Like his high school basketball career, I always joke about that, where it took him four minutes to get five fouls as a sophomore. Then he became a pretty good high school basketball player on a really good team.
He’s done the same thing in football. He’s just improves with every opportunity. He’s just a leader because of who he is. I think everybody just respects so much who he is and how he does things.
Jack Campbell is THE guy. I can’t write enough about how crucial he is to this defense. I mean, watch his interception from last weekend. That’s how crucial he is. I like how Kirk mentions that he makes guys better. I see that in the way he plays and in how this defense performs, especially this year. He walks the walk.
Q. With the amount of replays, do you think there needs to be an emphasis on don’t blow the whistle?
KIRK FERENTZ: Yes (smiling).
They pretty much do that on ball carriers typically to make sure. So, yeah. I’ve changed my opinions on replays. I was in favor of them at one point. Now I think they’re hurting our game almost in some ways.
I don’t know. It’s a whole different deal.
JACK WAS ROBBED. ROBBED!!
Q. How would you evaluate offensive coordinator the last four weeks? Seems like there’s a lot less complaining out there. Making the most of what you’ve got. What positive are you taking?
KIRK FERENTZ: With all that stuff, maybe when the season is over...
I think the big thing is we’ve gotten better as a team each week. We’ve talked a lot about the line. The line had a setback two weeks ago, but they bounced back and competed hard and pretty well.
I kind of look at the whole picture. Coordinators are important on minimizing them in any of the three phases. Still gets down to players doing things they’re able to do. You have to be realistic about who you have, what their experience levels are, things like that. Those are things I’m always thinking about before I formulate an opinion about something.
Ultimately it’s about finding a way to win. We’ve been able to do that the last four weeks. Hopefully we can do it for five.
Hoooo boy. Hot button question here, same answer we’ve seen all season. ‘Players doing things they’re able to do.” Has the offense improved? Sure. Is it good? Absolutely not. This team with even a halfway decent defense isn’t sniffing Indianapolis. Brian will stay as OC next year, but we can’t do a third year of an offense looking like this.
Q. Seems like Brody is kind of stepping into his own. What have you seen, what has impressed you?
KIRK FERENTZ: It’s amazing when you practice, like actually practice, do it on a routine bases, like improvement follows it. That was part of our challenge. We never got to see him up until September of this year. I have to go back and count how many practices it would have been, bowl preparation. That’s basically been our window because he had the hand injury a year ago. We didn’t have him at all in the spring. He didn’t train, didn’t do anything June, July, August with us due to injury.
I think it was our first game week was his first week on the field. To think you’re going to play major college football at a real high level just walking in, it doesn’t work that way.
I agree wholeheartedly each week he looks more comfortable. He made a really tough catch the other night, which was a really big play. Big 20-yard gain or something like that, but it was a huge play a conversion. It took real focus and concentration. He beat his guy on a tough, tight play. 10 weeks ago he couldn’t have done that in my mind. Now he’s getting it going.
We’ve always been high about him. Great young guy with an awesome attitude. If you’re injured, you can’t do anything. It’s just hard to get better if you’re not working.
It’s rare a guy can just walk in and be a really good player. It just doesn’t work that way. Kaleb has been the same thing. He is a freshman, but with each week we see him getting better.
I like what I’ve seen overall from Brody Brecht, and Vines for that matter, too. I still think he misses some throws that he should catch, but he doesn’t have the best quarterback either. I agree with this assessment here. If nothing else, he is at least becoming a more reliable option, which this team needs — especially this week with no LaPorta.
Q. Big Ten media days, the videos all the coaches do, you mentioned offensive yardage being the most overrated statistic. Now you won back-to-back games not having the advantage in that stat. What is your rationale for why that is overrated?
KIRK FERENTZ: I’m not against it, first of all, just for the record (smiling).
Are you sure?
Bill Russell said the most important stat is winning and losing. That’s the most important one. The next most important one in my opinion is turnovers and takeaways, if you’re looking over the long haul. That’s where it all starts.
Then probably somewhere, it’s scored points against, which ties into the goal number one or most important stat. You try to navigate the terrain based on where you’re at, where your team is at, all that kind of stuff. Not against getting yards, certainly not against getting points.
Sometimes there’s things that come with that. Everybody lives in a different world. I’d even venture this, when you get to January, whatever it is this year, when the last two teams are playing, that turnover takeaway is probably going to be more important than the yardage thing unless you can out-distance your opponent by a couple hundred yards on the board, you got a good chance to win.
At the end of the day it’s about figuring out a way to win the game. I think we showed up the other night somehow, some way, forced a couple turnovers. That was the difference in the game really. We did a good job of protecting the ball, being smart when we had to be, coming up with what we had to come up with.
My thoughts haven’t changed a lot in 23 years. It started well before that. You’re thinking about what is it that’s important. We’re all shaped by something, right? We’re all shaped by our past, the people I’ve been around, have had the good fortune to work with have impacted me a lot in terms of the way I look at the game.
“My thoughts haven’t changed a lot in 23 years.” OH WE KNOW, KIRK. WE KNOW. In general, I agree with this philosophy, but still it rings hollow when you have the worst offense in college football. Yes, they are winning. But if this team is heading to Indy, does anyone in their right mind think this offense has improved enough to actually beat Ohio State or Michigan? I don’t. That’s where you need a strong offense, for actually competing for titles. Sure, you’ll win games without offensive yards but you won’t compete for championships.