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KIRK SPEAKS: Minnesota

Injuries everywhere!

NCAA Football: Iowa at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Well folks, here we are for another week, and despite being one of the worst games of football I’ve ever seen, the Iowa Hawkeyes, the worst offensive team in the country (again!) control their own destiny in a very bad Big Ten West after defeating Wisconsin last weekend.

But it came at a cost...injuries are here in a big way. Let’s get into that with the head honcho, shall we? Full transcript here, my wise insights below.

Let’s start with the injury updates:

KIRK FERENTZ: On a sad note, unfortunately Erick All, looks like his season is over. We were worried about that on Saturday. And tests confirmed that. He’s going to miss the rest of the year. Really unfortunate. He’s done a great job, newcomer to the team, a great addition.

Such a positive guy, hardworking, great personality and loves the game. Loves everything about the game, not just the game itself. And I hate to lose anybody, and certainly feel badly for Erick in that regard. He was certainly adding a lot to our football team. It’s a tough deal. We’ll all support him in his recovery, his road back, and certainly hope all goes well.

Yeah, not surprising here. That hit was nasty (and completely uncalled for). Obviously being down 3 tight ends and your starting QB is not a good situation to be in, but you’d feel a lot better about it if, y’know, your program used its all. This 6-1 record is miraculous for two primary reasons: 1. the run game is peaking at the right time and 2: the Big Ten West is the worst it might have ever been in its last year. All will be missed, because at this point, he was literally the entire passing game.

More injuries updates:

Q. Yahya Black had a sling after the game. Can we get an update on his status? And Ostrenga and Patterson, where are they right now in their recovery?

COACH FERENTZ: So Patterson, I think, is going to be okay. He’s practicing. Looks like he’s okay. So, Jaz hopefully will hopefully join us.

Addi practiced today, partial practice. Optimistic but we’ll have to see how the week goes. Yahya, we’ll wait and see.

Well, some good and bad news here. Losing Black for any extended period of time is not going to be great.

Q. Are you guys holding out hope that maybe Lachey comes back at some point, maybe bowl game or something like that?

COACH FERENTZ: I talked to him yesterday about being back after the bye — jokingly. He just smiled.

But we’ll see. You can’t count on it. It’s hard to predict. The window’s open for that, maybe, sometime in December. But it’s certainly not for sure.

The rumblings I’ve heard on this say a bowl game return is definitely possible - but we’ll see. I wouldn’t rush back if I were him, but who knows where we’ll be in December.

Q. What about Noah Shannon’s situation now? Any additional feedback?

COACH FERENTZ: He looks good in pads and he practices well. That hasn’t changed. He’s got fresh legs, too. But we’re just waiting on the NCAA. Hopefully they’ll do the right thing. How soon that’s going to be, if it’s one call, two calls, I don’t know.

It’s okay. Time’s ticking. He’s getting older. All of us are getting older. Hopefully it’s sooner than later they make a decision.

I say it jokingly; it’s really not funny at all. We’ll see. I don’t know. I don’t have a firm date on what’s going to happen or when.

Seems like there are some signs here that Noah Shannon could be back after the bye-week, which would be fantastic. Getting him back this weekend would be even better.

Q. What did you think of the physicality of the run game, the offensive line against Wisconsin and sort of how they’ve grown this season?

COACH FERENTZ: I think I’ve been saying that. I think we’ve seen improvement, all of us have, the last four or five weeks, I guess, and — three weeks, maybe, I guess, whenever we started the second four-game deal.

It shows up in different ways, but we’re getting a little bit more mature. Now we’re operating a little bit better together and having a better feel. Certainly the run game was huge for us the other night. We’ll be a better football team if we can run the ball successfully. It’s never easy, but it certainly helps you.

Hopefully guys are gaining confidence. When good things do happen they should feel a little bit more confident. The backs, especially Leshon, really ran the ball well and we created some room for him. He did something with it.

Even the long run that wasn’t a clean play. There was some bobbing and weaving going on there. But that’s the way the run game is and you’ve got to make something happen. If you’re a back there’s typically going to be somebody that you’ll have to put a move on or break a tackle or whatever. And that’s the way, the nature of the game. It’s encouraging.

Like I said above, the run game is the only thing keeping the offense...afloat? barely treading water? I don’t know. It’s happening at the right time. A more consistent line seems to help that. Health, obviously as well. I’ll be very curious to see what Minnesota does this weekend to try and stop it — the best thing that happened against Wisconsin was that the run game never really faltered even when Wisconsin knew exactly what was going to happen. I hope that can happen again.

Q. Going off that, any thought to move Hayden Large back out to tight end or do you like him at fullback?

COACH FERENTZ: He has that flexibility. We’re out of guys, so he’ll definitely get work there. He’s probably one of the four guys getting work. He’s a smart guy so he can do both.

But they’re not like the three guys that were playing, I guess that’s kind of the difference right now. We’re playing catch-up in that regard.

To your point, he played fullback more the other night. We ended up using that personnel group a little bit more than we probably anticipated. I thought he did a really nice job — that was his first extensive playing out there. Really pleased with what we saw. It’s encouraging.

Just an interesting insight here, down three guys. I bet we see a bit of this on Saturday but who knows.

Let’s get into the meat and potatoes...

Q. I know in some seasons like this you throw some of the stats out and not ignore them, but 27 of 70 for your quarterback probably a tough one to digest. How do you get a higher completion percentage for Deacon?

COACH FERENTZ: Throw it more accurately and catch it better, and protect better. Those are the things. I’m not even aware of those stats, quite frankly. I know this. We didn’t turn it over the other night, I know that. He had something to do with that.

So you just take it as it is. And we’re just trying to focus on his improvement, too. A little bit better tempo, this that. Footwork, whatever it may be.

And but first things first. Don’t get us in trouble. Don’t make bad decisions. Don’t press. All the things that you lose games real quickly if you start doing some things. So taking care of that. And just the offensive stuff it will come when it comes and we’re working at it just as we would in a good statistical year.

And it’s not like your approach really changes a hell of a lot. It’s just a matter of everything working together, I guess, that’s my experience in football, at least.

I’ll start this off by saying: of course this is what Kirk is going to say but god, it’s still frustrating. If the run game is working with any matter of success, Kirk would take 1 passing yard and no turnovers over even 200 passing yards and an interception. Yes, he’s the backup, but my god, things are rough out there at quarterback. Which gets to...

Q. How far would you say that Joe Labas, who did start a bowl game, did win that game, didn’t have a turnover that day. How far would you say the separation is between those two?

COACH FERENTZ: I don’t know that I want to put gauge on it. Game action determines everything, eventually. I’ll say this, I know that discussion floated out there last year.

I hate to say this in a negative way, but I think we all saw, when Petras got knocked out, we saw maybe why we were playing Petras, and went through that discussion last year. Petras was our quarterback in ‘20. Looked pretty good with him playing back there. Offense is a team thing, takes a lot to go together to make it work. And defense is the same way. A lot of intricate things that work together and don’t work together. A delicate thing. A lot of factors go into it. Right now it’s clear we have a 1, 2 and a 3.

This is a weird 360 for me from what we heard from Kirk before and after the bowl game. I mean sure, they brought in Deacon so obviously the staff had some reasoning behind that, but it’s also pretty clear from the on-field example that Deacon is just...bad (at least for now). He looks flat-out awful. Sure, Labas wasn’t great in the bowl game, but he looked solid, and in my opinion, his weaknesses were from the offense overall and not him. Deacon is just playing bad football right now. I don’t know if this is Kirk just being his super loyal self or what, something weird here? I literally do not think things could be worse than what we’ve seen the last two weeks, but who knows.

Let’s end with this:

Q. What have you seen from Castro the past year?

COACH FERENTZ: I mentioned it the other night. I mean, the good things in football, just not showing from the other night, Drew Stevens coming back from a not-so-good game, two, ten days ago, whatever it is now, coming back and playing great Saturday.

I think about that, think about Leshon in the Michigan State game and he came back in that game. In his defense, fourth quarter, he really played and helped us win the game. And then certainly really helped the other night.

So guys getting off the mat. That’s one story. And then Sebastian’s case, in our program historically, mentioned Bryan playing as a freshman, wasn’t the case for Sebastian, but he played special teams in his career. Just wasn’t clicking for him defensively. Then last year, at the end of last year is when it started clicking. He’s played well all season long, was huge the other night.

So it’s fun to watch players because you don’t know if it’s going to be the fourth year or fifth year or third year, first year, you just never know when a guy is going to start to have success and sometimes it never really comes the way you would hope. But the common denominator is this guy is working hard, giving all they can give.

And Sebastian is a tough-minded guy. Boy, he’s physical and tough out there on the field. Just now he’s getting confidence. Really starting to feel good about what he’s doing.

I’m not going to say it’s his best play, but just the fact that he hit the ground after — you got the game winner and a selfish guy would have tried to score or whatever. But he had that wherewithal to hit the ground, game over, we’re going home. Start the bus and here we go.

I think it says a lot about him, too, it really does. I’m not sure he would have done that three years ago. But that’s maturity and that’s really getting it and understanding what it takes.

I love Castro so much. The dude is an absolute animal. He’s everywhere on the field. If Kirk Ferentz is saying that you’re a physical guy and tough on the field, dammit, that means something, and he’s spot on in this case. Castro is playing like his life is on the line out there, and it’s fun as hell to watch.