Well folks, here we are, another week of covering your Big Ten West-leading Iowa Hawkeyes who...had an offensive explosion last week? Did I get that right? I did? Wow, I did. What a time to be alive!
This week a really inconsistent Illinois team comes to town on the heels of their QB throwing for like 5 million yards, approximately. Our defense should have fun with that. But can our offense do anything on the other end of the ball? We’ll have to see. Let’s see what Kirk Ferentz thought today during his meeting with the media, shall we? Full transcript here, highlights and snark below.
Q. Got the opportunity to potentially get the sole possession of the Big Ten West title this weekend. How much would that mean to be able to do that considering these types of things don’t happen every day, and the opportunity to actually do it in front of your home crowd?
KIRK FERENTZ: It’s certainly a goal. At the start of the season, you want to be the Big Ten West champs if you have that opportunity. If we were on the other side, it would be the other. The bigger goal right now is just winning games.
One thing you try to explain to the players, and I think they figured this out, there’s no downside to winning and there’s a lot of downside to losing. Not that it’s all about winning and losing, but that’s what you wind up and compete for. Obviously it would be great just to win. It’s always great to win in Kinnick, and rarely is it easy.
So that’s kind of how this game’s going to fall in line.
First and foremost, lol at the fact that he’s like ‘obviously we would want to win the east if we were in the east.’ Thanks, coach. Coming into the season, I thought winning the West would be difficult, but achievable. Now it’s basically here and I’m shook. I don’t want to play Michigan or Ohio State in this final, but at least Iowa should end the division-era of Big Ten football with a win. Who knows what the future holds, so take it while we can.
Q. The defense didn’t exactly struggle to start the season, but now they’re, once again, among the top ten in college football. What have you seen from them, how they’ve continued to, well, get better incrementally, but now those things are starting to add up, and they’re really among the best.
KIRK FERENTZ: I’ve said it to several people. We’re clearly better defensively than we were six, eight weeks ago. That’s what you hope for with all of our guys. You hope they’re improving, whether they’re experienced or not experienced. Probably the biggest difference, at least from my vantage point, is non-experienced players have a chance to improve dramatically, whereas a guy that’s pretty good is not going to be as dramatic, typically gains in the weight room sometimes. Younger guys can improve more and more dramatically.
I think it’s a residual. The guys have played well, they work hard in practice, they prepare, they study, and then the other component, I think, is you gain some confidence when you do have success, and we’ve had some. So I think that kind of breeds a little bit more of it. Then the collective power of all that, the synergy that’s involved.
Then you have guys that have played a lot of football. They’re doing a good job. Jay has played a lot of football, but not in that role. You lose Campbell, and then for him to step in and do what he’s done, that’s impressive. But that’s allowed our whole team to also keep playing well.
We lost a lot of really good players off that defense last year. You talk about Kaevon, Riley, Jack, Seth, Lukas. So it’s a real credit to the whole group. They’ve all kept working, and collectively they’re playing pretty well right now.
I really thought, especially early in the Michigan State game, that this would be a down year for the defense. It was clear at the time how much they missed Jack Campbell. Boy, have they put it together since then. Just such a fun squad to watch at every position. I love this defense and Phil Parker so damn much.
Q. With all the distractions this year, how has this team been able to stay the course and kind of keep the train on the tracks? And how proud are you of them to be where they are right now despite maybe some of the off the field distractions?
KIRK FERENTZ: Really proud of them and really happy for them. Good things that happen, we try to like create a framework for them and give them some guidance, but ultimately it all comes down to players play the game. They win and lose out in the field, and they’re the ones that have kept the thing on the tracks because they’re the ones who didn’t allow distractions to distract them.
There’s a million of them. They come at you. We’ve got different forms of them coming each and every week. Now we’ve got to deal with a little success. We scored 22 points and got a shutout, so it’s like we’re world champions.
We’ve still got a lot of work to do, and they understand that. Yeah, but ultimately it gets down to the players. If you have the right kind of guys on your team, you’ve got a chance to do some good things. I don’t know how good we are, but we’re becoming a really good team in terms of the teamwork part of it. The rest of the stuff will just play itself out on the field.
YOU HEAR THAT, FOLKS? WE’RE WORLD CHAMPIONS, BABY!!!!
Joking aside, this team has responded extremely well to a lot of resiliency and it’s great to see. Last weekend was just fun, and boy was it great after weeks of misery on offense.
Q. For those of us who have to make predictions for Saturday’s game, which version of Deacon Hill do you expect to show up, the first half version last Saturday or the second half?
KIRK FERENTZ: Them or us? It all goes together. What happened in the second half, it’s a process. You just keep playing. Then hopefully you’re learning during the game, and you just keep chipping away.
I thought from the start we were playing better than we have played offensively. And defensively we were doing a lot of good things. On the special teams, we were contributing. That’s how we play. Hopefully you get better as the game goes on. No two games are ever the same. They’ve all got a life of their own. You play them as they play out.
In a perfect world like that, that’s what we’re looking for. Keep chipping away and keep getting a little bit better. At some point hopefully you build a lead. I saw the stat about us being whatever it is, 70-2 with eight-point leads. It’s better to play with the lead, no question about it. That’s something we’re always trying to do, but it’s easier said than done sometimes.
So reading between the lines here...Kirk has no idea which Deacon will show up. Lovely! Let’s hope it’s second half Deacon for all of our sanities.
Q. Is Noah going to get to go through Senior Day at all?
KIRK FERENTZ: Absolutely, yes. He’s more than earned that. I did my little three-minute documentary today on the Big Ten Network today about that whole situation. I’ll probably just keep my mouth shut.
Yeah, he is so respected by everybody in this building. Again, I’m not minimizing speeding tickets, but that’s really what this thing is the equivalent of, so it’s tough. I’m sorry.
TELL US HOW YOU REALLY FEEL, KIRK. FREE NOAH SHANNON.
Q. Coach, I know you’ve said in the past, when it come to the pantheon of great Iowa punters, Reggie Roby is 1 and everybody else is 2. But when it comes to fan favorites, you see the shirts. When Tory’s name goes up on the jumbotron, everybody goes crazy. Even three and outs, Tory gets the pop. As far as fan favorites go, where does he stand among the players you’ve seen in college over the years?
KIRK FERENTZ: I’m in that fan club too, just so you know that. In fairness to Reggie, we didn’t have social media and all that stuff going on. He’d probably sell a few T-shirts too.
One thing about Reggie, I got here his last two years, I heard about his prowess in high school, he probably could have been All-Big Ten at a couple positions based on what I know, maybe a couple sports. He’s just a great athlete. I’m not suggesting Tory is not, but Reggie Roby was a first-class guy. He was in a special tier.
But I’ll tell you, Tory with every step — and Jason Baker had a pretty good NFL career too. Those are pretty good names you’re throwing around. Yeah, Tory — plus he’s got the advantage of being Australian. He’s got the accent, all that stuff. He’s got a great personality. I think he’s just a likable person. You’ve really got to like him. I especially like him when he punts the ball well. I have a fondness of people like that too. So, it’s pretty good. Yeah, he’s a great story.
I’ll go back too. I think whatever the technicality was, he couldn’t collect money, whenever it was, a year ago and donated it to a really, really worthy cause. I think that tells a lot about the kid too, just how he’s wired, how he’s been raised. He’s got a great family. So it’s a pretty special thing. Usually starts at home.
We love Reggie in my household but I don’t know man...Tory is special. He’s a guy you remember for a long, long time. If he’s not No. 1, he’s No 2 at the lowest.
Let’s end with this:
Q. Phil Parker was nominated for the Broyles Award again this year. It just came out. He had no idea he had been nominated when he walked by a little bit ago. Just the importance and what your defense has done in the last month with just one touchdown allowed.
KIRK FERENTZ: On that topic, I tell Rita to hit the resend button from last year or the year before or the year before. We won’t win it because we’re not — well, it is what it is.
He’s done a great job coaching. He has been here all 25 years, I appreciate that. He’s had two jobs since he became a full-time coach, which I think says a lot about him and his career. A, he has been invited to stay both places because he’s phenomenal. He’s an outstanding coach.
And just the way those guys have played is really very impressive. It’s a team effort. I’m sure he would tell you that or has told you that. He certainly learned well from Norm. Norm was the all-time best, and we’ve been fortunate to have real continuity in our system, and it has worked out for us.
They’re continually tweaking it, looking at it, adjusting it. You have to because things change, but it’s still pretty much the way it was 25 years ago. Obviously a little bit better now, but Phil’s done a great job.
BETH GOETZ, IF YOU’RE READING THIS (I know you are), GIVE PHIL ALL THE MONEY AND THEN SOME. Kirk Ferentz (and the entire fanbase) is so, so lucky that this man either is extremely loyal. We would all die for Phil.