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KIRK SPEAKS: Western Michigan

Time for a tune-up game

NCAA Football: Iowa at Iowa State Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Well folks, Iowa Football is 2-0! Of course we can never make things plook easy or pretty but I digress. Undefeated is undefeated...I just wish it wasn’t the same situation every week going back to last season.

Anyways, barring something absolutely wild, I don’t think the outcome of this game is in question. But what is in question (again) is how we’ll get there. Can the offense finally pull together two complete halves of football? According to our head coach, he doesn’t know how to make that happen (seriously - see below), soooo...yeah. Let’s get into it, shall we?

Check out my highlights below and the full transcript here.

Let’s start with this, from Kirk’s opening statement:

KIRK FERENTZ: Before I get to Western Michigan, unfortunately we received some disappointing news, regarding Noah’s appeal to the NCAA. It was denied. That puts it to rest. I’m not quite sure what went into the decision, but what I can tell you is that Noah is a tremendous young man. He came back to his sixth year. A highly respected leader in our locker room and certainly with our coaching staff.

Our goal is to keep him with the program, keep him close, have him remain as a part of the team. Obviously he can’t play, but he’s run a heck of a race, and we are really disappointed with the whole thing.

He’s been honest throughout this whole process, very transparent. About as honest as you can be. I want to emphasize he did not break any laws. My wife made that point a couple weeks ago, just in emphasis. He is guilty of an NCAA violation. Very up front about that.

Basically I don’t agree or understand, quite frankly, the decision, especially when it comes to the severity of the punishment. To me, it’s really disappointing, especially considering our current environment right now, which believe me, the last couple months I’m a lot more in tune to that than previously.

Probably the most disappointing thing, the panel that heard the appeal had an opportunity to do something, make a decision that to me would reflect reason and also reflect the changing environment. They failed to do so. We’ll move on. Just disappointed on that front, certainly.

This just really sucks. Not only from a roster standpoint (they really could use Shannon), but just the fact that once again the NCAA makes a head-scratching decision. Yes, he gambled but the punishment doesn’t quite seem to fit the crime like it does for others. A suspension is merited, but for the whole season? Seriously?

Q. Do you think they made an example of him?

KIRK FERENTZ: I can’t speak for that. I’ve learned a lot in the last three months. I’m telling you now that the season started, the NFL season started, I can’t get in the car without hearing whoever the companies are they have. Of course, if you have a gambling problem, call 1-800. It’s a different world we live in right now. We seem to be a little slow to react to it, ‘we’ being the governing body.

The answer is yes, yes they did.

Anyway, there’s more about the Shannon suspension in the full transcript, but I don’t want to use the whole space here to talk about that.

Q. One player you’re getting back this week, Jemari Harris. How did he stay involved the last couple weeks? What does he bring?

KIRK FERENTZ: We have a policy, if a guy has some kind of conduct issue, have a suspension, they go to the scout team. I kind of feel different about this whole topic, really been interesting.

But, yeah, he’s been active. He’s been great. He’s had a great camp. Basically he’s been with our team. Was with us Saturday. Just didn’t play the last two weeks.

He’s fully engaged, ready to roll. It will be good to get him back.

Q. What does he bring?

KIRK FERENTZ: Experience. He did a great job in tough circumstances two years ago. All of a sudden he was in there, maybe not necessarily ready. Stepped up and did a good job.

The fun part, talk about the human side of things, just to watch the growth we’ve seen with him over his career, it’s been unbelievable.

Two years ago, he developed into not only a good player, but a really strong leader on our team. He’s taken a lot of ownership. Talk about mentoring young guys, he’s been active helping younger guys try to get better.

This will definitely help a defense that is already performing extremely well. Let’s hope he’s learned his lesson.

QB talk time!

Q. Cade came in here and said it’s the best he felt in a month to practice. First time he had game week practice in a year. Does that open up the playbook more? How does that help your offense?

KIRK FERENTZ: Time will tell in terms of opening up the playbook. That’s encouraging. He said something to me Thursday, I bumped into him. He and Erick were actually leaving, they were watching film, they were leaving the building. He indicated that he was feeling like he was gaining ground at that point. That was encouraging.

We’re in a lot better position today than two weeks ago, which is encouraging, too. With injures, you never know how they’re going to go, everybody heals differently.

With all that being said, you have to keep your fingers crossed, hope he keeps climbing. The fact that he can practice now is huge because he’s missed a lot of time, and the timing component is so important. It’s important because it’s not like he’s played with our guys a lot. This was the first time he has done any team stuff was in August.

There’s a lot of work to do right now. That’s encouraging for me. I talk about the potential of our team. I think that’s a big part of it. If we can keep him out there, keep him practicing, common sense would say we’ll probably play better with him getting more work. If he’s more physically able to move around a little bit, that’s a good thing, too.

This is fantastic news. If the offense is going to really start gelling, they need him at 100% and getting 100% of the reps in practice. How much he actually plays this week remains to be seen, because I don’t think this team will bring any issues, but I like the thought of being able to open up the playbook more soon. If there’s anything else in the playbook, that is.

Speaking of the offense...

Q. With the offense, do you feel like it took another step?

KIRK FERENTZ: I do. I saw a lot of things that were more encouraging. We’re still not there yet. We’re a more mature group certainly than we’ve been the last two years overall.

Yeah, you have to keep going. Last week was a unique challenge, the kind of defense they play. I said a week ago at this time, they’ve done a great job since 2018 on defense. Saturday was no different. We expected that.

This is a different preparation. It has taken me a little while to make sense in my mind a little bit because of how multiple they are. They throw a lot of looks at you. So trying to make it make sense and make it make sense to our players, that’s a challenge. Then you got to go out and try to execute against it.

They’re definitely not there yet, that’s for sure. I do think that last Saturday was more issues with execution than playcalling overall but still. This kind of tune-up opponent is not one you an afford to waste when you A) need your offense to gel and B) need to figure out how to score in the second half. If this is another close game in score (but maybe not in terms ofthe actual game, like the first two), I’ll be feeling very worried this time next week.

Here’s a head-scratcher that I mentioned above:

The offense, it seems like you guys have started hot these last two games. Cooled off the start of the second half. How do you address that?

KIRK FERENTZ: I don’t know the answer. We haven’t started well either side of the ball second half. In the first game they just took it right down the field on us. Last week we were out.

I don’t know. We have to figure something out there.

HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW? HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW SO BADLY THAT YOU SAID YOU DON’T KNOW TWICE? YOU’RE THE HEAD COACH. How is this an acceptable answer in any way to this question? A lot of us know the actual answer but also a lot of us know that Kirk can talk for hours and say nothing. Why say he doesn’t know — twice — here?

Q. When Kaleb Brown announced his commitment to you guys, there was a lot of excitement. He’s been in the wide receiver rotation. The wide receivers got off to a slower start with Iowa State. How would you assess the wide receiver room and Kaleb?

KIRK FERENTZ: I like what I see with the room. Again, Nico and Diante, our most experienced guys, are both practicing well. Seth made a great catch, to me a huge play. Those are the kind of plays you have to make if we’re going to have an offensive team. For a first down right in front of our bench.

It’s not always going to be the wild plays. You got to make some routine plays, maybe a little bit beyond routine.

I really think Seth and Kaleb are similar. They’re both guys, we didn’t see anything of them in the spring. One wasn’t here and the other was hurt. Both of them have done a nice job since August.

Probably the only difference is Seth played a little bit more receiver, whereas this is new for Kaleb. Great guy, great attitude. He has a good ability.

I think if everybody is just patient, lets this thing go as it goes, all four of them I see being active in the rotation.

Wow, an answer about wide receivers that didn’t include the fact that they only had one scholarship wide receiver last year! I’d like to see more from Kaleb for sure, but I have honestly been impressed with Seth Anderson so far. Still a lot of growth for the wide receivers to do, though.

Until next week...Go Hawks!