Kirk Ferentz met with the assembled media Tuesday. Here's what we learned. As always, transcript courtesy of Hawkeye Nation.
Nothing major, except wide receiver/punt returner Riley McCarron will miss the rest of the regular season after being diagnosed with mono. I once thought I had mono. Turned out I was just watching the 2011 Penn State game.
The big news of the day came just minutes before the press conference, when wide receiver/fetish object/transferee Derrick Willies told Rivals and Scout that he was still in class at Iowa and planned to return to the team. The whole thing was news to Ferentz, who did not take it particularly well:
Q. (Inaudible, but question on Willies)
COACH FERENTZ: I got asked that earlier, and you've got to excuse me, I was working all day today. I haven't had a chance to get on the message boards and stuff. I'm really worried about getting our team, the guys on the team right now ready for this ballgame. That's where my thoughts are right now. We have another game coming up right afterwards. That's where my focus is.
There had been some discussion before the official press conference:
KF on Derrick Willies: He chose to leave the team. We felt bad about that. We've moved on certainly and I assumed he has too.— marcmorehouse (@marcmorehouse) November 18, 2014
KF hasn't spoken to Willies. Sounds absolutely locked into UW and I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't visit this possibility this week— marcmorehouse (@marcmorehouse) November 18, 2014
There are two ways of interpreting this: Either Ferentz is a cold-hearted old man who is not interested in bringing back an obviously-talented wide receiver who made a mistake and is trying to get back in his good graces, or he's simply focused on a game that could decide the Big Ten West title against a rival school that features arguably the nation's best running back and doesn't have time for this shit. I'm going with the latter: He's probably perturbed that he has to hear about this through the press -- that message board remark pretty much gives that away -- but I can't imagine he's going to cut a guy completely loose just because that guy thought he wanted to transfer closer to his ailing father. He's not awful. He's just busy.
There's no way Willies returns this season, regardless of whether Ferentz addresses it this week or not. He's simply been gone too long, and showing up just in time for a bowl trip won't play well to the team. So let's just let this one sit until the offseason, shall we?
Slow and Steady
The vast majority of the press conference was dedicated to "Wisconsin is just like Iowa only better," with Melvin Gordon playing the role of ex-girlfriend:
"He was we thought a great young man, outstanding prospect, didn't take Einstein to figure that out. He was good in high school, and he's even better now. So, you know, we dated for a while, he picked the home state school, which is usually not a big news headline. That's kind of the way it went."
There were also sections on "Wisconsin offensive linemen are bigger" and "Wisconsin halfbacks get drafted." Toward the end, Ferentz was asked why Wisconsin has generally been so successful through three different head coaches. His response is exactly what you expected:
Q. What separates them from the average football program?
COACH FERENTZ: Other than what I just said, to me they've got a vision, and they've stayed true to it for the most part. They've tweaked things. I'm not suggesting ‑‑ they'll play to their strengths. But the first round receivers up there when they had them, they threw the ball to those guys pretty frequently.
So the parts may change a little bit and all that, the defense has changed, but the results are the same. And the characteristics that made them good have been pretty consistent. And I think that's again having a belief and when you do experience some things that maybe aren't what you had hoped for, you don't just sell the farm and go buy another one. They kind of stay with what they do and work through their ups and downs.
Is Wisconsin's basic philosophy -- run the ball behind a massive offensive line blocking in traditional running plays, stop the run, and pressure the quarterback in obvious passing situations -- the same? Yes. It's also the same as about two-thirds of the teams in college football. Where Wisconsin differs is that they aren't beholden to tactics in service of philosophy. Gary Andersen is doing things -- a 3-4 defensive front, option plays, mobile quarterback -- that Bret Bielema would not even consider, because those tactics can be changed without discarding the team's entire ethos. Too often, Iowa feels like the tactics are the ethos, that zone coverage and stretch runs are sacrosanct in and of themselves rather than run in service of Iowa's philosophy.
Iowa could modernize its entire attack without sacrificing its principles, and it has to look only to Madison to see how it can be done.
U MAD NEBRASKA?
"Bill Callahan was a line coach, he was an excellent coach."
Well, there's some bulletin board material for next week. HEROES GAME MORE LIKE ZEROES GAME BABY.