Kirk Ferentz talked to the assembled media Tuesday. Here's what we learned. As always, transcript courtesy of Hawkeye Nation.
Macon Plewa is still out, and with a bye week coming up after Saturday's trip to Purdue, he'll get two weeks to finally heal up.
And oh yeah, that other injury:
Jake Rudock will come up as day‑to‑day, so we'll see how that goes as we move along. I'm going to hold him out of interviews today, too. He's coming from class. We'll let him get treatment, and I would imagine all the questions center around one thing, so we'll spare him that detail today.
Ferentz later said that Rudock's injury/injuries are (1) unrelated to his knee problems from 2013, and (2) soft tissue injuries. The general consensus, that he took a helmet or shoulder pad to the hip late in the first half against Pitt, fits within what was said.
So if he's healthy, does Rudock get the start?
The Quarterback Controversy
The answer, at this point, is that Ferentz might not know, and if he does, he's not telling anyone just yet.
How has Rudock handled helping C.J. Beathard prepare?
You guys have been around him. This guy is not your average player. This is an exceptional young man going back to his organic chemistry test last year and all that stuff. Jake is just really wired the way you would want a player to be wired, any player, especially a quarterback.
What is C.J. Beathard's best attribute? (HINT: It's that he's not been paralyzed by fear or mistake yet.)
I'm not good at that game, I guess. He's a good player. I feel the same way about Jake. They're different guys totally. Their personalities are different, they look different, just about go right down the row. But that's the neat thing about football. You've got a lot of diverse backgrounds, personalities, ages, all that stuff. But it's about they both share a real common bond in terms of they're here to help the team be a better football team, and they're great teammates with each other and that is certainly something you would expect or hope for.
He didn't miss a chance to harp on that Thursday practice again, in which Beathard must have actually pooped on the practice field. This is the second time since the game ended Saturday that he's publicly cited this Thursday practice. In response to a question about Beathard's efficiency:
If you guys had seen Thursday practice the answer would be yes, I was surprised. I was underwhelmed with what I saw Thursday. But Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty good. That's kind of like our whole team, so the consistency factor. But C.J.'s a really good quarterback, and I don't think I would be surprised by anything he did or Jake. I think both of them are capable of playing really well. I thought Jake played a good first half.
How he feels about Beathard's ability to throw the deep ball, the one thing that I think we can all agree he does better than Rudock:
I think good. I think good. Rudock threw it well too. It was a pretty deep ball. I think both the guys can throw. Their styles are different. They both can make the throws they need to make. Their leadership styles are different too, but they're both effective. Again, I feel pretty good. I'm no quarterback expert. I just know when I feel good about guys and when I don't. I feel really good about both of these players.
I've been trying to keep myself from reading too much into Ferentz's press availability sessions lately, mostly because he tries so hard to not say anything and has successfully done so for so long that I don't expect him to slip up. But this press conference included four questions about Rudock that were not directly related to his injury, and Ferentz's response to all four focused on Rudock. Bit there were eight questions about Beathard that did not include a reference to Rudock, and Ferentz included Rudock in his answer to every single one of them. Even in a question on what Beathard did wrong in that Thursday practice, Ferentz referenced Rudock. It's kind of staggering.
The venue for Saturday cuts both ways. On the one hand, there aren't many places that would be better for a backup quarterback to get a chance than Purdue. It's not an intimidating crowd, and the Boilermaker defense hasn't exactly been stellar this year. Iowa should be able to run the ball, especially if it sticks with the play action passing game it used last week instead of a reversion to the Greg Davis Horizontal. On the other hand, a successful game for Beathard heading into a bye week would only make Iowa's return to Kinnick on October 11 even more difficult for Ferentz.
A Rudock start on Saturday will draw catcalls from both Iowa fans in attendance, but having the game on the road should keep most of the criticism two states away. Frankly, given the defensive performances of Indiana and Purdue, either quarterback is likely to succeed statistically in the next few weeks. If Ferentz wants Rudock, he can do what they did last week and expect Rudock's performance to shut down the controversy; if Rudock isn't able to come through, then Beathard is still available for Indiana.
And then there was this exchange:
Q. Can you describe maybe the amount of think, man hours, and work that goes into deciding who starts and why?
COACH FERENTZ: A year ago is really when the decision got made. We had to make one. At that point it's like every player on our team. Everybody's got a lot going. You put the little things in the plus column, you put them in the minus column and you just judge everything, but we evaluate everything. Not only practice, but everything that goes into it.
And if Beathard wasn't already thinking of following Cody Sokol out of town, he has to be after hearing his coach say he decided who would be quarterback during last season.
If you ask me, Ferentz is going to start Rudock Saturday (if he can despite the injury), hope he gets a good game out of his quarterback, and expect the furor over Beathard to die down during the off week. But that's little more than a hunch. A Beathard start continues the controversy. A Beathard win will turn October into the Ringling Bros. circus.
I've tried to take it easy on Ferentz this week, but this cannot stand. Ferentz was asked early about whether players can lose their position due to injury. He went back to 1981:
The good news I said Saturday and I really mean this, we have two guys we have a lot of confidence in. Maybe I've been around that situation before. It just doesn't pop out off the top of my head. But maybe in '81, Pete Gales and Gordie Bohannon were both really capable. But, you know, we'll just play it by ear. The good news is, at least, we're not going way into the bullpen here to come up with something.
Two questions later, he was asked about Tyler Wiegers' progress, given that he could be the second-string quarterback this weekend. He referenced -- I shit you not -- the 1977 Pitt-Notre Dame game. He knew it chapter and verse:
The one thing I'm pretty confident, and I said two months ago, he can take a snap from our centers now. That was a real issue in August. That's a big step. I still remember to this day I'm pretty sure it was 1977. I remember Pitt losing to Notre Dame. Literally if they could have run quarterback sneaks to finish the game, they would have won the game. They had some center exchange problems, and it was that kind of situation, about so that's not a good deal. So we'll learn more about Tyler this week, for sure today.
He was later asked for a time where he and his coordinator disagreed on the quarterback cough2008cough and he went to another deep track:
Back in the first couple of years we were round and round and round. That was like the loser got to be the quarterback because three‑step and get the ball out. That's all I remember the first year. Ladell Betts was the toughest guy in the history of the program. I think he averaged over 4 a carry that first year. That was an accomplishment. We were young.
So when Ferentz told reporters he couldn't remember three weeks ago, let alone 2008, you could hear the media's eye roll from Des Moines:
Q. When you guys switched quarterbacks in 2008‑‑
COACH FERENTZ: First time, second time? It was like a rotation.
Q. What did you need to see? Going back to the question about the amount of thinking that you guys do to pick a quarterback, does that make it hard to reconsider the position?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah. You know, I can't remember three weeks ago let alone how many years is that? I'm not good in math.
You don't remember old teams, Kirk? THAT'S ALL THESE PRESS CONFERENCES ARE. Every week is just you talking about Dallas Clark and Larry Station and Jackie Bleeping Sherrill and trying to compare Aaron Greving to Mark Weisman. You pulled out a random Pitt-Notre Dame game from the 1970s to answer a question like five minutes before this question was asked, and you're going to say you don't remember old teams? Do you even realize that these get transcribed?
I'll freely admit: It's a dumb thing to argue about. But it's no different than Tim Beckman wishing his mom a happy birthday every year at Big Ten Media Days even though the day of the press conference changes. It's a stupid huckster fib, but it doesn't play as "Aw Shucks"-ism when it's so patently untrue.