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November 1, 2016

Kirk Ferentz

Iowa City, Iowa

COACH FERENTZ: Overall, we had a really productive bye week. Main things we're trying to get accomplished, give our veteran players, the guys that have played a lot, a chance to recharge a little bit but also to move forward, keep moving forward. And then certainly, some of the younger guys who haven't played a lot, give them a lot more extensive work and try to move them forward as well. So I think we got both those things accomplished for the most part.

Then in addition to that, gave the guys a chance to get caught up a little bit academically. Things tend to stack up a little bit in season at times. A couple of them were lucky enough to maybe have dates on Friday and Saturday. Maybe, I don't know. You could check with them on that one.

So we returned to practice on Sunday. We got back to trying to get ready here. Basically, like during the week last week, our focus has been on trying to improve the little things, see what we can do to play our best football this last month.

Where it stands right now, big picture-wise, obviously, we've got two-thirds of the season done. Still have four big games in front of us. So that's where it sits. It's about as clean and simple as you can get it.

Right now the big thing for us is what we do this month, the month of November. Best way to do that is just handle it a day at a time, week at a time. That's really where our focus is right now.

As we move forward with captains, same four guys. C.J. Beathard and Leshun Daniels on offense. Desmond King and Josey Jewell on the defensive side. Mathematically, we're certainly in better shape than we were last time we visited. Guys have had a chance to recover a little bit and get some healing time. I'm not going to sit here and say that everybody is perfectly healthy. That would be unrealistic even if we hadn't had a bye week, or had two bye weeks. Nobody this time of year is 100 percent healthy, but I think we're moving forward right now. Most of the guys got to work this morning.

We'll get an extra seven hours before the game on Saturday. Hopefully, we'll have everybody ready to go on Saturday. And we'll probably need that for sure.

Big challenge as we move forward here this weekend. Traveling to State College. Penn State's got a really good football team. They're playing well right now. It's a tough environment, very challenging environment to play in. We've got our hands full right now. They've won four straight ball games. They're playing really well. They're in sync and playing with great confidence, rightfully so. And the challenge for us right now is to have our best week of preparation possible and be ready to go at 7:42 p.m.

So we're looking forward to that. We've got two good practices under our belt here. Hopefully, we'll finish out the week and be ready to go on Saturday.

Q. When people think of bye week, they think the physical recuperation. What do you hope the guys get mentally out of that week?
COACH FERENTZ: I think a chance to just step away a little bit. That's really important. It's certainly important in anything you do. If you're working hard at something, if it's competitive, academically, whatever it may be, it's good to step back a little bit and just get some air.

I think it's especially important right now. You know, the way college football is, it used to be they have the week of Thanksgiving, which I thought was a really healthy break for everybody, get a chance to go home and just get away from football, get away from school for a week. They didn't have that luxury. Classes weren't cancelled last week. So our guys had to be on campus, obviously.

But it gave them a chance to get away from football a little bit and just kind of get their houses in order socially, academically, and then hopefully come back -- and it didn't look great on Sunday, I can promise you. It looked like we had three weeks off instead of a couple days, but they fell back in line yesterday and looked more like a football team.

I just think that separation is really important. I never coached a winter sport, but I've got to think it's important in those sports, maybe more so, because their seasons are so long. I think the chance to step back is good for everybody. It's good for the coaches too, not that we step back totally, but a little focus on recruiting maybe instead of just football. So it's probably a healthy break.

Q. Whenever you have a chance for everybody to do something else off campus, kind of what runs through your mind?
COACH FERENTZ: Not a lot. We talk to our guys every time they leave campus, whether it's spring break, after the bowl game, or whatever, just about being smart and being safe. But they're college age guys, and things happen to people of all ages, but certainly college guys.

For those that could go home, that's a good thing. It's good to go home and get a home cooked meal if you've got that available, sleep in your own bed, those kinds of things. Other guys couldn't, but I think there's good camaraderie on our team. That goes back to my coming here in 1980. I always thought there was a good closeness for our guys.

It's good for them. You've got to trust your folks. It's just like your kids. You raise them and hope they understand what's important, and you hope they're making good decisions knowing that they're probably not always going to, but you hope that they are.

It's really no different on the football field. It's kind of the same thing. At some point, they've got to make decisions on their own, and you just hope they've got a good foundation to go off of.

I think most of them are pretty tired anyway. So that kind of takes some of the excitement away.

Q. George Kittle didn't really look like himself obviously against Wisconsin. What do you expect to get out of him this week?
COACH FERENTZ: He'll be two weeks down the road from then. Hopefully, a lot better. He's been better in practice. He's not 100 percent, nobody is right now, at least the guys that have had injuries. He's a lot further down the road. I was really surprised he was able to play at all against Wisconsin. So that was a pleasant surprise. He tried to gut it up, but it's tough. As you might imagine, he did very little with us last week, a lot with the trainers.

So just have that window of opportunity to get some guys back on the road, that was a good thing.

Q. Same with Boone Myers. He appeared -- he's on the depth chart --
COACH FERENTZ: Boone and all those guys, hopefully, they'll be ready to go. I don't know if they'll be 100 percent, but I think it will be tough to keep them out.

Q. This is a series that for most of your career has been super competitive. It's not one of the quote, unquote rivalry games necessarily, but up until four years ago, you guys played almost every year in really tough, intense games, then it rotated off with Big Ten realignment. Is it almost kind of a shame that you don't get to see these teams on a regular basis anymore?
COACH FERENTZ: It is, and that's the one downside of expansion. Maybe there are other ones too. I don't know. It's just hard to have a flow when you have 14 teams in your league, and we're not the only ones going through that.

So to that point, it really does seem strange playing Penn State again because it seems like forever. I mean, it was, what, four seasons, but it seems like 14. So that part is a little bit strange. We kind of went through that with Illinois. I remember driving over, I did an event, spoke somewhere in -- I guess it was across the river. I'm blanking out. I should know that. Yeah, Rock Island or Moline, somewhere around there. I went there a couple springs ago.

And it dawned on me, we haven't played those guys since '08, five years at that time, which is really strange when it's a border school. But that's expansion. You know, it's expansion. No offense to the people in Moline or Rock Island, holy smokes. I knew it was a quad city. Sorry about that. It was a very nice luncheon too, by the way. I'm glad I went.

Q. Akrum mentioned that in certain practices he has practiced a little bit in the slot. Is that an effort to jump start the passing game?
COACH FERENTZ: It's really a wildcat, and we've got a triple option with a pass off of it. All kinds of razzle dazzle stuff. So we're just fooling around with different looks and what have you. Nothing major.

Q. You talked about little things, meaning that's what you needed to focus on. Can you change much X and O-wise at this point?
COACH FERENTZ: Not wholesale, but you're always worried about your team every week with every exposure, especially game days and those types of things, how guys are coming along. You're always going to try to lean left or lean right based on what you're seeing performance-wise and also health-wise. Those two things really factor into it.

Yeah, it's a constant evaluation. And the other part is we had more time as a coaching staff last week to not only sit down and do not only self-scout, but really talk more about what ifs and those types of things where you're a little more limited in game weeks.

It's not like we're going to look a whole lot different, I can assure you that, on Saturday. Hopefully, we'll look better, sharper, crisper, and a little better execution.

Q. Historically, you guys seem to thrive when you're the underdog, and you go on the road -- something about Iowa football the last 18 years. Do you like this role that you're kind of going in?
COACH FERENTZ: Hopefully that's the case again. Hopefully we don't break history if that is the case. I'd rather be undefeated. We were last year, which was more fun. We aren't right now. We're 5-3. But the bottom line is there's still four games left to play. That's what it gets down to, and really it's what we do every day here that's going to define this season for us.

At the end of the day, we'll evaluate the team based on what we did effort-wise, how we improved, those types of things. Those things are really important to us as coaches. And we have an opportunity right now this coming month. It's exciting.

Unbeknownst to the experts, many of the experts I heard this past season, our schedule looks a little more challenging than it did back in July. I heard a lot of judgment about how easy our schedule is. I think we've got three ranked teams on the schedule right now plus an away game, but that's great. It's like going into Penn State. This is not going to be easy. It's going to be a whiteout, unofficial whiteout, 110,000, whatever they put in there. It's going to be loud, crazy, all that stuff.

But you like college football, what more can you ask for than to go into a good environment? That's one of the neat things about our conference too. There's so many really good environments to play in that are challenging and tough. So it gives you a good test to measure yourself and measure the team by.

Q. The Penn State sack numbers are pretty high this year. Given some of the struggles in the pass protection for you guys this year, how do you prevent that this weekend?
COACH FERENTZ: We've got to play better.

That's the biggest thing we're focused on. Like the entire passing game, it's not just the line. It's everything -- guys getting open, getting the ball out on time, that type of thing. Certainly, protection, whether it's the linemen, backs, tight ends involved. Everybody's got to roll.

It's going to be a team effort, and we know it's going to be a big challenge. Hopefully, we can rise to that. The only thing we can do hopefully is maybe help ourself with the situations, put ourselves in more manageable situations. Not that we've been perfect there, but our third down success has been pretty good when it's a manageable, three to six area, as opposed to those 10s and 12s. Those are hard for anybody to make. So we've got to do a good job of that.

Q. Do you work more with an extra blocker given the looks they give you.
COACH FERENTZ: There's pluses and minuses to it. That's an age old debate in football because you take a receiver out of the equation, obviously, when you do that. I think there's a time and place for that. One thing I learned when I was in the NFL, you go against Buddy Ryan, his coached teams, whether it was in Houston, later on in Arizona. It might be a blitz, 4 out of 9, maybe 4 out of 5 or 5 out of 5 snaps. So if you just do one thing or settle in, they're going to pick you apart.

So I think it's usually good to be a little bit multiple and at least give them some things to worry about so they don't always know where you're going to be at.

Q. What makes Barkley so effective?
COACH FERENTZ: Oh, boy, I don't know where to start. The guy is a really good player. He played well last year, and he's playing better now. He's tough and strong, start with that, and he can run.

And you might think you have him. Looked like Minnesota had him -- contained. Not bottled up, but contained. And then, Boom, he makes the biggest play of the game. So that's what great players do. They have you on edge every play of the game. We've faced some backs like that, and it's tough duty.

Q. How much better is their offensive line? That seems to be where they struggled right after the sanctions. They seem to be a lot better now.
COACH FERENTZ: We scouted them a while back, and they seemed to be having some trouble there. Now they're a lot more veteran. The young guys they do have playing are playing pretty well. One thing about Penn State, I'm trying to remember the last time I've seen them with guys that weren't real heavily recruited. They've got guys that look the part and play the part.

So a lot of times, just a little bit of experience and that type of thing.

Q. Do you put an emphasis on the front seven because of how prolific they are on offense, particularly in the run game?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah. It starts there, but everybody has to have a role in the run game too if we're going to be successful. The thing that makes it tough about them is they've got good receivers. Tight end is a good receiver, very tall guy. And the quarterback is a guy who can run or pass. He'll hurt you both ways.

So they put a lot of pressure on it. It's not just standing up and take one thing away. If you do, you're going to pay for it. I've seen a lot of big plays they've been able to create, whether it's the receivers, tight end, or the quarterback just keeping it. So you're focused on the running back, and there's a lot more to it. That makes it a challenge.

Q. Heading back to Pennsylvania, anything spark some nostalgia?
COACH FERENTZ: The biggest issue is, when you go home, a lot more ticket requests, hotel requests. I'm not sure how many hotels are available in State College, not a whole lot. So those kinds of things kind of factor into it. But I grew up a long way from there. So I guess no, to answer your question. It's a big game for us, not because it's the state I grew up in.

Q. If somebody brings up the 2008 Penn State game, what's the first play you think of?
COACH FERENTZ: The first play I think of is Mitch King drawing a holding penalty, which may sound strange to you, but that put them off rhythm. They threw a ball that ended up getting picked off by us, which they would not have had had that holding penalty not taken place. We forced them into a turnover situation. We got the turnover, and the whole drive was really well done.

So first play, I think, was that holding penalty. Second play would be what the call was on the safety, not safety. They ended up with a ball on the one-inch line and had to punt it into the wind. That was kind of an interesting play. I'm still not sure what happened. I just know we ended up getting it back in good field position.

Q. With Daniel Murray and that kick there, he hadn't kicked in a while. What was your confidence level in him?
COACH FERENTZ: You know, it just gets down to what you see in practice. It really is. I think all of us as coaches tend to believe in our players, and at that point, it just seemed like he was the right guy to go to. He'd been doing a good job in practice very quietly. He'd gone through some adversity during the year, during his career. It wasn't smooth. But he kept working and kept doing well in practice. When he got his opportunity, it ended up being a huge play certainly.

Q. Have you or will you use the '08 team to kind of motivate? It seems like it's kind of in a similar situation.
COACH FERENTZ: I reference a lot of our teams for situations that pop up and just, you know, the what ifs. We've had situations too where we haven't responded maybe as well as you need to in November. So it's a matter of choice for our football team, and that '08 team certainly, the one thing I'll always remember about them is the way they responded. We're 3-3. The sky was falling outside. It was doom and gloom everywhere you turned, yet those guys never flinched. They just kept pushing. And it wasn't perfect. They lost one game over at Illinois, but they kept pushing week to week to week.

The next thing you know, they ended up 20th in the country and won in a very convincing fashion down at the bowl game.

So as much as it's like judging our schedule back in July, as much as people want to categorize and have perceptions about things, it's all about what happens. That's one of the great things about sports, and then one of the great things about sports, as opposed to real life, the opportunity is pretty equal. 7:42 on Saturday, and we both got a chance. I know it's not 50-50, but we both got a chance to win the game. In some situations in life, that ain't the case. But in this one, it's a chance to go out there and win a ball game.

Q. Do you feel like, if your run defense plays the way it did against Wisconsin, that you guys will have a say in how it goes?
COACH FERENTZ: We'll have a chance. That is the one thing -- our record wasn't perfect over the last three weeks, but we certainly saw improvement in our football team in some areas. That probably would be number one on the list. It's so important -- and not that we're -- we don't have it figured out or ironed out by any stretch. We're running a really good test this week and beyond. But it's really hard to win in any conference, especially this conference, if you can't play the run.

Q. This is a weird question, but I hear players every week mention the word -- the term eye discipline. When did you first start hearing that? What was it before it was eye discipline?
COACH FERENTZ: As a coach, I always talked about eyes. I wasn't smart enough to use the word discipline or like gap integrity, those buzz words. You go to clinics and all that stuff. To me in sports, your eyes are so important, just in anything you do. I don't know anything about golf or kicking, but it seems like it's important there. Hitting the baseball, throwing the baseball, you name it, what you're doing with your eyes. And so many mistakes you see in sports, to me, are usually related to that. Concentration is a big part of that.

I don't want to bore you. I remember going back to Pittsburgh, just got to watch practice, like '84, '85, somewhere in there. They got Randy Dixon, who played for the Colts for a long time. I had never seen a guy like that. Just stood behind just watching him in drills, and his eye focus was unbelievable coming out of the huddle. When that ball was snapped, he was wired in.

To me, that's how mechanics -- you have a chance to have decent mechanics if your eyes are where they need to be. And your young players don't have, quote, unquote, discipline. That's some of our more sophisticated coaches. Certainly not Phil Parker. I'm not including him in that group, but some of our other guys who have a little bit better vernacular.

Q. You have so many almost epic events in the program's history in a place like this. You think about 2000, kind of the first real coming out moment, '02 that overtime game, where you survived. And then '09, down 10-0 and were able to come back the way you did. It just seems remarkable to me at that location. How are you guys able to maintain the poise and play through it in a place like that?
COACH FERENTZ: Those are all great memories. I appreciate bringing those up. I can remember a couple that weren't as good. But those are games we really played well in. (The game in) 2000 was really a big day for us because it was the first time the cumulative effect of the work we were putting in really showed, and it showed up the next week. And then we got brought back to earth two weeks after that game, which was probably a healthy thing in retrospect because we weren't going to the Rose Bowl anyway that year. So it gave us a little bit of humility.

Moments like that are all -- those are things you can go back and point to and use a teaching examples just about sticking with it. That game couldn't have started any worse. We talked about getting off to a fast start, take the crowd out, and holy smokes. It couldn't have gone any worse, but the guys just kept playing. Whether it's a game, season, that's what you got to do, and that's really what life is all about. You take the hand that's dealt you and work hard at it and see what you can do to make it a winning hand.

Q. C.J. doesn't seem like the kind of guy who needs hand holding, but in in his struggles in the passing game, he's taken some slings and arrows here and there. How does that play with you? It doesn't seem like it's really --
COACH FERENTZ: First of all, no arrows from us. We actually watch the film and study it. I know we're living in an era too -- this is amazing to me. The longer you get involved in this stuff, it's fascinating the stuff that happens. All of those companies that analyze players, right? Pro players, college players. I think it's going down to college players as well and their performance.

Ultimately, you answer to yourself, and in a team activity, you answer to the people that really are the ones that are working with you.

So he's a strong guy, and he's a tough guy. I think he's proven that time and time again. He's part of the solution. He's just working hard to help lead and do his part and bring everybody else along with him. We've got a lot of guys doing that, but he's doing fine. I hope he doesn't listen to a lot of that stuff. Maybe he does, but I doubt it.

Q. He doesn't seem like the kind of guy who needs handling. He kind of seems like -- you saw this coming. You saw struggles coming because he's been around football. He's understands performance.
COACH FERENTZ: Everybody needs a good word, encouraging word at some point. I've never met anybody that didn't. He's a guy that's real mature. He's been through it. He's faced adversity, whether it's physical, mental, et cetera. You play long enough, that's what happens.

So that's why he's what you want at quarterback. He's wired right. He's a tough minded guy. That's really, at the end of the day, what it takes to be successful. You really have to be a mentally tough guy to do this and to do anything that's hard and competitive.

I'm not too worried about him, but everybody needs a kind word every now and then. It's a good thing. But we all realize too, this is a competitive exercise, and we're competing against good people, and all you can do is all you can do. He's certainly doing that. He's totally committed.

Q. When you look at Josey, he was -- a lot of your great players have been last day recruit types, and Josey among them. What did you see -- was that a very last minute thing to grab this guy?
COACH FERENTZ: If I learned one thing in 18 years, if Reese mentions a guy a couple times, then I need to really kind of tune in to it. Whether it's Brett Greenwood, go right through, he seems to have a guy every year that he really kind of likes. He won't sell him, push him, but he really kind of likes.

So that was part of it. The other part was we went back and looked at the film, and I talked about this last week to our guys again. I just wish I -- there's a way because -- you pull the film out again. There wasn't like there was anything overwhelmingly good about him on the film other than you could tell he's a tough competitor. He's tough and competitive, and his team won. That was big too. But it wasn't like he was overly dynamic.

I remember saying that with Abdul Hodge. I thought Abdul was a good player, but I'll never forget the first time we were out there standing behind him on the field for 30 seconds, and we said this guy is quicker and better than I thought he was off of tape. So film is the starting point, but there's something about being around him -- how we almost missed Josey Jewell, I don't know, because this guy is a really good football player, unbelievable guy. Everything you want in a football player, he is.

And I remember back whenever it was, 2001 or 2002, a couple of guys went back and dug out Dallas Clark's high school film just to see. Kind of the same thing. Good player, quarterback, all that. So go find a 6'2", 190-pound quarterback that looked like he was a good player and recruit him, and it's going to be the next Dallas Clark. There's just something about guys when they elevate, and that's certainly what Josey's been doing and continues to do.

Q. How much does the opposite happen where you see a guy on tape --

Q. -- and they're different when they get in here?
COACH FERENTZ: I just read an article about a guy in the past, who is something we never got and his career never got either. It just ended up being we didn't get him, one of those shots. So it's kind of like predicting schedules, what a schedule is in June, next year's schedule. Oh, geez, that team's not bad. That team's not bad. That other team's not bad. Things change, and people develop, teams develop.

So it's an inexact science. That's why Tom Brady is a seventh rounder, or Pujols is the 400th guy in the draft in baseball. I don't know who the other 400 guys are, but I had the privilege of being in the dugout with that guy one time. Whew.

Q. During recruiting, how important is it this month to get some wins? 9-3 is a better selling point to a recruit, for example?
COACH FERENTZ: I'm not saying I'm focused on recruiting right now because you can't ever back off of that, but I want to win for our football team. It's just like every other coach. You want your players to experience success and feel good about themselves. It's not that you can't feel good about yourself if you don't win, but I can tell you this, you feel a lot better when you do win. Even if you played bad, you still feel good.

So that's the most important thing we're focused on right now is just making the most out of -- you only get -- our seniors only get this season. This is it for them, and that's the most important thing. This 2016 team gets one crack at it. So that's really what's paramount in my thinking. The better you do, sure, it helps recruiting, no question. But the most important thing right now -- this is the one time of year where we're really focused on our team. As crazy as our lives are where we're recruiting all the time -- most of the time, not all the time, we're recruiting tenth graders, ninth graders, all this stuff. This is the one time -- that's the great thing about being on the practice field. You're just out there with your team, no cell phones or any of that stuff. It's really good. That's what teams do in sports.

The rest of our life has been turned upside down, but at least this is the experience that you really look for and really enjoy, and the relationships and all that stuff, with guys that you're actually working with, not projected to be working with. So that's the fun of it all, and that's really what's at the core of this whole thing.

Q. Josey Jewell seems to be one of those solid aware types. He's a farmer's kid, hard worker. He seems to command the huddle without being overly vocal.
COACH FERENTZ: He's very genuine. I just mentioned Dallas. You go back through all the guys that we've had here that have really been -- the guys on that wall -- just genuine people, in their own ways, their own personalities. Josey is a pretty quiet, intense guy, as you noticed. He's not real talkative. I bet he's fun to hang around with, but in his own way, I think.

But I just flashed back, my Kodak moment for him was at the end of that TaxSlayer Bowl where the game was not in question at that point, but there was a guy flying around at a whole different speed than everybody else. That, to me, is just like that's unique. It's really unique to find people like that. That's how the guy's wired. It's that way every day with him. If you want him to slow down, you've got to pull him out. That's the way it goes. That's a coach's dream there.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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