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UNIVERSITY OF IOWA FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 8, 2016
Iowa City, Iowa
KIRK FERENTZ: Good afternoon. It's a new week, new opportunity for us, and the best thing any time you have a tough loss is getting back to work, and that's exactly what we did on Sunday, and good to get back on the field with our players, start focusing on our next opponent, and that began yesterday morning.
I continue to be impressed with our players, their responses to disappointment. Any time you go through a tough loss, any loss, but certainly a disappointing loss, teams can either split or they can pull together a little bit, and I've only witnessed positive actions and behaviors from our players, and really as I said the other night, we've got really good people here. They've got good work habits, good attitude, and they've got a lot of heart and a lot of pride. I get to witness our players for the most part day-by-day for 12 months of the year, and that still remains the best part of my job, easily.
Starting Sunday, it's like we've been doing for a long time. You fall back on your basics, your fundamentals, and then whether it was losing 19 games in our first two seasons here, basically just playing really ineptly down at Arizona State in '04 or a couple years ago up at Minnesota. You come in on Sunday, you learn from the experience, you learn from the game tape, and then you move on and you get on to the next work.
That's exactly what we've done. We went back to work on Sunday, and so far we've had two good practices, positive start to the week, and we're certainly going to need that.
Captains this week are CJ Beathard and LeShun Daniels again, and defensively we've got Desmond and Josey Jewell.
Medically not a lot different than what we were Saturday. A couple guys are day-to-day right now, but all in all, not too bad in that capacity.
Michigan, a couple words about them. Obviously they're a very, very good football team. They come in highly ranked, and they've earned both those things, every win, their ranking. When you look at them on film, they're just a strong football team, veteran in a lot of areas. They're strong in every phase, every area, and you know, nine games right now, I think they've been behind one time in one game.
I think that speaks to them. I think that's as impressive as anything I see when I look at Michigan is the fact that they've been on their game basically all season, all nine games.
They not only have good players, they're well-coached, but they've really been focused and wired in, and we're going to have to be at our best certainly.
Just closing before I open it up, we've got a strong program here. We've got committed players, great fans, and we're looking forward to getting into Kinnick Saturday night. Should be an electric atmosphere, certainly a night game in there, and great opponent to face. With that, I'll throw it out for questions.
Q. What have you seen -- just examples of what you've seen from the players that leads you to believe that they're still together, that this thing is still going in the right direction?
KIRK FERENTZ: It's all the little things that you evaluate starting in January. Are they doing things right -- a lot of times it's off the field more than on the field, little details, keeping the locker room clean, academic appointments, medical appointments, all those things. It's really been a low maintenance team, knock on wood, but they've been that way since January. They work well, and they practice well.
They've had two good practices thus far, and that's all you can ask for, and they're attentive in meetings. Outside of that, there's not much else there. I think the guys are all committed to playing better. Certainly nobody was happy with Saturday.
Q. Do you think it's still a confident team?
KIRK FERENTZ: Well, confidence is something you earn. That's what you do through practice, through doing all the little things right, practicing well, meeting well, and then you've got to go out and compete, and we didn't compete well the other night. We got hit right on the chin, and it's happened before, and the whole challenge is to get back up on your feet and go back to work. We certainly have to do it this week because the team we play, they're going to be a big challenge for us.
Q. What would your message be to Hawkeye fans out there that are feeling like the program is regressing and they feel disappointed?
KIRK FERENTZ: Well, I think everybody was feeling better a year ago at this time. We were 9-0 and we had momentum; everything was going well. And the bottom line is usually it's the very little things, especially with our team historically. All I can speak to is the last 17-plus years, but historically it's a real fine line, and for us we really have to be doing everything right. We've got to be relatively healthy, and you know, you've got to make your own breaks in the course of the games, that type of thing.
When I look at our team and look at the way they operate, all you can do as a coach is ask them to do their best, and I think our guys are doing that. You know, the other night was very similar to Arizona State, only Arizona State was I think the most inept performance I've been around in 17 years.
Those things are going to happen. Nobody likes it. You've got to get back up on your feet and push forward.
Q. Are the details little anymore, or are they bigger now?
KIRK FERENTZ: They all tend to magnify when things don't go well, certainly. They move around. It's an ongoing process. You just try to prepare, you try to practice and do your best and try to improve during the week. That's all you can do. It's not like we're going to get new players, new coaches, all that kind of stuff during the course of the week. You do what you can week to week and you stick with your system for the most part. You try to tweak it towards what you feel you can do best at that time, plus you have to consider what the opponents, what they offer, what kind of challenges, those types of things, and then do your best, but it's a week-to-week process.
Q. There's a slight parallel here; Michigan is No. 2, they were in '85 when they came in here, and you were a coach in that game and Jim Harbaugh is coming back --
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, we were No. 1 that year. That's the difference. I can't remember our record. We had no losses at that time.
Q. Any memories that you had from that game?
KIRK FERENTZ: You know, the first thing that always comes to mind for that ballgame was just the environment. It's one I'll never forget, right from going out for pregame warmup. It was just unbelievable in there. I think it was one of those twilight games. I think it started late in the afternoon or what have you, but ended up being a night game.
I said something last week, but the big play in that game to me was the Larry Station, the stop on 3rd and 1, but it was a great battle. Both teams really going back and forth, and historically a lot of really good games with Michigan going back to '81. Every new game is a new adventure, every season is a new adventure, but we've had some great games in the past with them, including the last time we played them.
Q. Penn State's running back after the game just said you could see they didn't want to be out there anymore. Sometimes I'm sure that happens with teams where you get down so far that you've kind of lost the will as much as anything, but there's a fine line between that and quit. Do you see that as just a situation where they kind of got out of hand and it wasn't quitting, or do you have any concerns about that?
KIRK FERENTZ: I'm not offering any commentary. One thing I always try to be very careful of and really encourage our players to be careful of is speaking for other people. I think that's a really dangerous thing. I didn't read that quote, but I'm guessing if you were at Arizona State after the game in '04, maybe you were, probably a few of their players probably said the same thing. That was the worst beating I think I've been involved with, yet I think you look at the 2004 football team, first word that would come to mind for me would be heart. That was what that team was all about.
In life, you have peaks, you have valleys. We all do, individually, collectively, and that's real life. That's just the way it goes, and if you go out and compete in sports against good oppositions, you're going to experience the good and the bad. Hopefully the good. There's no guarantee there, but I guarantee you're probably going to go through the bad, and it really gets back to how do you respond; what's your day-to-day reaction to it.
Again, just going back to the point I made earlier about teams dividing, that's certainly a byproduct of losing sometimes. It happens. I've seen that, witnessed it. It's no fun to be around. Or your guys pull together and you keep working hard towards a common goal, and that's what this thing is about.
To answer your question, I have not witnessed anything, but I don't see all, do all, but I see a lot.
Q. Your last six losses dating back to last season, you guys have been held to less than 100 yards rushing. Obviously that's not a coincidence. Is that a concern to you? Seems like everything starts with you guys' ability to run the ball.
KIRK FERENTZ: Typically when you don't win, you don't rush the ball well, and once you get behind it's hard to have a good attack.
I'll cite this example for you: I think, what was it, Auburn a couple weeks ago had 500 plus yards rushing in a win over Arkansas. Arkansas won the other day and held Florida to 12 rushing yards I think it was. That's why it's good to rush the ball well, and it's good to be ahead, too, so you have that opportunity.
Q. Have you changed any of the mechanisms of offense? Is Greg still calling plays, or do you guys change anything as far as that goes?
KIRK FERENTZ: No, our mechanics are still the same, and we meet collectively daily, and same -- coaches all go through the same process the players do. Sunday we go back and review, talk about the what-ifs, those types of things, and then Sunday afternoon we flip it over and start moving forward on the next opponent, so we're still going the same way.
Q. Are in season fixes harder on offense? Is it something you can change mid-stream?
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, I guess I'm not aware of a lot of them that have worked, whether it's coaching changes or system changes. I think that's probably ill-advised. That would be my guess. At any level, I think that's probably really taking away from than adding to, unless you have kind of character issues involved, things like that, then you've got to do what you've got to do.
Q. If something is not working, the frustration builds outside.
KIRK FERENTZ: I'll go back to '04. If you've seen a worse offensive performance than Arizona State in '04, and not that we were juggernaut team that year, and we weren't. Offensively we were not a juggernaut team, but we did what we had to do to win. And that's really the key, I think. Some places you can recruit where both sides of the ball plus your special teams are really going to be stacked and loaded, and then it's a little bit less of a challenge maybe, but I think if you look at us historically, and I'll give you an illustration, in '02 we were a pretty good offensive football team. We had a couple walk-ons that ended up being pretty good, a guy at quarterback that nobody recruited, so we ended up really gaining momentum offensively that year, and then won the Big Ten Championship in '04. It was just the opposite, really. It was just a defensive team that developed into a good outfit, and our offense did what it took. And I'll go back to '81; we were a really stout defensive team, and the job was for the offense don't turn it over, and we had a great punter, punted down to the other end of the field and played defense and kicked a couple field goals. When you're coaching, you just try to figure out what each team can do the best and maximize those things.
Q. Your opposing coach this week, he took time out in game week yesterday to go to a campaign rally. Last week he traveled to a World Series game. Are there any circumstances imaginable that you would do something like that?
KIRK FERENTZ: You know, outside of a funeral or someone being ill, I can't think of any time in my life I've ever done anything, but that's just -- we're all different, and we all do things differently, and we're all creatures of habit probably in some ways, but basically I've just tried to focus on what it is I do, and I'll say this, it doesn't seem to affect their performance. They've looked pretty good on the film I've seen.
Q. What do you make of that guy, Harbaugh?
KIRK FERENTZ: Well, I was around Jim in Baltimore, and that was as a player and a coach. We didn't work directly with each other, but our players had great respect for him, and as a coach I think it's well-documented he's done a great job everywhere he's been, including San Diego. Stanford, right on through everywhere he's gone, he's done really well. He's doing really well right now.
Q. Today is obviously a different day; it's election day. Do you have to make special time so the guys can go vote?
KIRK FERENTZ: The players, a lot of them have voted. I shouldn't say a lot, a couple have that I talked to. I encouraged all of them this morning to go out and do it. There was a time in our country where not everybody was eligible to vote, so we shouldn't take that for granted. There are a lot of people in this world that don't have that option.
We have our challenges as a country certainly, but it's still the greatest country in the world. We've encouraged that. I think most of us staff members probably did it on the front end, during the bye week or what have you, so I think everybody has tried to take advantage of that.
Q. Peppers does a lot for Michigan; what do you think he does best?
KIRK FERENTZ: Well, the first thing that comes to mind is the return game. He's really dynamic, and I think our staff feels we've faced some pretty good returners, Nebraska a couple years ago, Maryland. He's as good as we've seen. He's a really dynamic return guy, but he plays great on defense, and he's a threat offensively, too, so he's a tremendous football player. That's such an unusual combination, especially where he plays on defense. He's down in the box. So I've never seen anybody that did that and then returned kicks and punts and looked like a corner or safety back there.
Q. Michigan State rushed for I think 217 yards on Michigan, which has a great defense. How did they do that?
KIRK FERENTZ: They played hard. Everybody, a lot of guys involved in it. They ran the receivers on some plays, and the back ran hard, the one back in particular did a good job. Nothing comes easy, and they're really the only team that's had any success, and still came up short a couple times in the +20, even inside the 10. You look at not only Big Ten stats but look at national stats, the ones that really count, winning and losing, points scored, points against. These guys have done a really wonderful job in nine games.
Q. The thing with Derrick Mitchell, I don't think he played the other day. Is he just kind of out of the mix?
KIRK FERENTZ: He's our third guy. We're trying to work Akrum and LeShun as much possible, and it's hard to spread it around more than two guys, especially right now both those two guys are playing very well.
Q. You've had issues in the passing game before. It's not unusual. But the rush defense is something that probably bothers you more I would assume.
KIRK FERENTZ: Absolutely.
Q. The other day when you give up that many yards, was there anything -- were the breakdowns common? Did you see it over and over and over again, or were they unusual?
KIRK FERENTZ: A couple things. I said last week, they really do a good job of putting pressure on you. The biggest change from my little vantage point looking at Penn State last couple weeks is they've really involved the quarterback more in the running game, so when you have a back like we faced, and we just talked about a really good return guy, I'm trying to remember a time we've seen a back -- these guys have good backs, too, but Barkley is an outstanding running back. So you've got him to contest with, and then you've also got a quarterback that can bring it out the other direction.
They just put a lot of pressure on you, and the fact that they throw the ball well down the field, they put a lot of pressure on a defensive football team. I think what you're seeing there, time will tell, but a team that's really starting to gain some momentum.
It was disappointing, no question. You're not going to win consistently giving up that kind of rush yardage, and I made that comment a month ago. One of the most positive things is we've done a better job this past month. Now we've got to try to get back on that train there and ride it a little bit more.
Q. The media are somewhat prone obviously to looking under rocks to see, okay, this isn't working, but this person, who's next. You guys rarely just start throwing people in there.
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, as you might imagine, we try to get the guys out there on the field that we think, based on our evaluation, give us the best chance to win, and that's true at every position, offense, defense and special teams. We've spent a lot of time watching our guys, studying practice film, those types of things. That's really how you evaluate players, and then when they're out there, you evaluate their performance in game situations, too, so as a staff that's one of our goals is to try to get the best people out there for the given circumstances that we're in.
Q. How difficult is it during the middle of the season then to make a change like a true freshman or somebody who's young?
KIRK FERENTZ: It's tough. It's a little bit more unusual, and usually it's injury. Somebody is doing really well on special teams, let's feed this guy a little bit more offensively or defensively and those types of things. But I'm confident we're utilizing our personnel as well as we can.
Q. You try to take advantage of what the other team gives you, right? What, if anything, does Michigan give you?
KIRK FERENTZ: Not much. I say that jokingly, but I say it in all seriousness, too. It's really hard to find many cracks or weaknesses. You know, the statistics don't always tell the whole story. If you go through the Big Ten stats, it's hard to find any category where they're not in the top two or three. It's all deserved and earned, as I said in the opening statement. They're really veteran, got a lot of key veteran players, a lot of seniors that play very well, not only talented, they're well-coached, and they play consistently well. That's the thing that really to me jumps out.
You look at nine games, typically there's some ups and downs, that type of thing, but it's really hard to find too many. I think they were down 14-0 at one point. That's for an entire nine games, not an entire season but nine games. That doesn't happen much historically. It doesn't happen to many teams, so it's a real credit to them. They're really playing well right now.
Q. Is it hard not to feel hopeless in a way when you have struggled and then to go up against a team like that?
KIRK FERENTZ: It's a new week, new game, new opportunity. We can't worry about that, and we've had other instances historically, too, where we've done okay in those circumstances. All we can do is focus on what we can do, which is practice and prepare as hard as we can, then we've got to go out and compete on Saturday night, knowing that we're playing a really good football team, but we've played some good teams this year already, so it's just -- you've got to go out and do as well as you can and then go from there. But yeah, we almost have to play a mistake-free game, if you will. That's certainly a starting point because they don't open the door very often for you.
Q. There was something you said just now about practicing as hard as you can, doing the best you can and make it translate Saturday night. Some of the players were talking about having a great practice and then it just doesn't have the same feel as when they're out on the field in the game. How do you combat that?
KIRK FERENTZ: Just keep pushing forward. That's, again, peaks and valleys of a season. That happens. No year is the same, either. Last year it was one -- it wasn't perfect, but we did have momentum, and that's a powerful thing, going back to the confidence factor. When you can get that going a little bit, sometimes you play better than you are, which is more important than being good. It's more important to play good. I think that's -- but it's just a continual battle. You just keep pushing. That's all you can do. There's really no answers for it and no way you can simulate certain things.
Q. Players talk about executing but also compensating for other deficiencies somewhere. How do you guys identify these and how are they manifesting --
KIRK FERENTZ: I'm not following that one, sorry.
Q. Talking about not compensating --
KIRK FERENTZ: That's something that happens in sports, too, and you really have to warn against that, caution against it and try to coach it, because inevitably you've got to trust your teammates, you've got to trust the system, your teammates, and as soon as you start peeking somewhere where you're not supposed to -- you've got to take care of your responsibility first is probably the simplest way to say it, then if you can do something on top of it, that's great, but it starts with taking care of your spot, and that's where the trust is so important on a team, and that comes from practice, from playing, having some success and feeling good about things. But yeah, when you start sticking your nose where it doesn't belong, that opens the door for some bad things.
Q. What needs to happen to the offense to get to LeShun more? Seems like there needs to be a comfort zone where he can take advantage of his skills, the cumulative effect of a big back. What has to happen to get there?
KIRK FERENTZ: Well, I don't know if I can spell it out for you, but basically like all season long, we've been alternating both guys, Akrum and LeShun. They're certainly different types of backs, whether it's situationally or series wise, but our plan will be keep playing them both. I think they're 25 snaps apart from each other offensively right now, and I really think it's best for both guys if we do that, and the more we can do certainly to get him on track, the better off we're going to be. It didn't come easy last week. It would be great if we could get it going this week with that. That won't come easy, either. We'll try.
Q. Cole Croston, does he have a chance this week?
KIRK FERENTZ: You know, it's day-to-day. It's not great right now. Yeah, it's not great. We'll see.
Q. When you look at some of the rushing numbers like 93rd in the country maybe, when you look at sacks, as an offensive line guy, what's wrong --
KIRK FERENTZ: I mean, the continuity hasn't been exceptional, and we've had some guys that have been a little bit limited physically, so that doesn't help things. It makes it a bigger challenge. We lost two good seniors there, too, so you factor that and plus some other guys being gone. But we haven't had the kind of continuity I would say that you'd like in practice or in games.
Q. There was a player who appeared on a really early depth chart, Brett Waechter. What's his situation, is he out for the season?
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, Brett has left the team medically, so he's done playing here. I probably should have announced that. I'm sorry.
Q. How limited is George Kittle? How much is this injury affecting what he can do?
KIRK FERENTZ: You know, it hasn't helped. It hasn't helped. Again, it limits what he can do in practice. He's playing as hard as he can. He's not at 100 percent right now, and that's just -- it's tough. We have several guys like that, and I'm sure other teams do, too, so it's one of those things, but it's hard, especially when a guy is a senior.
Q. Michigan has knocked like eight or nine quarterbacks out of games this year. Do you have to get more protection --
KIRK FERENTZ: That I didn't know, okay, so thanks for sharing that with me. No, I mean, they're very aggressive up front. They play a lot of guys. Their starters are really good, and the guys they're rolling in are good, and they're very aggressive defensively. You know, it just gets down to, hey, you want to get the ball out quickly in certain circumstances, certainly you want to be as smart as you can, but we also have to play good one-on-one football out there and contest these guys.
Q. When you guys were coming home I think at 2:30 or something like that, who knows with the time change, watching that film, getting to that film for your players is probably really, really difficult from that experience, but what did you see tangibly? Was it organic, getting into the film and learning from it, trying to learn from it?
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, and a couple thoughts on that. Getting back late from any game is always a challenge, win or loss, and then as you can well imagine, nobody feels worse, as bad as people feel on the outside, and our fans are so good, and I know they're loyal and they are invested, but nobody feels worse than the players, coaches and staff because this is what we do.
To go through the film is not easy, especially when you go through it, and I'll go back to Arizona State. I'm not even sure if we looked at that one. But there were a lot of teachable moments in this film, so it was important we did it. We didn't belabor it by any stretch. I think that was important at this point, but we went through some teachable situations and then just tried to move on.
But you have to -- you don't want to overdo it, but I think it's important just to see things that we need to correct, can correct and need to correct, and then you move on.
Q. I know your players probably weren't itching to get to that, but did you see them do it dutifully?
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, they were great. And again, I go back, these guys have been so responsive. They've been -- they work at it. They're trying. It's never fun after a loss to look at film. It just never will be, never has been. It's easy to say, hey, we've got to bounce back and all that, but that takes time, too; it doesn't just happen. Unless you have guys that aren't invested, then they go out and get in their car and go on to the next thing.
When you have that, you're in trouble. That's when the problems really begin. I haven't witnessed that, and quite frankly I don't want to be around people like that that aren't invested in this thing.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports