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November 15, 2016

Kirk Ferentz

Iowa City, Iowa

HEAD COACH FERENTZ: Good afternoon. Certainly what a difference a week makes for everybody. That said, we've got a new week right now, new opportunity in front of us, new challenges and we're getting ready for Illinois at this point.

Looking back real quickly to Saturday. It was a result of good team football. As much as anything our players demonstrated great unity out there, great commitment all week long and then played with great heart. The biggest hands -- were prepared during the week, and certainly competed. That was the biggest key.

I was asked on a teleconference earlier what the biggest difference was, in reality our preparation was pretty similar. So I think it's all about growth, development, players choosing to put the week behind them, tough loss and then trying to focus and use that as motivation to move forward here a little bit. And I think the guys really again pulled together.

Worked hard to move forward. Look forward to moving in that direction. It was a great environment Saturday night, start to finish, really electric as good as I can recall there. And we're very appreciative of our fan support. It was fantastic. Great experience for all of us to be there.

Moving forward, our captains this week are the same. We've got C.J. Beathard, LeShun Daniels on offense. And Desmond King and Josey Jewell defensively, that hasn't changed.

Medically we had three of our seniors out last week. Unfortunately Greg Mabin, they've determined yesterday has a little fracture in his lower leg, so he's going to miss the rest of the regular season. He'll be out.

Cole Croston will be out, too. George Kittle has not been ruled out, but hasn't done much this week, so I'm not overly optimistic on that front. Miles (Taylor) came out of the game, Ike Boettger came out of the game. They are okay -- they're not okay, but they're able to go if they can go. We'll take that day-by-day. But we can't count on them to be ready to go.

We started a new week on Sunday, like every week. Looked at the film, made corrections, and with the new week, you have new challenges looking forward here. The biggest thing just like last week we have to turn the page, do a great job with our preparation, and block out any noise that might be there, and focus solely on Illinois, and try to get ready for them. Tough road game in the Big Ten.

Illinois, Coach Smith, new staff, excellent coaching staff. It's a road game to us. And just looking at them right now, their last time playing at home they beat Michigan State. And for us, personally, looking back last year, it was a really tough football game, one of our toughest games last season. If it weren't for Jordan Canzeri I'm not sure the outcome would have been positive last year. They played us really tough. And we expect the same thing again.

Really the key right now is focusing on our preparation and getting ready to play, what we expect to be a very challenging game. I'll throw it out for questions.

Q. Have you ever been part of a swing like that in a matter of one week?
HEAD COACH FERENTZ: It's tough to compare, but the ups and downs of athletics for coaches, fans, certainly the players, it's part of the sport. I think it's probably part of the intrigue of the whole thing.

As I said last week, the whole key is to move forward. It's going to be the same thing this week, probably a bigger challenge in some ways. Last week, our guys are out there every day. And last week, I'm sure they were hearing some negativity, just guessing they were, now it's just the opposite.

Really the challenge is to ignore both of those things and focus on what you're trying to do. Not that you don't think about outside things, I'm not suggesting that, but if you want to win games you really have to block out time where you're really focused and working on what it is that's important to your job and what's important to your football team. And making sure you do a good job day-by-day stacking them up, so you have a chance to look good in the game.

Last week was a challenge and this week, too, certainly with the emotions playing into it.

Q. How much of a reality is it a 52-week process?
HEAD COACH FERENTZ: I think everything you do is -- to me, you have a certain lifestyle. If you're an athlete, whatever it is that you do that you take pride in, you have a lifestyle that is geared toward that. You're either adding or taking away from.

That's one of the points we made last week, we're probably not going to be the Big Ten champions this year. But you're either building towards it or taking away from it. There's responsibility for that. For the seniors on this team, they won't get to experience probably the next one, reality says that. But they can have a role in it.

So to me that's why, yeah, year by year -- you take weeks off, you take months -- not necessarily months off, weeks off, days off, those types of things. But the way you do things, it shows or it shows, good way or bad way.

So it is important just how you think, how you respond to adversity, how you respond to good things. It kind of becomes a way that you do things. And that's always changing. There's always variables because you have a different team every year, a different team every week some ways. So there's always challenges there.

But to your point, it's easier said than done. That's why I really compliment our players, they did a great job of getting off the mat last week.

Q. How similar is this to 2008?
HEAD COACH FERENTZ: For me, that's fresh in my memory. And first of all the season's been parallel, not by script, I can promise you I'm not controlling. I would have controlled it a different way if that were the case.

There are a lot of parallels there. That was a tough, hard fought kind of hard game. I would expect that to be. Looks like we're going to have Big Ten weather. I'm guessing it will be a tough, gritty game. We're not that endowed, quite frankly. For us to win we've got to have it all out there, all the time. That's in practice, that's during the game. For us to go down there and win it's going to take the same effort.

Whether it's two points or 20, it doesn't matter, as long as you can get out with a victory, that's what you're hoping for. But we realize that it's going to be tough.

That was a really enjoyable season. But nothing came easy that season. The last one did. But, boy, none of us saw that coming. That's kind of how it works out. You've got to go into it expecting it will be tough. Just like Saturday night we knew was going to be tough, and this one will, too.

Q. Is there an official count on missing helmets?
HEAD COACH FERENTZ: I think I got that word Sunday sometime. There was some concern there. But it sounds like they all got back in the nest yesterday morning, I think the last one got returned.

Brock (Baumert) drives me back here after all the media stuff, Saturday night. And he said the managers were really helping, the student managers were helping after the game, because anything that wasn't nailed down was being accosted. So I guess those guys they deserve gold stars for the week.

Q. Did you lose your headphones?
HEAD COACH FERENTZ: No. I took mine off, but he said they were going after everything, including headphones. He did mention headphones. It's not much good on there, so I don't know.

Q. Did you get any sleep Saturday night?
HEAD COACH FERENTZ: Not a lot, nor did I the week before, for different reasons. But I had a good friend in town, he and his wife, Big Game John Bridge. John was a math teacher, I was an English teacher, we taught school a hundred years ago. And he was here and his wife. We sat up and talked an hour and a half, two hours, I can't sleep after a game, not many people have. It was a quick night, but that's okay.

Q. How do you coach kickers with no kickers on staff?
HEAD COACH FERENTZ: Fortunately you don't have to be a former whatever to coach that position. I wouldn't have a career, because that kind of almost suggests you'd have to be a good player.

But we have guys that have studied it and what have you. And you tap into resources. We have Nate Kaeding living in town, and Jason Baker comes back frequently. And those guys aren't kicking -- excuse me, teaching the guys technique and all that, but they're more mental resources.

We had a hundred, thousand former players back the other week. It was really great. DeRob did a great job. Colin Cole was around in the locker room. You got guys like that. Dallas (Clark) is there after the game, usually is. Lon Olejniczak, those guys are really good helping guys understand more than just technique, what the psychology of things may be. And just trying to give them tips and helping them that way. That's all good stuff.

Q. How important is it to -- you talk about culture, but keeping believing in the culture during tough times, how important is to stick to your guns?
HEAD COACH FERENTZ: That's the point about the unity and pulling together. My experience is adversity or loss, loss in sports, especially, can divide a team. Good teams pull together. Losing teams divide and they split. That's just the way it works.

It goes back to that point, it's got to be a 12 month thing. Either you're on board or you're not. And it's as simple as that, there's no in between if you're going to be on a team. Whether you're the first guy or hundredth guy, it doesn't matter, everybody is capable of being true to the team, helping the team, having a positive attitude, putting the team first. If you do those things, you can have a memorable career here if you never even hit the field.

That's what it takes to be successful. And unless you you've just got the most talented group, then you really don't have to be disciplined and you don't have to be maybe true to your -- there's not many operations left. They had them 20 years ago, 30 years ago, maybe, before scholarship opportunities. The really good teams, they get that.

Q. What can you say about Rugamba and his performance in his first start?
HEAD COACH FERENTZ: It's a real credit to him. And we talk about next man in always, and we didn't invent that term. We always talk to our guys about that, next man ready. If you're a second team, third team guy, you might be there before you know it. This thing happened fast. It was late in the week when Greg got injured. Manny didn't have a lot of time to think about it, that may be good. I don't know if it dawned on him how good the guys he was going to be competing with were.

One thing about him, since he's gotten here, he does what he does. He practices hard. He makes mistakes like everybody on the team. He practices well, competes hard. I think he's got inner confidence about his ability. And he came up with some really big plays, especially in that fourth quarter, two really big plays. And everybody around him support him. Everybody was positive. Nobody worried or panicked about it. At least we didn't let him know we were panicking. He did a good job. It's a real credit to him. Hopefully now he can take that experience and continue to build on it. Desmond kind of got in the game the same way four years ago. Good role model that way.

Q. Can you talk about Jaleel and what he did for you Saturday and what’s he’s meant to this team?
HEAD COACH FERENTZ: I'm not big on ranking games, but I would probably say that was probably his best game so far. They get older, more mature and really learn, they keep stepping things up. And we weren't going to do it unless our best guys or most experienced guys led the way. And certainly he did a great job. The guys up front, it's not a glamorous position, like being a guard or center or a tackle on offense, anywhere. But defensive end has a little glitz and glamour, but inside guys usually don't.

His impact on the game, obviously the safety, a lot of things they did during the course of the game, really critical for us. The way we played defense, those guys up the middle are important to our success. When they're doing their things well linebackers have a chance to play. And the way we're wired if our linebackers aren't producing in terms of tackles, it's hard for us to do anything substantial on defense.

So anytime we're playing good defense you can assume that those inside guys are doing a great job. And put Faith in there, he's playing more because of Nathan's injury, he's playing his best football, as well. Those things helped us get the job done the other night, but Jaleel was leading the way.

Q. Maybe you can ballpark an answer here, how many times have you seen the penalty of roughing the center?
HEAD COACH FERENTZ: Never. And I was really anxious to see it on film. And I've seen it now. I'll call someone in the next 48 hours, just tell us how to coach it, that's all, because there are two plays, if you look at it, one or two before that that look the same to me.

There are some things in our rule book right now that are really hard on our officials to officiate. And I think anytime you create a situation of cloudiness you just open it up for, you know, some debatable calls. I'm not saying it's a bad call, I I'm just saying it's really cloudy.

I empathize for the officials, because we have outstanding officials and we had a great crew the other night. They work hard. But some of the things we're asking them to do is unrealistic.

Q. What is the difference between running into the kicker or punter and dropping the punter? It looks one and the same to me.
HEAD COACH FERENTZ: It does. And I actually learned something in the Ohio State game. I got sent to school. The referee was exactly right on the money. If you hit the plant leg versus the swing leg that's two different calls. I thought he pulled that out of midair. It's in the rule book, five yards, major and minor.

So if you hit the swing leg, that's a minor. If you hit the plant -- the punter tough is is, it's all fuzzy. Especially factoring in rugby kicking, if the guy gets rough you can expect a flag.

Q. Hard to remember a time we didn't have that go to receiving threat of your number one guy. Kind of a change in style?
HEAD COACH FERENTZ: We don't right now, George is trying to get back. He's being hampered by the injury. So Peter is doing a great job out there. Certainly Nate Wieting is doing a nice job. Noah is working his way up through there. It's by committee the guys are all doing a good job and trying to compliment everybody. That's the hand that we're being dealt right now. But there's a lot of good potential in that up group. It's great experience for those guys to be out there playing.

Q. What kind of challenges did you face with Illinois?
HEAD COACH FERENTZ: Well, good ones, and we just faced two outstanding ones last week. It's the same thing over again. Smoot gave us a lot of problems last year. He's a very strong, physical player. On the other side a little bit more linear and a little bit more speed oriented. We had a hard time blocking those guys last year, especially in the fourth quarter, it really got rough for us, we're going to have to be at our best.

Q. If Ike Boettger can’t go, is it Levi?
HEAD COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, Levi is the next man in, and that's where we're at. He'll do fine.

Q. How comfortable are you in a game, it seems like Sean has free rein to flip with Levi if he wants to?
HEAD COACH FERENTZ: We'll put a plan together. But I feel better about him playing this Saturday than I did last Saturday. Now that it's over I can tell you I was a little nervous about that. I can remember when I was in college, my position coach said -- looked like I was going in. We were at Rutgers, as long as that ball is up on the hill I'm fine with you being here. If it's down on the field I'm a little nervous about it.

That's kind of how it was the other night. We weathered the storm, got the job done. He's already had two good days of practice, he'll be ready to go.

Q. Usually November is the best month for offensive line because you’ve had cohesion, but you haven’t had that.
HEAD COACH FERENTZ: We'll have it done by Friday. We've got all week to get it set. It's the tight end position, that's how it's panned out this year. Take it day-by-day, week-by-week. It stretches you a little bit thin. Several guys have to be able to be a little bit more diverse, now that their preparation -- trying to figure out when something does happen, who is the next guy, where do they go, and where does it affect the rest of the guys. It's an ongoing equation.

Lucas could be next, and a couple different positions. You can only practice so many spots. That's where it gets a little tricky.

Q. There was a lot of discussion last week about Friday football. The game is played day after the holiday. You've got travel plans. What are your thoughts about, first of all, playing on Black Friday, and then second of all not knowing what time you are playing?
HEAD COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, I think there's two separate discussions, there. The Friday after Thanksgiving, versus whether we're in conflict with high school programs, different subjects. I'm not anti-Friday football, necessarily, but you hate to compete with high schools, because both games are such great games, you want them both to get their due attention.

The Black Friday thing, personally I like it, in that you've got the chance for a national audience, like the other night. What great exposure that was for the whole university. I haven't seen the telecast, but I can't imagine a lot of negative came out. I imagine it was a positive exposure for our whole university. It's really good. It's powerful and the atmosphere was really good and so that's a positive.

So that opportunity to be one of the few teams playing on Fridays, although I imagine that number is growing, and will continue, based on the times we're in.

The kickoff stuff, that's where we live, they tell us when they tell us. And we make those adjustments. In a perfect you would set the best time for the fans. 1:00 kickoffs used to be the best for college football and those things are unheard of anymore.

So with the good that comes out of it, you've got to live with the other part, the unknowns.

Q. Was there a moment maybe Saturday when you allowed yourself to feel what was going on?
HEAD COACH FERENTZ: It's kind of hard to articulate. I'm flashing back to '85 right now. I remember coming out on the field that night and just the feel in the stadium, how special that was and electric. I assume it was a 3:30 or 2:30 kickoff. In my mind, in my memory it was dark, so it was kind of like theater, it was pretty cool.

The other night when you walked in the stadium, same thing. Once you got out on the floor, it was electric in there, and the place wasn't even full at that point.

Just to have that opportunity is really special. And it's so rare and so unique, so you get that opportunity. But once the game gets going, I read somewhere that afterwards they were playing Don't Stop Believin', right? I didn't hear any music, I can promise you. But you're thinking about what's going on and those types of things.

They are special moments. The locker room is always a special moment, after a game like that.

But the whole thing, you know, probably somewhere in January when we're done and I'll get those guys to make me a DVD of the game, because I don't know how to TiVo. I'll watch that, and that may be enjoyable. Right now there's no time. Right now you're just worried about the next game here.

Q. Did that take you back a little bit, knowing that after being the head coach, being in the situation, that you had the connection with 18, 21, 22 year olds?
HEAD COACH FERENTZ: I believe age is irrelevant on that topic. My mentor, Joe Moore, was a great example.

When you work with people, any age people, that's what makes this fun and special. And the thing about sports and athletics, it's really rough. You're right down at a level it's really --- it's enjoyable. And there's a lot of worse things about being the head coach. There's a couple of good things you can do, after practice I go to work out and all that kind of stuff.

But the worst thing about being the head coach is you move further away from that. When you're a position coach you're right there with your same group day-to-day. It's not quite as intimate. You've got to work at it, make it intimate. But that's why the losses hurt so much. And that's why the wins are so good.

That's the best part about coaching, quite frankly. We have a beautiful building, very appreciative, but it gets down to the people. I learned in '81, nine years here as an assistant, the people I got to interface with, that's the best part. And that's 17 plus years more, that's the good thing about it, what you're allowed to do, here. Age to me is irrelevant.

Q. Where you able to salvage the game ball? Any plans for that?
HEAD COACH FERENTZ: I put it down somewhere and kind of left it there. Somebody has it right now, I better check on that, too. We got the helmets back, we'll see about the ball.

Q. Anthony Gair, the way he stepped up, what do you think of his performance?
HEAD COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, we talked about Manny being a good story. He had 48 hours or 36 to think about it. Anthony had no time at all. And tale of two cities. You've got the first-year guy versus the fifth-year guy. He's done a great job, will graduate here in December. Graduate school in the spring.

But to have that opportunity, you talk about a showcase moment for him, that's something he'll remember all his life. To have a good football team you need the young guys stepping in and doing it, a fifth year senior doing it. And doing it without any real warning, other than, all the guys know if you're not a starter, you always have to be ready.

So, yeah, those kind of things, as good as the game was, those little sub stories, again, as a coach those are the things you really appreciate. Because you know they're going to carry that. Anthony, can be proud of that his entire life. He did a great, great job. And again, the whole team supported him. It was really good to see that.

Q. Will you draw up any running plays for Ron Coluzzi?
HEAD COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, as you might imagine, he's taken a little ribbing over that, from several people. Not me.

He really is a pretty good athlete. But that was an ugly play. I'm glad he walked away. I wasn't sure he was going to make the second quarter.

Q. Akrum Wadley said after the game you hugged him, and it was a big deal to him?
HEAD COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, somebody just told me that yesterday, that he had said that. I'll hug him more, if it makes him play good, I'm all for it. He thinks I'm mad at all of the time because of his weight. But he's a great young guy. A year ago, 13 months ago, we couldn't trust him with the football, and now we more than trust him with it. I'm not ready to put him in the Ronnie Harmon category, but with any player you have, you try to accentuate what they do. And if a guy can do something you're going to try to use that. That's the main thing we're on him about is his body weight so he can play more and have more durability out there. You worry about that.

So we try to do it with all of our players, and we're going to need everybody that can do anything on Saturday. I'm sure it's going to be a tough game, no question if my mind.

Q. What leads you to believe this week is going to be the same as Michigan and unlike Penn State?
HEAD COACH FERENTZ: There's no guarantee. We certainly didn't see Penn State coming. We have a lot of respect for Penn State and obviously still do, starting with the running back and the quarterback, what they did in the running game. But I guarantee it, none of us expected that outcome. We got it.

And then conversely, there are probably not a lot of people expecting the outcome we got the other night. That's the beauty of sports and football, there's ebb and flow, things you don't see coming sometimes. They happen good and they happen bad. But the challenge gets back to your preparation. I don't think we had a bad week in preparation for Penn State, we didn't get it done at kickoff.

The way we're built defensively, we need to stop the run. And we didn't do a good job two weeks ago. We did a much better job last week, and we'll get tested again this week and next week. And one more game after that.

The challenge is to get ready for it. Starts up front, we've got to do a good job there. These guys throw the ball down the field a lot and throw it down the field, like down the field.

So everybody is going to have to be at their best, every snap for us to get this thing done.

Q. What does Wes Lunt add?
HEAD COACH FERENTZ: Both quarterbacks really throw the ball pretty well. The other guy, he's out of the thing for the duration now. But when he was in it was a whole different attack we saw against Purdue. Both those guys can throw the ball well. The difference with Lunt is he's a veteran player. He's been out there, really experienced. He can change it fast. The discussion went back to Purdue in '08. I can't remember the guy's name that came in, but he was throwing the ball like we were on the edge of our seat until the last play down in the end zone. Same thing. Guy can throw the ball down field and find guys.

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