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November 25, 2016

Kirk Ferentz

Iowa City, Iowa

Iowa - 40, Nebraska - 10

KIRK FERENTZ: First of all, just extremely proud of our football team. Really happy for them. The entire team, top to bottom, but especially the seniors, to finish up in Kinnick in this kind of fashion tonight, they just played one heck of a game.

Looking back a little bit, we always talk to our football team about how important November football is, and you learn a lot about yourselves in November. I don't know if we could have gone any lower than we did three weeks ago. We had a tough loss to open the month, but what these guys have done, day in and day out, the past three weeks, it's been really amazing to watch.

I think what showed up tonight, we played great complementary team football. The defense played strong three straight weeks in a row. Offensively, had the big play early in the game, came up with several big plays, and then as the game went on, they really took control of the game offensively and did a great job there.

And special teams were huge. They're big in any game, especially a big game like this, and tonight I can't say enough about our special teams effort, whether it was Ron Coluzzi, Keith Duncan, going right through the list, our core guys did a great job, and maybe as representative as anything was the block that Desmond King threw on Riley McCarron's last punt return. I think it was a great effort and I think it represents the unselfishness this team has, the care that they have for each other, and here's a guy that won an award a year ago, and he's out there laying it out there for his teammates when the game was already out of hand.

To me that was a Kodak moment for tonight, just that play in itself. It speaks to the kind of guys we get to work with.

And then a couple things I want to touch base on real quick. I normally don't single out the honorary captains, but Abdul Hodge, what a talk -- we haven't had a bad talk. They've all been excellent, but Abdul Hodge yesterday was unreal, just unreal. You know, again, just makes you feel good as a coach to see a guy who's 10, 12 years out of here raising a family, married, just every front, just doing such a great job, and the message he delivered to our team yesterday was so unbelievable and very little of it was about football. Just really proud of him.

And then I'd be remiss if I didn't just mention our fans, too. The last two times out in Kinnick are about as good as it gets. It was just unbelievable out there, the atmosphere tonight, just like it was last time we were here, and I'll speak for everybody involved in our program just how appreciative we are of our fan support. We don't take that for granted. They are the best, and we really appreciate that.

Just finish up by saying it's been a really good month of November for our football team. Extremely proud of them, extremely happy for them. They earned it, and the other thing I would just say is I told them, it's been a good three weeks, but it really began in January. This team, win, lose or draw tonight, this team has just done things right for the most part, whether it's academics, their citizenship, with the way they approach their football, their workouts, their training. They've been trying extremely hard from January on.

You know, to me it's really fitting that they would turn in a dominant performance like this because it's just to me a culmination of a lot of good efforts and a lot of good attitudes, so I'm just extremely pleased for our football team tonight.

Q. LeShun had a lot of injuries but he stuck in there. Talk about the year he's had.
KIRK FERENTZ: I can probably talk about every one of our seniors individually, and certainly his story, he has. He's had to fight injuries on and off, that type of thing. Nobody has a better attitude than him. I mean, he's been so easy to coach for four years, and this year clearly he's played his best football. First of all, he has stayed healthy, and he's just played his best football. He's improved as a player. That's something we ask all of our guys to do, whether it's week by week, day by day, year to year, and again, he really represents that.

You can talk about McCarron the same way. Great special teams player last year, really improved as a receiver in the spring in camp, and he's just been doing great things for us all season long.

You go right down the list, just really happy for all of the seniors.

Q. Was there anything on film that made you think some big plays would happen today?
KIRK FERENTZ: No, you can't count on that. They're a good football team, a really good football team, and we had tremendous respect and still do for them. Those things just happen. They happen. They don't happen if we're not working hard and clicking and doing little detail things right, but no, we had no idea -- I figured one of those two-point games, one of those deals.

Q. Is this as good a game as you guys have played this season?
KIRK FERENTZ: Hard to rank wins. That one two weeks ago was pretty good, too, and that thing to me was a different style ballgame. But that was a complete team effort, too. Bottom line is we played complementary team football the last three weeks, and I think that's given us a chance to be successful in all three.

Q. The third quarter you were up 17, just like you were two years ago. Did that cross your mind?
KIRK FERENTZ: You know, we mentioned it during the week, during the course of the week. You know, obviously when you play -- it's nice to play teams year in and year out, so that since they've joined, that hasn't been an issue.

I'm referring to Illinois, that gap we have with Illinois, not playing them for five years or six years or whatever it was. We always go back and look at games and talk about them, and that was one of our low points certainly two years ago, that game.

Our players are aware of what happened in that game and really who was at fault, and that was us. It wasn't them. They did what they were supposed to do, we didn't. So I didn't have to bring it up at all because the players were talking about it at halftime. When I walked in there that was prominent on their thoughts.

The only thing I told them, that was a long time ago.

Q. The last several weeks George Kittle has had some setbacks, things like that. How frustrating was that for him leading up to today?
KIRK FERENTZ: He really hasn't been right since Purdue. That's the bottom line, and it was during that game, he had to come out. You know, sometimes you're better off breaking something than you are spraining it, and it's a tough injury to come back from. He tried and tried and couldn't do it, so for him to do come back and to end up with two touchdowns, I think that's fantastic. What a memory for him his last time at Kinnick. That's like maybe two days, if you call them two days. One was a walk-through. But both he and Ike Boettger came back and gave it their best, but they both also knew, it's not like they're going to be playing here in the next couple weeks, so I think everybody, just like their quarterback, if you can go, you're going to go.

So I'm just really pleased for George. That's another -- like I say, we can go down every senior if you want. They're all good stories.

Q. Really you ask them to block and they do that -- and today was that a factor?
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, the whole group has really done a great job, and with George being out, to me that's one of the unsung hero groups, if you will, because it was by committee. George for sure wasn't going to play two weeks ago, so the group did a good job. They all had their roles, if you will, and then today in that last drive, George comes up with a touchdown pass, it stays alive because of the conversion by Noah, and I was just a little concerned he maybe was going to start running the wrong way for a minute there, but apparently he knew where those marker sticks were. He's a thinking guy out there, and got the 1st down. So that was really good to see in a good way, big play for him.

Q. With the way you guys use on the offensive line, six different lineups, they were almost able to produce in one game two thousand-yard rushers. Where does that fit?
KIRK FERENTZ: It just -- it's probably representative of the whole team. It just takes grit. We've had our issues, guys in, guys out, and everybody out there is not 100 percent, obviously. But the guys, they stay positive. They focus on what they can work -- focus on improving. They focus on what they can do to help the football team, but it all starts, they care, and they care greatly about what they do and their performance, and they've worked hard. So again, that's why I'm just so happy for our entire team to see everybody working hard like they have, you know, in tough circumstances, and keep pushing forward.

That's not exactly like '08, but it feels a little bit like that. You know, when a team keeps charging you, they just keep trying to do good things, and then to see them get rewarded, it's really gratifying.

Q. You started talking about 2014 and how that finished a minute ago. Do you feel like as a head coach the press conference is so much different?
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, that's no secret, that was a lowlight for all of us. I think anybody that was in the stadium that day outside of the opponent, every fan walked out of here knew that was a bad game, everybody and every coach, every player. You know, and that's not what we want to look like. That's just not -- to me, again, I've said it before, it's not as much winning and losing but it's what you look like and how you feel after you compete.

You know, if you come away with a good feeling about yourself, you can be proud of your effort and know that you laid it out there. My experience is that you win your share. You don't win them all, but you win your share, but I know this: When you don't and when you turn it over, you don't play red zone defense, you can't cover a kick or a punt, you're not going to win. You're not going to win consistently. Those pillars of what it takes to be successful in football or anything you do, when you violate those things, it's a bad deal. It's a bad deal, and we had work to do, and you never don't have work to do, but we had a lot of work to do after that, and proud of what took place since then. It's like three weeks ago. That's about as bad as it gets, too, but this team responded just like that '08 team responded and just like the '04 team, not that we were co-champs, but that last home game in '04 was pretty sweet, too.

This one is right there with that. Every player can feel good about what they've done.

Q. 1981, your first game here you beat Nebraska, so it's kind of bookends of your career.
KIRK FERENTZ: It's amazing. You're not suggesting --

Q. No, no. To this point.
KIRK FERENTZ: That's good. That's good. How many years is that, 35? Hopefully I've got another 35. I don't think I've got 35 coaching in the bank, but that was a great way to start. I wasn't received quite as friendly in '99, my first game back. We had a plan, and they were in like second and we were 132nd. But yeah, it's really nice. Yeah, it's a really good feeling.

Q. The defensive guys in there, how much really do the weekly goals change for defenses? I can't imagine there's a lot of change there.
KIRK FERENTZ: I'll go back to our first game. I'll say we didn't stop the run very well against Miami of Ohio. You know, it's just hard the way we play defense, it's hard to play good defense if you can't slow the run down. We certainly didn't do it very well. I think we set a record three weeks ago.

To bounce back, it's not like we put a new scheme in. We didn't get new players. But the guys have redoubled their efforts, and again, we've got really prideful guys, so they've done a great job for three weeks. I'm just really proud of them.

Q. You looked ready to play from the opening kickoff.
KIRK FERENTZ: Well, you know, that was one thing about this week. I just assured the team on Sunday that I thought a huge part of this game would be preparation. It's a little different you don't have school, so that could be a real plus or it could be a real distraction and a real negative, and just kind of challenged the team a little bit to let's make sure we win during the week. Let's do things the right way, and I think that just ties in with what I'v said since January; this team has really been, I don't want to say maintenance-free, but they've been pretty good that way.

Just like I said, what they do in the classroom, all those things. They followed it up and finished up this week, and that's going to be key in the bowl game, too, but what they did the last five days since last Saturday's game, I think it showed up out there, and I'm not suggesting the other team didn't, but I think our guys were wired in pretty good and left the field yesterday feeling pretty good about where they're at mentally.

Q. This was your last senior day as a parent.
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, now that is the last one, okay, so that one we know. There could be investigation if that isn't. Something would have to happen there.

It's awfully special. You know, just -- senior days are hard on coaches, period. I think any coach that's worth his salt. When it's your own kid, forget it. That's really special.

But there are a lot of things I appreciate about coaching at Iowa, and I mean, you just think about that for a second -- first of all, Mary and I never knew our kids would play college football or play football at all. They ended up doing it, but to have an opportunity to have three kids go through the program, I think that's been 14 years, 15, something like that I think I was told. That doesn't happen many places. It takes special places, and I think -- I can't say enough about the leadership at this university.

And I'll go back to '81; Rick brought that up. I had no idea walking in here what a good place this was. Nine years of being an assistant, nine of the best years I've ever had, and then the last 18. You've got the ups and downs, that's part of life, that's part of sports, but it's pretty sweet. Selfishly, that's got nothing to do with the rest of this night, but selfishly it's pretty special, and I can assure you we're very, appreciative. We feel very fortunate.

Q. The character of a team can change so quickly. If things don't go right after the Penn State game it can spill into a different area, but this team now has really ascended, good chemistry, and sometimes it's hard to predict. Did you see that coming?
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, that's kind of what I was getting at. To me this all started in January. Some of our losses, were they disappointing. That Penn State one, okay, it's one thing to cover it. It's worse to be involved in it, I can assure you. So those aren't fun.

But there's no guarantees, and I didn't know if we'd win tonight or not, but I know this, and I thought about this today during my walk, since January it's hard to find much fault. Now, maybe we didn't make a first down or we gave up a big play. I'm not saying that. But on the stuff that really counts, these guys have been really good.

I don't gamble, but if I did, I would gamble on someone who has shown steady, consistent actions, positive attitude. These guys care about each other. That's what I said. That block that Desmond threw for Riley, holy smokes. Near his last play in Kinnick. When you see those kinds of things, you've got some special people.

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