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September 6, 2008

Kirk Ferentz

COACH FERENTZ: Ironically, I think I just read this morning or last night that Shonn Greene hadn't had a fumble in his time here, so the first thought I had was, whoops, that's a bad thing, and sure enough it was. We were pleased to get the win, obviously. I have a couple points.
Just appreciative of our fan support. They've been outstanding. I mentioned that last week and I'll mention it again, we never took it for granted this would be sold out, so we're appreciative of that. And it's great to play in front of a packed house. I promise you, all the players enjoy that, we enjoy that and, again, we don't take it for granted.
Just happy about the outcome of the game, the way the players played. I think we showed up ready to play; that's two weeks in a row, which is good. We still have a lot of work to do, certainly, probably not different than last week, but we're doing some good things, and it will be good to see how we can continue to improve.

Q. What is the story on the quarterbacks?
COACH FERENTZ: I thought somebody might bring that up. I don't know. I guess, you know, in a nutshell, just pleased with the way both guys are performing. We're clearly in a healthier position than we were a year ago, and it's a good thing for us.

Q. Holes out there today? How happy were you with the offensive line?
COACH FERENTZ: We're gaining ground; we're not there yet but we're gaining ground. The guys have worked hard. We're a little bit more experienced than we were a year ago, certainly, and, you know, we're doing some good things.
Hopefully we can continue to build and keep making progress and, you know, the guys around those guys are doing a good job, too. Shonn Greene has been running the ball well, and I'm pleased with the progress we're making, and the good news is I think we can make a lot more.

Q. (No microphone.)
COACH FERENTZ: I don't know that it has or hasn't but I think, again, the good news is both guys are playing well, and that's pleasing.

Q. What made you start Stanzi today?
COACH FERENTZ: We talked to Jake about it Wednesday evening and came back and revisited it on Thursday. On Thursday in practice we wanted to let him go with the ones, and we've been splitting time with the guys all through August and up until now, and I still think pretty much they're playing pretty even so it's a good thing for us.

Q. Is it a good thing to not go into the game, to the Iowa State game with a clear-cut number one?
COACH FERENTZ: We'll make a decision who is going to start at some point certainly, and I don't know if it's good, bad, or indifferent, so we'll find out.

Q. Is this the first time you've done this?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, I think probably the closest thing would have been when we rotated Brad in back in 2001 and, boy, my memory is vague, '99 and 2000, I know we had things going on rotationally, what have you. We settled in with Kyle at the end of the 2000 season, but up until then, I think it was a round-robin tournament.

Q. Are you through worrying about the emotional aspect of this deal? Do you just let the football take care of itself?
COACH FERENTZ: I think you have to. I think we've tried to do that all the way through. Last year it wasn't a very competitive situation, as I've said, and right now it is.
And I can't say enough about how both guys are handling it. I think -- don't expect anybody to be happy, that's not the expectation, but I think both guys are handling it like good, team guys, you know, that's all I could ask for. You know, I know both guys want to start, and I would expect that, certainly.
I would just -- I learned, I guess, you don't hear much during the game, but it's sounded like there might have been a fan reaction at some point, and I think that's unfortunate, I'll throw that out there. We've been boo'd a couple of times since I've been here, end of November last year, and I understand that totally, didn't say a word about that one, but I found it really distasteful back in 2001. And that's, you know, Kyle McCann doesn't deserve that, and that's just one guy's opinion, and I still feel the same way.
We're talking about guys trying to play well and do good things for our team, and I know that's not the way our fans are, I want to make that clear, but I hope everybody is supporting whoever is in there for us and appreciate that.

Q. Defensively still not giving up a touchdown this year. Were you happy over all with today?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, and clearly, you know, this team we played today, Florida International, I think they're doing a great job down there. It's clear they have a plan, watching them last year and this year. That being said, they're not experienced offensively this year, and they're trying to work through some things, so we realize that. And we've been in that position, so I know what that feels like.
All things said, we played more intense today and did some better things, and I think for the most part we're doing pretty well out there, but it's going to keep getting tougher as we go, so we've got room to grow, that's for sure.

Q. Do you think they will show a lot of growth compared to last year?
COACH FERENTZ: That's a concern for us, and it's an area that we need to continue to demonstrate some improvement and growth in, because we're very young, you know, with -- take Andy out of the mix, and he's our only senior, and last week we left some plays out there.
For us to be a good offensive team, we need everybody working together, and that would really help if we can get the kind of production we need out of that position and just, you know, make the routine plays. Starts there, make the routine plays, and the routine runs after the catch.

Q. Six sacks today after one last week. What was the difference?
COACH FERENTZ: I'm not sure. They held the ball a little more, maybe gave us an opportunity, but from the sideline it looked like we were working harder up front, and just on the radio I was talking about -- I wanted to single out Adrian Clayborn. It's not a surprise, because he came on at the end of last year, really looked good in the spring and practiced well in August.
So kind of a comparison I would make, he's a first-year starter, a red shirt sophomore, not a true sophomore, but Edds last year I think was more solid out there than a guy who was a sophomore, and I think Adrian is that way.
He's playing like a veteran at practice, good team leader, carries himself well, so that's really fun to watch that and watch him grow and develop into a guy that's got a real stature out there. So when you lose a couple guys like we did last year at that end position, that helps.

Q. Everyone seems to be consistent. Are you worried that King and Kroul might get overlooked?
COACH FERENTZ: They're doing great. You know, the highest compliment I can pay them is what they did in the spring. Two guys that were three-year starters, you don't get that very often, and they're sitting there in the spring of their senior year, and nobody practiced harder than those guys last spring. They served as great row models for the guys on our football team.

Q. You've talked about the quarterback taking the -- making the plays and it seems like -- (No microphone.)
COACH FERENTZ: We're getting closer there; we're getting closer, and that's a big part of football. And it's not so easy in a routine, but it's harder to execute than it sounds, and that's kind of how we -- when we're doing things, just doing things right and getting everybody to do things right, it sure helps.
That includes the receivers, running good routes and staying with the routes, and obviously you have to have good protection, and the backs have to do a good job, too. All of those things go together. If you tend to make the routine plays, good things will come out of that if your team is hustling.

Q. Last year -- can you rate today, maybe compare today to last year?
COACH FERENTZ: There wasn't a lot to choose from last year. I'm trying to go back; I guess Syracuse, that game operationally went pretty smoothly, but we didn't have a lot of smooth outings. But if you look at it analytically, you can figure out what the problems were, what the challenges were, and I think we're better suited right now. We have the potential to have a better offense and I think the guys are eager to have that happen. They know they've got to work for it.

Q. Do you think Ricky can handle the sack situations?
COACH FERENTZ: Well, that's one thing you're never sure of. We don't let our guys get tackled in practice so that's one thing you're never sure of. The other thing we don't know about him is what he's going to do when he gets drilled, and that's part of football and unfortunately Jake got way more practice at that than any of us would have liked.
And I have great admiration and respect for the way he little handled, it, too, and not to mention all the other things; we talked about that before. I think Ricky will do fine in those circumstances, and that's part of being a good quarterback, you have to feel things and be able to get away from things at times.

Q. How tough is it, the call between the two?
COACH FERENTZ: It's tough, but it's a good problem, you know, from my vantage point because we have two guys that are competing hard and doing everything they can to give themselves a chance. That's a good thing. I have great respect for both guys. I think they're both doing a nice job, and I felt like that about Jake last year, and Ricky wasn't part of the equation, and he's improved his game significantly from a year ago.

Q. Did you start Ricky Stanzi based you're trying to give both players a fair evaluation, or do you think he performed better this week?
COACH FERENTZ: I still felt like things were even. It's just a matter of we hadn't seen Rick start, and we haven't seen him get sacked 48 times or 9 times or whatever, and hopefully he won't get that exposure anytime soon.
So you know, it was part of the equation. We wanted to give him a start and see how he would react to it and give us more information to go off of.

Q. The way he played, especially the first two drives, do you think he might have elevated himself above Jake for next week?
COACH FERENTZ: We'll cross that bridge when we get to it. But I thought he responded well, he played well, and I thought Jake played well.

Q. How long can you go before it becomes a distraction and starts being a negative --
COACH FERENTZ: I know you'll try to make it one. It doesn't seem to be affecting our team, and I think that's the thing I would be concerned about. It's certainly giving everyone else a lot to talk about, but the key thing is how our team performs, and that's first and foremost. I don't know if I have an answer other than that, that's what I'm focused on.

Q. (No microphone.)
COACH FERENTZ: Oh, yeah, I guess we could. I might as well, huh? I don't know. I mean, right now I don't have a strong feeling either way.

Q. Your offensive line, how it played, did it feel more consistent?
COACH FERENTZ: I think we're gaining ground, yeah. We expected to, we were hopeful that would be the case. You know, I think we're -- we practiced a little bit better last week, wasn't perfect but we're gaining ground there, too.
That's one of the things I'm enthused about. And we have guys that can keep improving and making strides. That's what we've got to do. We've got to stay focused on that and I think that group -- certainly they're better than they were at any time last year, and that's positive.
And you would expect that. We're more experienced than we were a year ago, so if we can stay healthy and keep improving, we'll have a chance to have a good outfit up there, and that would help us.

Q. Is that the reason why they played through most of the third quarter?
COACH FERENTZ: Part of that, too, is Jake -- because of the rotation and the reps, we wanted Jake to have a fair opportunity to perform out there, so I wanted to make sure that we gave him a good opportunity, and I think probably the only change we immediate there, we slipped Rafael back to center, and that was important because he hasn't gotten a lot of work in practice at center. Julian played at guard, so still gave us a group that's fairly experienced, and we wanted to give our guys a chance to execute as skilled players.

Q. 256 yards rushing today, another 100 yard rushing day. How great is it to hear those numbers?
COACH FERENTZ: I'm a bit of a relic, but I still think running the football helps you win football games, and if we can do that, it's going to make us a better team as the year goes on. Pleased with Shonn Greene's efforts, and today was a good experience for him, he got whacked pretty good in the back right before the fumble, and that's probably what led to the fumble, and my guess is he's going to get hit again before the year is up, and that's part of being a running back in our conference.
I think it will be a good experience for him. Paki, I've complimented him all the way through, and he's doing a great job, and it was great to give Jewell a little bit of work, too.

Q. The offense looking fluid after today's game. What do you do to make sure you don't wind up losing the next few with the offense looking --
COACH FERENTZ: I think we're in a totally different circumstances right now. I really do. You know, all that being said, we know we've got a tough game and 9 tough ones coming up after that. That's where we're at. I think our guys have taken advantage of the opportunities they've been presented with in practice and games, and that's all you can ask of the team.
This is another big week where we step up, the intensity is going to be -- it's always strong when we play in this series, so we're going to have to have a good week of practice, but I think this team, to make a comparison last year to this year it's tough to do at this point.

Q. A lot of players out there in the secondary. You started Tyler Sash, and what were your reasons for Sash over the other guys?
COACH FERENTZ: I think we have good competition at a lot of positions right now. Tyler has done a good job; we've had him floating free and strong and I wanted to see what he would do with a start, also. I have to see the tape, but it seemed like he fared okay, so that's a good competitive situation.
We're happy with Cato, he's coming along as a young guy and, you know, once things are under control, we want to get Bernstine in there because he's missed so much time, but Spievey has done a nice job, given us a chance to get Fletcher out of there a little bit and gave Jordan a chance to get some work in, and that's going to be valuable for him. We're going to need all those guys, for sure. This may be replacing the nickel and dime stuff; we may finally be getting close.

Q. (No microphone.)
COACH FERENTZ: As long as you have more than four DBs , it gives you a chance, I think we're getting closer and that's a positive.

Q. What about the role of the true freshmen, Prater and Cato?
COACH FERENTZ: We got their feet wet, they're playing special teams, and they'll be able to -- hopefully, if they can hold their ground they will be able to help us on the subdefenses, which we've had a hard time getting to them because of our personnel. You always want your best guys on the field, and if you can't substitute without going backwards, there is no sense in putting those guys out there if they can't help you. That will give us some flexibility.

Q. (No microphone.)
COACH FERENTZ: They're performing better, and we had a turnover, too, which took a potential opportunity away -- I guess two of 'em, but, you know, I wouldn't mind -- we set a record the other way last year; I wouldn't mind setting a record that way this year. It would be a better alternative as long as we're doing it off point production and not turnovers. That's good. Ryan has practiced well, and we feel good about him.

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