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November 21, 2009

Kirk Ferentz

COACH FERENTZ: First couple people I'd like to acknowledge, first of all, our fans. Phil mentioned the crowd today, and not only was it packed, but they were just outstanding. They've been tremendous all season long. So again, we never take that for granted. Home or away, they've been fantastic and we appreciate their support, so that's first and foremost.
What can I say about our defensive football team today? They just played a tremendous football game, and they've played well all season long. So hats off to them. We certainly needed a great effort out of them today, and they came through in stellar fashion.
And the last group is just our senior class. What an outstanding job they've done, not only this season but throughout their careers. I say it every time I can; I'm not sure people really appreciate what it takes to play four years or five years in a program like this, and all the demands that these guys have academically, athletically, certainly socially, and this group has just been exemplary. Just an awful lot of credit to them.
For us to win ten games this season with all the things that we've faced this year, it's just absolutely amazing, and it starts with the leadership that we get from our players. They're just -- I can't say enough about them.
So just very, very appreciative to all that they've done, and really looking forward to one more game with them. And I'll thank the Bowl reps for being here, too. We always appreciate seeing you guys. Just it was a great deal.
Today certainly didn't come easy, and I think that's probably a fitting way to end. It goes right back to our first Bowl game this year; it doesn't come any harder than that. And that's kind of been the road that we've traveled this year. It takes -- just it takes a great group of guys to fight through what they've fought through. So really proud of them, and we're all going to enjoy the holiday; I can assure you of that.

Q. You always kind of said you're going to let things play out a little bit before we talk to you about the BCS. Now that it is done, what's your take on that? Do you think you guys should be in the BCS?
COACH FERENTZ: I've got no idea. That's for the system to decide, and then obviously the Bowls will have to make those decisions. But I just know this: To win ten games in any conference is significant. To play the way we played this year, and we're seven points and three points away from having a perfect year. And that's something I'd point out, too, the last two years, I think it was, what, 12 points last year? I'm trying to remember now, four games, 12 points this year; two games, 17 points, so do the math on that. Over the last two years, this team has really played competitively week in and week out. We've had some close wins and we've had some close losses. So again, it's just a real tribute to our team.
I'm pretty confident we'll be a better team in January. If we play in January, I'm pretty confident we'll be better. We've got a lot of guys, I'm not sure we could play this week. We'd have a hard time practicing with pads on, I know that. We've got a lot of guys banged up. But the good news is the guys that got dinged today, I think they're about a week out from being back, Jeremiha, he was out, and Stanzi got his brace off so he was out there bouncing around a little bit, and hoping to get Dace back, too. We're planning on playing a good game, wherever we end up going.

Q. The young quarterback got a good lesson, didn't he.
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, Gary asked me on the phone or on the radio there if anything new, and I think pretty much, at least unless the film shows something else, I think everything they threw at us we'd seen. They did a great job mixing it up. They've been a multiple defensive football team anyway. Kevin Cosgrove, their coordinator, did a great job making calls, and he had us on our heels certainly.
Last week was a different kind of challenge, and James did a great job. Today was a tough day for him, really a tough day. They did a nice job disguising. Credit goes to them; they can do that, they've got a very veteran group and they're well-coached.
But the other part of this, I look at it, I know down the road this is going to be a great day for James Vandenberg, too. His statistics weren't real pretty. We never really got anything going in terms of rhythm offensively, but this will be just invaluable for him, the experience he's gotten the last three Saturdays, so that's a good thing. Because it did cross my mind somewhere in that last minute of the game, I probably won't get any questions about quarterback controversies, not today, but we'll save that for another time. I'm really proud of James. He's doing a lot of good things.

Q. On the other side of the ball as much as your defensive line got to Weber, how much does that help all the issues that were --
COACH FERENTZ: Well, it helps a lot. We count on our front to really play well. They max protected a lot today. They had a good game plan. They made it tough on the guys up front. I think right hand in hand with that today was our coverage in the back end. We had good coverage for the most part that enabled our guys to keep working, and credit to our guys up front; they kept digging, kept working and made some good things happen for us. It was an outstanding defensive effort, there's no question about that.

Q. Especially that goal-line stand?
COACH FERENTZ: Goal-line stand, 3rd downs, 4th downs, I think we had four stops on 4th down at the goal line. I can't say enough. Again, that's been how these guys have played all season long. Our guys have really done a great job. They've been resilient. Norm talks about it and the players talk about it, about the fireman mentality. And it's one thing to talk about it, it's another thing when it's hitting the fan. Just really proud of everyone.
The fumbled exchange, we had the penalty off the punter, bumping into the punter, those things a lot of times can bring bad results, but our guys just kept playing.
The other thing I'm really happy about, I don't see any negative demeanor out there or any body language from any of our guys. And that's important, too, because I've been around that routine before, and that's no fun. But that's representative of the kind of football team we have.

Q. Some of the players in the room next door said you made it really simple for them this week; if Minnesota doesn't score, you'll probably win the game.
COACH FERENTZ: Norm taught me that a while back. That's about all I know about defense. It's kind of true in every sport.

Q. What goes through your mind when you have a senior class like this that not only got it done on the field, but two years ago you went through a lot off the field, and they kind of righted the ship, both from a public relations way and --
COACH FERENTZ: And it's been a great year off the field. It's been a great year off the field. I won't jinx this, but the guys have done a great job. That's teamwork, too. It is teamwork. You don't even have to go back two years ago; from a football standpoint a lot of people were wondering where we were heading last year coming out of East Lansing. I think a lot of people wondered where are we going. And then we went through a terrible year off the field in '07. Our approach always has been, and maybe we're old-fashioned, but our approach has always been let's analyze what's going on, what steps can we take to improve, and I think most importantly you start taking those steps, and it gets down to the people involved.
We've got a great coaching staff here, so fortunate in that regard, and we've got a great group of players. The players just took it in their hands and they decided we're going to change things, and they did. A lot of ownership. It's the same thing on the field. These guys, their attitude is just outstanding.

Q. Talk a little bit, with the injuries, what kind of challenge has this season been for you compared to other years?
COACH FERENTZ: I mean, we all share the load there. It's like anything else, the good things, bad things, everybody is involved in that and everybody has got ownership.
You know, when everybody works together, good things can happen, and I think that's one thing I encouraged our guys, if they go back and look at what they've accomplished -- they're young right now, I'm not sure they get it all. But starting with our first game, holy smokes, that was so -- just a tough, tough game for us. The road schedule, I always talked about that. These guys never backed down, they just went out and played. We might have played our best in defeat, quite frankly, on the road.
Again, I think the credit goes to the people involved, our assistants and support people and then most importantly the players.

Q. Was (inaudible) trying to get back in the game? I saw him walking.
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, he was going to see what he could do. The only good news that came out of -- a lot of times when guys have those severe ankle sprains, they'll get reinjured but they're not going back to ground zero. We're not back where we were coming out of Michigan State, so I don't know if he could play next week, but fortunately we don't have to find out. But we're not far away there.
Like I said, we've got a lot of guys. Wegher is not exactly full speed right now. And at the end of the day, the only stat I'm worried about right now is ten wins. That's about the only one. We're not a stat team, and all the stuff we've had going this year. So it's a little bit -- not exactly like, but a little bit like '84. '84 was one of those years where, whoo, man, just what else can happen. But we ended up getting okay. We weren't bad in December that year, so maybe history will repeat itself.

Q. Your assessment of the year, would you be willing to say that this is a very good football team?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, I'd say that, and I'll tell you what, I enjoyed the out-of-season last year as much as any I've ever been associated with, and I feel the same way now, because of the guys we're working with. Going back to the question earlier about tough year and all that stuff, when you go in the meeting room or you go out on the field or you go in the weight room and you get the kind of players we have, you take the good with the bad, and that's part of life, that's part of football. But if you've got the right people -- I'm going to enjoy this one. I'm going to enjoy this week, I promise you.

Q. It's a great accomplishment, ten wins. Do you ever think about what if?
COACH FERENTZ: We weren't good enough those two days. I'll go back to last year. We're sitting there at 3 and 3, and my spirits weren't down at all because I looked at why we were coming up short, and I just really believed we were going to get through it. You know, I go back and look at these two years, maybe in that Northwestern game maybe we could have overcome what happened, but we just couldn't do it that day. It wasn't because guys weren't trying or they weren't giving effort.
When you're playing hard and doing everything you have to do to have a chance to have success, you live with the results, and that's the world we live in. When you're landing out there, you're not always going to come out on top. To me it gets back to the attitude, the effort, the commitment level, not just that day but long-term. So that's kind of how I look at things, and that's what allows you to sleep or not sleep at night.

Q. Would you feel comfortable putting this team on the field against any other team in the country at this point?
COACH FERENTZ: You know, I don't think we'll get that opportunity, but I'll go back to last week, I'll go back to today. I look forward to going to the stadium with our football team. It really doesn't matter where we go, it doesn't matter who we play. We don't have any control over that stuff, anyway, so I don't think much about it. If we had to play tomorrow, no, but hopefully we'll be in a little better shape here in a month.

Q. When the season started you mentioned that you could have a worse record this year because of your schedule but be a better team.
COACH FERENTZ: I feel that way next year, too. I'll jump ahead. (Laughter.) Is it that season yet?

Q. To go 10 and 2 with --
COACH FERENTZ: No regrets. I think these guys, I don't know what else we could have asked our players to do. So no regrets absolutely. I think we all feel good about it.
I'll go on record as saying I am going to take some time and relax, and I've encouraged our players to do the same thing next week and our coaches. They've earned it. It's been a grind. I'm not going to stay up 20 hours a day and all that stuff next week, and I will not be in there grinding on the film tomorrow at 6:00, I promise you that. (Laughter.)

Q. Beating a rival was always nice but you've posted two straight shutouts now over Minnesota. Can you talk about shutting them out two years in a row?
COACH FERENTZ: I'll say this, we needed a little bit more today than last year, and it was really appropriate today. There's no other way we could have won the game I don't think if we hadn't come up with some of those big plays and big stops. I say big plays, big stops, seniors going out there and doing the job like they did.
It's a credit to our guys. Norm, it's great to have him back in the fold almost 100 percent, and just -- it's a good thing. But yeah, we needed a little bit more today, that's for sure. They came ready to play. They were ready to play, and they played the heck out of us two years ago, too. People forget about that. That was a tough day.

Q. Do you expend more energy in a season like this where there are a lot of close games and you're fighting injuries and --
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, the last two years we haven't had a lot of just easy games, that's for sure. Maybe we had a couple more last year. But every week is a challenge. I think we've got our money's worth this year, so we're all going to take some time recharging. We'll be fine here a week from now.

Q. I know you're not big on this type of question, but I'm going to throw it out there anyway. Do you feel like maybe this defense has made a case for being the best you've ever had?
COACH FERENTZ: You know, I haven't really thought about that. I don't know if it's the best. I can just say this: This season to me is a very similar season to '04, where the constants were more on the defensive side of the football. We were pretty healthy and we've been pretty healthy up until today. Brett missed three games, I guess, three or four, I lose track, and then today Jeremiha didn't go. But for the most part we've been pretty much the same group defensively, and it was a good group coming into the season. And the new guys had stepped in and played well.
For us to get to ten, it was going to take that. I've said this before, I really don't care how we get it done.
In '02 we had a very explosive offensive football team. Those things all come and go, but it's all about making things work together, the pieces fitting together, and you lean towards your strengths, and I think there's a lot of parallels between this defensive group and that group in '04, and again, for us to win ten games, that's was what it was going to take.

Q. Before the season you said it was going to take a lot of great stories this year, and I guess kind of now that the season is over, that's a pretty prophetic statement.
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, where do want to start? But that's Iowa. I've been here 20 years. If you look historically, that's really what it takes, and I'll start with two of the great stories when I got here, Chuck Long and Ronnie Harmon. Chuck Long was not recruited basically, and thank goodness Doug Strang went to Penn State because that's who they wanted I was told, and next thing you know, the Chuck Long story emerges. And I've been told at least, I don't know if it's true, but Ronnie Harmon came here because we recruited him as an offensive player and everybody else wanted him as a defensive player.
There's two great stories right there. But you can go right through our history, and that's been the case. A lot of great stories this year, there's no question about that one.

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