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December 5, 2010

Kirk Ferentz

Gary Pinkel

TONY ALBA: Coach Pinkel, would you make an opening statement for us?
COACH PINKEL: Yeah, certainly on behalf of our administration and the staff and the players here at the University of Missouri, we're certainly honored to be invited to the Insight Bowl. And I know what a great organization that is and a great job they do there in everything they do in Phoenix in relationship to college football.
So we're honored to play Iowa. Kirk is a colleague of mine who I've watched build a great football program at Iowa. Great respect for him over the years. And so we're honored to play, and we're excited about getting back to practice and hopefully playing our best football game.
TONY ALBA: Coach Ferentz?
COACH FERENTZ: I would echo Gary's comments. First of all, congratulations on a great year. We're just absolutely thrilled to be selected to the Insight Bowl and appreciate the committee's faith in us.
Excited about coming to Phoenix, the area is an outstanding venue and very much looking forward to that. And I think our fans will be very excited about it as well.
Realize, too, that we have a great challenge playing Missouri. Gary has done a tremendous job since coming to Missouri. He's done an excellent job at Toledo prior to that. Just a tremendous coach, and the Missouri program what they've done through the years now speaks for itself.
It's going to be a heck of a challenge for our team, and one that we're excited about. Again, just very, very excited to be coming to the Phoenix area and having a chance to play in a bowl game as prestigious as the Insight Bowl.

Q. Gary, could you talk about your offense a little bit? Especially the quarterback, what makes everything work and how you've been able to manage, you know, you've had nice quarterbacks through your ten years in the program?
COACH PINKEL: Well, we have been fortunate. We had Brad Smith who plays for the Jets now, and Chase Daniel who plays for the Saints. Obviously, Blaine Gabbert is doing a good job. I think we've improved as the season has gone on. We always like to have consistency at that position. We ran the football a little bit better as the season has gone on. Hopefully we can get really better also during our practices.
You know, we have ten underclassmen in our starting offense, so I think there's a lot of room for improvement. Our kids are great. They're going to work hard, and hopefully we'll continue to get better.

Q. You also talk a little about Aldon Smith?
COACH PINKEL: Yeah, Aldon, I think he missed three games this year. But he's a young defensive end, a red shirt sophomore. A player that has great, great ability, our defensive end. Some of the all conference honors, first team all conference, Jacquies Smith. And the other defensive end is second team all conference as one of our back-ups, too, so we have a little bit of depth there.
But certainly Aldon is a player with a great work ethic. He's improved tremendously since his red shirt freshman year. I think really potentially we've just seen a glimpse of what he's capable of.
The great thing and thing that I'm most excited about Aldon is his work ethic has been tremendous. You know, if you've got a player that has great ability, if they have a great work ethic, they'll get better and they'll reach their potential.
He's not there yet, but he's certainly improved and he can make a lot of plays.

Q. How has that manifested itself. I'm sorry to dominate the conversation.
COACH PINKEL: Well, I think that what he brings to the table and what all of those defensive ends do is it allows us to substitute players and improve. You know, hopefully we'll continue to get better.

Q. I know you had higher aspirations than 7-5, and you were right there in all five of the losses. If the games were 55 minutes long you might be playing in the National Championship game. With a senior team, how do you approach the bowl, and particularly on defense? Your thoughts on your defense? If you could stop a last drive, you would have been great. Last year you won all those games. This year you didn't. Where's your team mentally and what can you say about how your defense played this year?
COACH FERENTZ: That's something we'll find out in the coming months, and your research is really accurate. If we could have quit at 55, we'd have been in great shape. But that is the difference between winning and losing. We've been involved in a lot of close games, as you said.
The key to winning close games is you have to play the full 60 minutes. We came up short in that area too many times this year. More than we would have liked, certainly.
But it's not always just one phase either. All three phases typically contribute to that. When that happens, it's a bad thing.
Give you the Wisconsin game in particular. We did get a stop in the fourth quarter, and we were victimized by the fake punt and that allowed them to get possession of the football and they drove it down and scored the winning touchdown. We still had an opportunity.
So, again, all three phases come into play. I think every loss that we had is a different story. But the bottom line is we came up short five times. It's disappointing. All we can do about it is try to improve this coming month.

Q. Can you talk about Ricky and the improvement he made? Obviously a big reduction in his interceptions from his junior year to his senior year. I would think that he progressed exactly the way you'd like a quarterback to from his first year starting to his second year starting?
COACH FERENTZ: He did. He really started a major portion of the '08 season as well. There is a lot of talk about his interceptions coming into this year. I think that was fair certainly and merited.
But I was more focused on his win/loss record. When he started, we really seemed to do well. So I think that's the most important thing that a quarterback gets evaluated by.
You like to think that a player is going to play his best in his fifth year. Certainly in Ricky's case we expected that only because of his work ethic. He's a guy that is really dedicated and works hard at his trade and I think we have seen improvement. Certainly he had a good year this year, and hopefully he's got one more good game left in him.

Q. Coach Pinkel, you guys are neighbors, obviously. Is it just too hard to schedule a team like Iowa and Coach Ferentz, a team like Missouri. Is it just too hard to put you guys together?
COACH PINKEL: Well, the history there, as I got here in 2001, they were on our schedule for a three or four-year period of time. And I did my best to get them off.
COACH FERENTZ: He walked out on that one.
COACH PINKEL: I call that intelligent scheduling. No, I just got such great respect for the program. I think as our league changes and certainly the Big Ten's going to change too. But we're a round robin now so we only play three non-conference games and we have our rival, obviously, Illinois too.
But you know it's a great program. As I look at Kirk here and as he's going through this season as I've kind of watched a lot of his games. We played a lot of night games and got a chance to see him play a lot. It's just a fine line, 17 points, five losses.
But it's a great organization. It's a great program. They've got good players, great players. So it's -- I don't think it would be really wise to schedule them every year. That would not be very smart.

Q. On defense with Adrian Clayborn. Talk about the season he had? I assume he saw a lot of attention this year because of the season he had as a junior?
COACH FERENTZ: He did. He had a great year a year ago statistically, as well as on the field. Decided to come back for his fifth year, which we were thrilled about because he's not only a good football player, but he's a great young man, so we were really excited to have him back on the team.
Part of being a good player is you garner a little more attention than maybe you did in the past. And he had a lot of situations where tight ends abstain a block or backs would chip on him and that type of thing or they'd push the protection in his way.
But I thought he played very well. He's a fine young guy and an outstanding young player. We're thrilled he's on our football team and glad he's got one more game left.

Q. I wanted to ask you how you think your fan base will respond to playing a bowl game in Arizona for the first time. Coach Pinkel, about the coincidence of coming here to play when you're also playing Arizona State next season?
COACH FERENTZ: I think our fans are going to be really excited, I believe. I don't want to speak for them. But I know how we feel as a staff and as a team. Not that going to Florida is a bad deal, because we've been treated so well during our time in Florida. We've been to a couple of different venues, three different venues there.
Our trips to San Antonio have been outstanding. But I think everybody's going to be excited about the opportunity to play in Arizona. We've got a lot of Iowans living in that area and nearby states as well that I'm sure will make the trip. I think our fan base will be well represented.
All of our team is excited. It's a change. We're going to a place where we know everything will be first place. John Junker and his folks are just tremendous folks, so we're all excited about it.
The fact that we're playing a great team is equally as exciting. I think our fans will be excited about that as well.
COACH PINKEL: I would agree and kind of ditto that in terms of playing in Phoenix and playing at Tempe. I coached in the Pac 10 for 12 years with Washington, and have been at Sun Devil Stadium many, many times.
Great stadium, great venue. And as Kirk talks about John Junker and what they do there, they do things one way, and that is first class in everything they do.
So our fans, I think will follow us down and I think they're excited about it, without question. We're looking forward to the opportunity.

Q. Coming here now and then coming back next fall, can you comment on that also?
COACH PINKEL: Really haven't thought about it until you just mentioned it a moment ago. Yeah, the irony there, huh? How about that? So at least we won't have to come down to practice early, because we'll at least have been in the stadium and know how the whole thing operates.
But I think it's pretty cool. I think our players are certainly aware of that, and that will be our opening game next year.

Q. Coach Pinkel, your victory over Oklahoma? Just what it meant to the program, what it meant to you, and how impressive that was?
COACH PINKEL: Well, Oklahoma obviously is a great national program year in and year out. Bob Stoops is a friend and a great coach. We saw that last night once again.
We had game day here for the first time in Columbia as we build our program. That was great for the University of Missouri. It was the largest game day in the history of Game Day. We had 18,000 fans at game day. And we're fortunate that we went into that game with 3-2 turnovers. They had 3, we had 2 in that game, and they had a three-point lead going in the fourth quarter.
So we battled and competed well. That's what I was very pleased with our football team. We played a really good team, and, you know, when you play great teams like that, you certainly are going to have your adversities you've got to battle through. So I think we grew a little bit, and it was great for our program.

Q. You've been devastated by injuries, I know. Do you have any linebackers you expect to get back? And Adam Robinson, will you have him for the Insight Bowl?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, starting with Adam. Adam had a concussion at the end of the season. As I just told our media, I don't think it was any more than that. But it's been well documented around here. We'd hope to have him back. I would expect him to be back, and we'll go from there.
On the linebacker front, Tyler Nielsen our outside linebacker definitely won't be back. He's out for the season. Should be more than fine when spring rolls around. There is some thought that he could be ready for the bowl, but it's just not prudent to take that chance, so he will not be ready.
Jeff Tarpinian, I think, has a fair chance. I don't know if it's a good chance, but a fair chance. That's where we're at. We're a little nicked up, but we'll have enough guys to be ready to go.

Q. And your two corners that were out for Minnesota, will they play?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, they're fine. They're fine.

End of FastScripts

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