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October 1, 2013

Kirk Ferentz

COACH FERENTZ:  Welcome, everybody.  We have the same four captains moving forward here, we got Morris and Kirksey on defense and Van Sloten and Weisman on offense, so seemed to be locked in there a little bit.
Happy for James Morris, Big 10 Player of the Week, defensively, happy to see that, and obviously happy to get the win, and we turned the page on Sunday and have a big challenge this week playing a Michigan State team that looks very strong and powerful and it's going to be a tough football game for us so we got a big challenge and we'll get to work on that today.

Q.  It seems like through the first five games, the way you guys are running the ball and stopping the run, it looks like the Iowa teams that we have come to know.  Do you feel that coming back this season?
COACH FERENTZ:  I think we're making progress.  Every year is different.  In a perfect world, if you can run it and stop the run, that's a good thing, just in general terms.  It's going to be a big challenge for us this week.  Their running attack is starting to kick into gear, I imagine the way they want it.  They looked good last time out and they're giving up a ridiculously small number of yards per game rushingwise right now; I think it's under 60.  They have a tough football team, it's going to be a challenge for us.

Q.  The passing rush numbers are good, too, so talk about what a challenge this is for the offense, trying to move the ball?
COACH FERENTZ:  It's going to be a big challenge.  They're first in the country in total defense and second in pass rush, and you watch film, they're playing with confidence, they have great senior leadership and veteran leadership and their scheme is‑‑ I wouldn't call it overly complex, but they have enough complexity in there where you can't get comfortable and they always make it a challenge.  It seems the subtleties of it, it's hard to get clean plays, it's going to be a challenge for us and that will be a big, big part of the game this Saturday.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH FERENTZ:  Comparison I made on the teleconference, we used to play the Steelers in my six years, and they have a handful of things they do on first and second down, so never looked like all that much but it was enough there.  They certainly knew what they were doing.  It was enough to cause problems with your run game and enough to cause protection problems.
So on paper or on the board, it didn't look like it was all that much, but just the challenge was getting the right play against the right thing because they never telegraphed and Michigan State doesn't either.  Then the most important thing, there's a tie there.  They're good players that play hard and are well coached, and that's what we're seeing with Michigan State.

Q.  They do it just enough that you can't depend‑‑
COACH FERENTZ:  You can't get comfortable, and there is no tip there.  It's easier if you can anticipate something but you can't.

Q.  Given what we saw this past weekend, is the offensive line starting to come together and gel like you were hoping it would at this point?
COACH FERENTZ:  We're making progress and the statistics were good Saturday, but you look at the film Sunday and there is an awful lot of things we need to do better and we're going to have to do better this week or we won't have anywhere near the production we need.  So we have a lot of things that we have to work on the next two days, that's for sure.

Q.  Is Connor doing better now?
COACH FERENTZ:  Yeah, that was probably the only down side of the game Saturday.  It was a sad ending but he ran on Sunday and he's fine, so we lucked out there.

Q.  What did you glean in Connor Cook, their quarterback, and how do you prepare for a guy when you've only got 3 and a half quarters of tape?
COACH FERENTZ:  That's what you go with, you go with what you see, and he played earlier in the season, too, so‑‑ but it appears that's who they have settled in with, and that's what we're going to see.  And it's not a huge change, I don't think it will be a huge change philosophically for them, so that's the good news, but I think that's what we'll see.  Lomax is fine, he's good.  He hasn't gone full speed, but hopefully he's okay.

Q.  What about the running back?
COACH FERENTZ:  They were kind of like the quarterback thing, they were back and forth earlier but it look like they're settling in now and they have two different kinds of backs, one is a little bit quicker, but the starter had a nice game against Notre Dame and it's going to be‑‑ looks like they got it going a little bit now.

Q.  Is their offense more complex than it was before with Jim Bowman or is it something that you've seen before, considering his relationship with Dantonio?
COACH FERENTZ:  I think there is so much of a past history there, to me they don't look dramatically different, there is a little difference every year, subtleties, but I think what we have seen in the past is probably‑‑ they have an identity offense and same thing on defense so I think‑‑ they've won 30 games basically the last three years, not including this year so I don't expect them to change their attack a whole lot.

Q.  How important is staying healthy to your team every year?
COACH FERENTZ:  It's critical every year, you know, just like wind impacts a game, I think injuries impact any team, especially a teams like us.  Knock on wood, so far, so good, so it sure helps, not only guys playing but guys being able to practice.

Q.  You've been in the red zone a lot and haven't always scored on a lot of those.  I think there are seven times where you haven't got any points.  Is it execution?
COACH FERENTZ:  Yeah, it is, and that's the big thing on our list right now that we have to address if we're going to‑‑ we're doing some things better but that's something that we have to‑‑ we can't expect to continue on at the rate that we're at.  We have to do a better job.

Q.  The game Saturday, third quarter you had some third down conversions and then Jake threw it away but you can clearly see Martin‑Manley getting tackled.  On a play like that do you send those into the office?
COACH FERENTZ:  Every week we do send in the things that we think‑‑ we want interpretations on.  I thought the crew did a great job over all, and I think that's going to happen.  All season long we have had good officiating and there is going to be a couple of plays every year, and it's a hard job those guys have, but I think Bill has done a great job, they've done a great job with the league, they're hustling, working hard out there, and you think you think you get a bad break or something here and there, you just gotta keep movin'.  That's just what you have to do.

Q.  When you hired Brian and moved Reese, who faced more pressure?
COACH FERENTZ:  It's probably not great to be a line coach here.  Joe Feldman went through it, Reese went through it and now Brian is number three on that list.  It's kinda like there are experts everywhere and I probably think I know something about that, so it's probably not a great job.
The thing that allowed us to do it was just what I had seen of Reese not only coaching in high school in this state but the jobs he did at Benton and West High School and working with our staff, the great job he's done at tight end coach, as offensive line coach and now he's doing the same thing.
He's an excellent teacher and communicator and if you talked to any of his players, past, present, going back to high school, they would say the same thing about him.  We tease him you can't find anybody around the state who didn't work with him, play for him, was on the PTA, we go down the list, we kinda tease him about that.

Q.  Talk about the speed on the defensive line.  Has he changed that a little bit?  I know in talking with the players they treated them almost like offensive lineman because of the way they use their hands.  Is that a Reese‑type technique or is that a tradition?
COACH FERENTZ:  We philosophically have not changed a lot in the way we teach technique through the years but he's‑‑ he's picked up right where we've been, and it's like the second time around doing anything you're better at it, and Reese is a better line coach this second year, back after Joe left, and it's just‑‑ it helps, you know.  And the other part it, we're a lot more veteran up front.  We were really young last year, we had two seniors, but neither one of those guys had played prior to that, so I think the combination of our‑‑ not that we're an old group; we have only one senior, but we're a little bit more confident now and that comes from experience.
Then just that whole combination has been a positive.

Q.  Seems like he has a humble nature that allows him to take the move and try to learn from it.  Some might have the bravado but he seemed to soak up as much as he could.
COACH FERENTZ:  He's a pure teacher and he's an ultimate team player, and he was that way at West High.  You can't get him to talk about himself; he doesn't do it.  I'll talk about him.  He was an excellent teacher at Benton and West High and nothing has changed.  He has no agenda other than teaching and coaching kids, and that's usually what makes a good coach.

Q.  How much of an incident is there to gethim on the field a few more snaps?
COACH FERENTZ:  Probably haven't given him enough based on the statistics, but it's a process.  We all knew he was fast, that's one thing we all feel good about.  I think he's gaining confidence with every week and learning.  He's doing a good job at practice and that's the most important thing, that's how you do, you start climbing the ladder by what you do during the week.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH FERENTZ:  Yeah, I can't remember yesterday.  Review me on that one.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH FERENTZ:  In here or‑‑

Q.  Yeah.
COACH FERENTZ:  Everything gets reported now if you say something.  If there is such a thing as "private moments" but two catches, right, at that point?  I'm pretty sure.

Q.  Three.
COACH FERENTZ:  He did last week?  Two in the last game right, if I remember correctly, but he's a young guy trying to learn how to play.  Thing about him, again, he's fast, we all know that, but the thing I'll harp on with him is his positive energy.  He loves playing football.  I think one of the upsides of getting a guy who has gone to a JC is he appreciates the opportunity, appreciates being somewhere where they have training table meals, we ride on nice buses and planes and things like that and just‑‑ it's like coaching at Maine.  You coach at Maine you appreciate things more, when you get in the Big 10, and I think he's going through that, too, so everything about him is really positive, other than he hasn't played a lot.

Q.  How do you grow the rapport, when every time he steps on the field, the defense is yelling his number.  How do you grow that from there?
COACH FERENTZ:  It's up to us to get him where he can be free.  Once he gets in the open, he knows how to finish a play.  If we can get him started he can finish.

Q.  How do you rate your receiving core?
COACH FERENTZ:  We're making progress and that's the positive.  Making some tough plays on third down, things like that, or runs after catches are positives that we have struggled with recently.  We're gaining ground and I will preface it say by saying we're going to face coverage like we haven't seen.  They play good coverages good run defense, they pressure the passer, it's going to be tough yards on Saturday.

Q.  ‑‑ exceeded your expectations as a runner?
COACH FERENTZ:  We don't let our guys get hit so we see them run in practice but they're not running for their lives necessarily.  We felt like he and Jake have an upside and Cody is not a slow foot, but you never know until they get in a game and he's done a good job.  Sometimes guys that run the ball as quarterbacks, they get a little too happy doing it or looking to do it too fast, look down the field for a guy and pull it down and run so he's not doing that, he's playing quarterback and running when it's appropriate so that's helpful for us.

Q.  Talk about the play of your line backers and how this unit stacks up to some of the other good once you've coached?
COACH FERENTZ:  One thing I would comment, seem like every week you look at the lists, there are a lot of line backers, there are a lot of good line backers in our league and we're seeing a couple of 'em this week, a good crew.  They're really good players.  So who is better, I don't know that stuff, but our three guys have all played a lot, and I'll‑‑ I've said it before, I'll say it again, they practiced well last spring, you would see them improve and the same thing in camp.  Having experience and a good work ethic, that's a good combination so all three guys are doing a great job right now and just happy they're on our team, they're great guys, good role models and good leaders for our team.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH FERENTZ:  Absolutely, and he had a tough one last week, he hit the post, but when we needed him there at the end he had it but that was not a routine field goal.  He's doing a nice job and that's one thing about having a senior, offensively us have a lot of confidence in him and just the way he operates so you're right about the series other than two games it's been back and forth, really close and I'm glad he's on our team.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH FERENTZ:  Not happy about that, certainly, but I think it's‑‑ the good news from my vantage point it's not like we were earlier or over the last couple of years, especially early in the season when we looked anemic out there.
The things that happened Saturday we are not that far away and when we are covering we are covering pretty good so I feel like we're on the right path, we got the right guys right now and they're still learning a little bit about how to do a couple of things on the coverage.  I feel like what we have now we can work with and continue to improve, whereas we have had times over the last four or five years where it's like, what the heck is going on out there and what do we have to do here, but it's not that situation right now.

Q.  You're coaching against Max for third time‑‑
COACH FERENTZ:  Seems like ten.

Q.  And in the 80s, you had to coach against him well compare and contrast, how good is Max Bullough?
COACH FERENTZ:  They seem to have somebody playing that middle linebacker spot, going back to the 80s, they had some good players.  Max played really well three years ago as a first‑year guy and that's hard to do and he plays at a high level and has and continues to, and my guess is we will finish this year the same way.  He's just a really good player.

Q.  He seems a little bigger than James but at that command the same type of presence.
COACH FERENTZ:  They're similar yet‑‑ I think they're underselling his size, he looks bigger than that, I think they're trying to pull one on us there, he looks bigger than that, couple of their guys do, but he's a good football player and they're different players in their own way but our systems are different and they're equally as important to their respective teams.  That's the common denominator.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH FERENTZ:  They're different guys and Steve and I were just talking in the locker room and Kulick I guess ran one back the other day and not that Louie is Kulick, but Louie is a project and we thought he had the potential to be a good defensive lineman, only in that he was a tough, competitive guy, really liked him as a person.  We didn't think he was fast enough to be a linebacker, that's kinda what he was, and then Karl is more like sheriff, coming out of high school.  I think they're a lot a like, only Karl is further behind in this stage because of the injuries he has gone through and the practice time he's missed.
This is the first time he's played and he's doing a good job and seems like he's gaining confidence and Louie, I think that year of experience has given him the confidence to be able to play and compete and he's a tough‑minded guy.

Q.  The different guys, different players, seem to be the same in their mentality and approach.
COACH FERENTZ:  I think both sides of the ball if you're a lineman typically you're pretty unselfish in our defensive system.  The main job our guys have is to keep our linebackers clean and it's been that way since we've been here.  It takes a special type of guy to do that and we have been fortunate, we have had a lot of good guys play up front for us and I think both those guys are on the path right now to be coming, and it would be remiss if I didn't talk about Dom.  He's our only senior up there and he's doing a good job there as well.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH FERENTZ:  You know, we'll probably play this week as it goes and get through‑‑ we will have a little time afterwards.  Jordan has only played part of the game and King really is the veteran right now, which seems funny to talk about a guy who was in high school six months ago but he's been able to practice and able to play, and that's where we're at right now.  And then you got Draper and Fleming who are healthy now and practicing so hopefully we will have a healthy combination when all is said and done.

Q.  Did you see that ability?  Did you feel like he could come in and contribute right away?
COACH FERENTZ:  Yes and no.  I'm really astute, I thought he would be a safety, so here we go!  Filled in, but that's what I thought he would end up playing.  Never know.

Q.  Your secondary, they got hit a few times this year.  Was most of that just shift to go a different kind of coverage that maybe they're not used to playing or was it execution or a little of both?
COACH FERENTZ:  It's probably more execution and we have two veteran players back there with B.J. and Tanner and we have had three new comers so you go through growing pains like you do at every position and the big thing, again, is about improving and gettin' better.  The other thing is they're going to make plays sometimes, that's part of football.  They're going to have guys make plays on us at all positions but it's more prominent if it a long pass, my sister in Colorado can see that stuff so when that happens it happens but you have to come back and keep playing.
It's like the relief pitcher that gives up the home run, you can't pack it in, you have to take the ball the next day and.

Q.  What about Weisman?  What about health checks?  I know you guys are wayin tune to that?
COACH FERENTZ:  All our players if they have injuries they check in, happens during the course of the game and then the evening and then the next day, you never know how guys are going to wake up.  Guys like Shawn green, Albert young, Fred Russell, if they're running the ball as much as they run it, you try to be smart about what you do during the week and we try to do that with all our players.  There is wear and tear and we try to track all that as closely as we possibly can so we practice smart well them because the most important thing is to get guys to the game Saturday where they're able to play.  That's tough because you have to practice to get better but guys only have so much gas in the tank.
There is no science to it other than just trying to be smart and in tune to what's going on.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH FERENTZ:  I think the big difference is experience.  Louie was playing his first football last year, and it's one thing to not have played but the anxiety of not having played.  Usually guys know they haven't played and it's like, holy crap this is hard and I'm playing against good guys!  That's where experience fits in, I think.
Alvis has played now, and with we started this year with two guys who were veterans.  Carl hadn't played but he's a fourth year guy and he has the capabilities of being a good player, and it was a matter of getting him to see that he could be good.  Then Drew Ott has quietly done a nice job and we're getting help from Coop and Mike Hardy and having six guys that can go in there and compete, it's working out so far and we keep trying to bring guys along.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH FERENTZ:  He's one of the leaders up there and Louie missed spring, so that was tough and it took him a while to come off the injury, and those two are our most experienced guys.  The whole team the guys who have played are doing a good job of keeping the guys who haven't played, showing them what we need to be doing every day.

Q.  Every year you talk about unknown guys to emerge, the good stories.  There have been a lot of guys this year.  Can you talk about how some of these guys that people haven't heard of that have come in and made one big play in a game that's really helped?
COACH FERENTZ:  It's helped and our older guys have done that, Maris with a couple of picks, Kirk see that first game and guys like pow we will and the guys you referenced, we need all those guys, it's a collective thing, and it requires guys practicing and gettin' better and doing their part and we have a lot of guys trying to do that right now.

Q.  I know you can't take recruiting for granted, but somebody like James Morris who is in our own backyard, what was that recruiting process like?
COACH FERENTZ:  That ended up fairly early relative to whatever but I still got grilled by his mom, she wanted to sit down and I got 30 questions or whatever that game is called, I got 'em and they were pointed and all that kind of stuff but that's part of recruiting, too, it's like being a consumer you have the right to ask anything and I think it's smart that people do that, to her credit, she did and after that was that.  It wasn't totally painless but it wasn't too bad.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH FERENTZ:  It's like talking about some of the other guys we've talked b I think just the fact that hopefully he's a more confident player than he was a month ago, he should be.  Not that he looked confidence going in but until you get in there and start playing and things start happening you're never quite sure.
Certainly I think he's further down the road now and I said on the teleconference I think probably the biggest attribute I would cite on him, if he has a play he wishes hadn't taken place he puts it over there and keeps on going.  He doesn't blow it off but it doesn't affect him moving forward and that's important at every position, certainly at that position it's critical so, again, you're playing a position where everybody has an opinion about what you do.  You're out there.

Q.  Hamilton started but where does the light come on for him where he's taken that step of being a guy to being a real contributor?
COACH FERENTZ:  Last spring he did some good things and it's been Aprilcontinual thing for him.  We like all our tight ends.  They're all confined of different but we like them all and they all bring something positive to the team.

Q.  Michigan State got flagged for 5 pass interferences, in that Notre Dame game and the left corner three times.  Is that something that you can go after?
COACH FERENTZ:  I don't know if we can go after them, it's a bi‑product of their play and whenever you do that you're going to have penalties.  The down side is they got flagged but if you look at how much yards they give up a week in a pass, it's kinda like anything, if you're a hard man cover team, not that they are, but when they lock down on you, they're in your fact, it's not a lot of breathing room there.  So it's a risk/reward thing but you look at their pass statistics, they're probably comfortable with the style of play they have and they'll live with the‑‑ it's an active pass rush, and if a guy is good at getting a jump on, it, most coaches will give guys a hall pass if they can get a couple of sacks during a game.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH FERENTZ:  One on Saturday.

Q.  Yeah.
COACH FERENTZ:  In general terms, again, penalties are usually a lack of ability or lack of concentration or technique and the ability ones you can't do anything about but on concentration, technique, you better‑‑ and usually concentration and technique are tied together.
I would say that one game to me just equated to where we were as a team at that point and the score kind of tied in with everything else about the game.  That's about where we were that day, it was our second week of the year.  Kinda where we were.  Thank you.

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