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December 27, 2017

Kirk Ferentz

New York, New York

Iowa - 27, Boston College - 20

KIRK FERENTZ: First, I just want to take this opportunity to thank everybody involved in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. About three plus weeks ago standing here, and I was leaving town that day, really kind of impacted me a little bit just what a great opportunity this was going to be for our football team, and it's been way better than we even could have envisioned, starting with the whole Steinbrenner family, everybody involved with the Yankees' organization. It's just been absolutely fantastic, and our office people came out here before the game, worked with the staff here, and they said they've never gone through anything like this. Everything has been first-class. I think that's just synonymous with the Yankee organization. So we feel very privileged to have been here and very, very fortunate in that regard.

I want to congratulate Boston College. It was a very, very tough competitive game. They've had a heck of a year and really came on strong the second part of the season, and were playing more than strong in that first half, as well. We knew we had our work cut out coming here for this football game. Certainly you all witnessed the same thing. They're an excellent football team. Very well-coached, and players that play hard. So we congratulate them.

I think the game in a lot of ways was reflective of our season. We've had some ups and downs this year, some turbulence along the way, that type of thing, but the guys pushed through it, and that certainly is what happened today.

The first half Boston College did a really good job against us. We didn't play our best, and that's not a good mix. But just couldn't be prouder of our team in the second half. They came out, thought they played tough, gritty football, and certainly we were playing in tough conditions. This was just a real challenge for both teams with the weather, certainly the field, and it's just December, January football. It's always going to be a challenge.

For our team to come out the way they did in that second half and push through it, to me it was a breakthrough moment for us, and just really happy for our team, very proud of our team, especially proud of our seniors, the leadership that they've given us, not only this past month but this past couple years, they've done a great, great job. For Akrum to come home, have a breakthrough moment like this, for us to get a bowl victory for our fans, certainly important for us, and Josh Jackson to get his eighth pick of the season, all those things are really significant and make it special.

Just really happy for our football team, very, very proud of them, and I'll throw it out for questions.

Q. For the seniors, they've been a part of really the last three years, what they experienced in 2015 and how they kind of rebuilt your program in some ways, and now to share this moment with them, what was that like for you after the game?
KIRK FERENTZ: That's part of what we do is the players. By my count, it's 28 wins for those guys the last three years. You know, I think the thing that makes it better than anything it just, again, the ups and downs that we went through, and we've had some bumps in the road, some disappointments, that type of thing, but these guys kept pushing forward. Certainly there were some times this year where everybody could have gotten discouraged, but I just give those guys a lot of credit. We've got a lot of underclassmen doing a good job, too.

But the guys in that whole group have just pulled together collectively. They've been good to work with since January, outstanding to work with.

It's easy to talk about a guy like Josey Jewell, easy to talk about Neimann, who plays a little bit more quietly, Akrum, a marquee guy. But you think about guys that were injured, Miles not being out there, certainly Boone and Ike, that's tough and a Dan Gaffey, who just works his tail off all the time on the scout team.

That's the neatest thing about football. We have such a large, diverse group, and when those guys are working together, it's a lot of fun. It's always tough to say goodbye to your senior class, that's for sure.

Q. A guy like Anthony Nelson made a lot of plays for you guys the last couple years, and had a big moment there. Is that what you needed, somebody to step up with a big play at the end like that?
KIRK FERENTZ: In a game like this, you just never know, and we were having a hard time coming up with anything to slow them down at all in the first half, so it was a pivotal moment, and there were a lot of pivotal moments in this ballgame, but certainly to get the stop, not only get a stop at that point but a turnover, and we were hoping they were due. They've done a great job. They're very disciplined, very well-coached. To get the turnover there, that really gave us a spark. When you're in a game like this, sparks are huge. It's not a shock that Anthony, that's one thing, he's got a really good first step, and he's given us some sparks during the last two years.

Q. Moving Akrum to kickoff return in this game, I know it had been since Iowa State, I think. What was the thinking?
KIRK FERENTZ: Well, the biggest thing, Ihmir came up injured here, got injured about a week ago Sunday I guess it would have been. I'm losing track right now, but it was a Sunday practice. Just didn't respond. We were hopeful maybe he'd be able to go. He's done a nice job back there, so we just felt like this is Akrum's senior year, we're going to use every bowl we've got, and certainly he gave us a real spark out there in a lot of different ways today, but the kickoff return part of it today was a big part, too.

Q. You have now tied Coach Fry in wins. What does that mean to you?
KIRK FERENTZ: You know, a couple things. Probably one of the best decisions I've made, outside of asking my wife to marry me, was coming to Iowa in 1981, June of 1981, and like so many things in life, you have no idea what you're about to walk into, and I certainly was totally clueless at that point. Didn't know much about Iowa. I knew Coach Fry was a square-jawed Texan, ex-marine, that's about it, and I knew Iowa wasn't very good. When I got there in '81, I don't know if our expectations were real high. Those next eight, nine years were very special, and then to have an opportunity to come back 19 years ago, I really consider myself extremely fortunate. It just gets down to the people you're with every day, you know. The one commonality in my 28 years there, we've had great players to work with. I've worked with great coaches at all levels, great support staff. It's a tremendous campus. We've enjoyed outstanding leadership. And the state of Iowa is a great place to live.

Again, in 1981 I had no clue, and however many years that is later, I feel very fortunate.

Q. How big a deal was the bowl losing streak, and what kind of difference does it make -- this is the first time since 2010 you've ended your season with a victory. Is that a big deal?
KIRK FERENTZ: That's probably a bigger deal quite frankly. None of these guys had anything to do with the games we haven't won. You know, so it's kind of like every game is a new discussion. Every season is a new discussion. But one thing that is good is finishing with a win. I don't think there's any question about that, and it's a couple levels. Most importantly to give the seniors that we referenced a little while ago, give them a really good memory to leave on, and I don't think there's a college player that doesn't remember their last game, whether it was a bowl game or that they didn't get a chance to play in one. That's really special, and then what it does in terms of hopefully teaching the younger guys just the value of doing all the things you have to do during the month of December to get ready for a bowl game. Hopefully it'll reinforce that and maybe next year when we talk about it, assuming we can earn a bowl invitation again, maybe it'll have a little bit more meaning, a little bit more gravity.

Q. What changed in the second half defensively to really hold them down?
KIRK FERENTZ: You know, I wish I could tell you. It wasn't anything I said. Maybe the defensive guys made some adjustments. But we just played a little tougher, a little grittier in the second half. Again, the conditions were tough. Both teams were playing on the same field, so that's not an excuse, but just looked like we were catching a little bit instead of striking and being the aggressor, and certainly in the second half I think we did a lot better, and certainly it starts up front, too. That's where a lot of good things happen.

Q. When Josh was able to come up with that pick at the end, what kind of went through your head, and what did his play mean for you this season as a whole?
KIRK FERENTZ: Well, the best part about -- first of all, at the end it was really good because not that the game was over at that point, but it took them out of a scoring threat and gave us a chance to eat some clock. You know, that was obviously really good. I think the neatest thing about what Josh has done this year, and our local folks understand this, he's a first-year starter. We had a guy named Brad Banks, ended up being the AP Player of the Year, runner-up to the Heisman back in '02, started one year of major college football in 2002, and what a phenomenal year he had, what a leadership role he played. And Josh is very similar. He went from being a guy who hasn't started a ballgame -- well, he started one technically, last year's bowl game, to not only being a really good player this year, he got voted a captain as a junior. I think it just shows you the respect that he has from everybody involved.

And like a lot of the great players that we've had historically, and I've been very fortunate, we've had a lot of guys in our program that we have up in a pretty hallowed place, they're better guys than they are players, and Josh, that's exactly what I'd tell you about him. He's got a tremendous attitude, just a great work ethic, always upbeat. He's the kind of guy you want in front of the room, you want in front of your other players, and he wasn't that way three years ago. He had a good attitude but he had a lot of loose ends, but boy, he's matured and done such a great job as a result of his hard work. He came that way to us; a great family. He's just a tremendous young man, just fun to watch things come together for him through his hard work.

Q. You kind of mentioned that this game was almost a symbol of your season in some ways. At halftime you were out-gained by about 200 yards. What does it say about the perseverance of your team that it can come back, make plays, and everybody who had made plays all year, the perseverance they had?
KIRK FERENTZ: I was never a very good player, but one thing I have a lot of experience at is getting my ass kicked, so I've been through that several times professionally. And what you learn is you just go back and go back to work. Whether it's a game we lost or whatever, you've got to turn the page and focus on what's in front of you, and I think that's what our team did at halftime.

You know, we were not playing our best football and they were playing very well. But it was a one-score game at that point. We had the ball. We had a chance to get right back in it. But clearly we had to change our tempo and demeanor a little bit, and I think our guys just made up their minds to do that, and that's the good thing about sports, about life. As long as you're alive, you get to fight another day, and fortunately our guys made up their minds to be a little bit more determined in that second half.

Q. Akrum, was he okay, that opportunity with that goal line touchdown? Did you think about giving it to him so he could tie the record? We've talked about it, Akrum's rise from somebody who ball security was a question, the weight was a question. What does it mean for you as his coach the last five years to see him come home and do what he did tonight?
KIRK FERENTZ: First of all, I'm not a good stat guy. We probably would have given him the ball. I guess I didn't realize he was that close to that record. I'm more fixated on his back-to-back thousand yards. What a career he's had. And I would echo the comments I made about Josh. Akrum has always been a great guy to work with, great attitude, great personality. You know, and he loves football.

But he had some loose edges here, loose ends, too, early part of his career. To me as you know in the '15 season at Northwestern, that's really where I think he realized just how important it is when you carry the football, you carry everybody with you. Since that time, it's just -- his career has really propelled upward. Just happy for him, for him to be home like this and do it in front of so many family and friends, that's even better. Just really happy for him, and I wish him and all of our seniors nothing but the best moving forward. They're all going to do a great job.

Q. Speaking of running backs, obviously you've seen your fair share of good ones this year. Can you assess AJ Dillon and his performance?
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah. You know, I mean, his numbers speak for themselves. He looked really good on film and then certainly tonight we didn't tackle him real well, especially in that first half. It was tough, as you guys saw, it was tough for anybody with the ball unless you were going vertically, tough to really make cuts, that type of thing. A lot of people slipping, that type of deal. But he's a strong player, and just talking to the folks from Boston College, it sounds like I've just talked about Josh and Akrum, sounds like he's an outstanding young man, too, and that's good for our sport. I think that's one of the great things about college football. These guys do so many things beyond play well out on the field and do so many things that impact their campus and teammates. When your best players are guys like that, that's really outstanding.

You know, I guess unless we play them in a bowl game, we won't have to play him again for the next three years, which is just fine with me. He's a heck of a player.

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