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December 27, 2019

Kirk Ferentz

San Diego, California

Iowa 49, USC 24

KIRK FERENTZ: First of all, just a tremendous way to end the 2019 season for our football team. It was really a hard-fought game out there. Two highly competitive teams, two ranked teams. We got a lot of respect for USC, their program, their team certainly.

Just really proud of our team, the way they prepared, not only this week but also the entire month. That's always a challenge in bowl games. This one was a little bit unique for us because it was a shorter preparation with the calendar falling the way it did. I thought our guys really handled things well, did a great job out here. Obviously competed hard tonight. Just really, really proud of them.

The biggest thing for us tonight, it was a complete team victory. It was offense, special teams, defense. That's just good football. Somebody handed me on the way over here some stats that I think are pertinent:

12th year in a row we've had a defensive pick-six, defensive touchdown, off on interception. Happy about that. 49 points is the most we've ever had in a bowl game. A.J., back-to-back 10-sack seasons. Ihmir had a touchdown rushing, throwing, receiving and kick return, almost throwing. Then 47 wins over the last five years sets a school record.

Just really proud of our guys for that. A 10-3 season, certainly that is something to do in college football. Proud of our guys on that front.

Last, a couple thoughts. It's been a really challenging month in Iowa athletics with the passing of Bump and Coach Fry. When you think about both those men, what they stood for, what they taught was competing at a high level and doing it with great competitiveness but also with integrity. That's one of the reasons I'm so proud to be at Iowa. Hopefully this is one they both enjoyed tonight. More importantly their families enjoyed just as much. Just happy about that.

I think about our senior class this year, 19 guys, majority of them didn't start actually. I can't say enough about the job they've done throughout their entire time in our program, whether it's five years, four years, some cases one year. Each and every one of them really did a great job modeling the right behavior, how to do things on a daily basis. The guys at the top have to set the tempo.

I can't thank them enough publicly. Just did it in the locker room. They're going to be Hawkeyes for life certainly. We're going to be with them all the way through. It's not a group I'm worried about too much down the road because they're great young people. Can't say enough about them.

I'll throw it out for questions.

Q. So much talk has been about Bump, Coach Fry. What was the emotion seeing the Hokey Pokey?
KIRK FERENTZ: Pretty special. Paulsen was right there leading. Imagine that?

I didn't queue them up on that one. Somebody else may have. Robin actually asked me about that 10 days ago, if that was going to happen. That was one of Coach Fry's signatures, one of many actually. Nice tribute to him.

Q. The significance of 10 wins. Seems like that's a pretty big deal.
KIRK FERENTZ: I think it's the ninth time in program history it's happened. It's something we put out there for our team, being ranked is a big thing, too.

Biggest thing when it all came down to it, encourage our guys to compete, let's go out and compete, try to enjoy the night. Last time together there. Are no tomorrows on this one. It's all about the 2019 season.

Winning 10 games is hard. Winning any game is hard in college football. I can't say enough about our entire football team. Again, it starts with those seniors. They can really feel proud about the contributions they've made here over the last four or five years.

Q. (Question about Ihmir and attacking the edges.)
KIRK FERENTZ: Seemed like there were some things we saw during the course of our preparation that we thought we might have a chance to get the ball on the edge. He did a great job. Thought we had a really good game plan, executed it well.

Ihmir, really glad to see him play the way he did. He hasn't been full speed here the last couple weeks. Had a couple minor things going on. Came back the last week, couple days, practiced well, sure looked like he was full speed tonight. That was good to see.

Q. Coming into the week you were asked about the reputation of conferences in terms of team speed. How much of a role did your team speed on both sides of the ball play in this game?
KIRK FERENTZ: I don't know if we were better than them that way, but I think we were able to stay with them. I've been around the Big Ten for quite a while. There's been such a perception that gets a little distorted sometimes. It happens in sports all the time.

The conference stuff, things shift year to year, conference to conference. We had a really strong conference this year, I do know that. A lot of really good football teams. I think we're one of them. The way our guys competed week in, week out, just really proud of what they did.

To win 10 games in our conference, it's a conference where defenses tend to be pretty feisty and aggressive. To win 10 games the way we did, I'm proud of our guys overall.

Q. How big was the stop after the on-side kick?
KIRK FERENTZ: Really big. It's interesting, first half we took the ball, drove it, possessed it basically on every possession, came out with points. Had one long drive in that second half, as well.

But, yeah, you could feel momentum swinging. Definitely an opportunity for us. For us to come out and get a stop after we'd been struggling to get a stop. Really huge to flip it back. That could have gotten interesting real quick if they had taken the ball and gotten down there and scored.

Q. Talking about right after that stop, coming back with the physical drive. Seemed to be a gut punch to them.
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, that's how football goes. It's back and forth, who can capitalize on opportunities. Certainly wasn't great field position for us. Guys took it and responded, much the way they did in the first half. Did open up the lead a little bit. It was really huge.

That's what I mean by good team football. A lot of good responses. You're going to have ups and downs during the course of a game. How we respond, whether it's on special teams, the kick return, certainly came at a big moment. That drive you mentioned is really pivotal as well.

Q. Offensive coordinators are lightning rods for criticism.
KIRK FERENTZ: Really (laughter)?

Q. When you look at the first scripted series, 10 plays, five different personnel groupings, can you evaluate if this might have been Brian's best game as a play-caller?
KIRK FERENTZ: He's actually had a couple good ones. Ohio State comes to mind also.

It really gets down to, yeah, I think our coaching staff, our entire coaching staff, has really done a good job. I think that's been true all season long. They've done a great job of giving the players a good plan. Ultimately good, sound execution on the field. It's all about the players.

These guys have really been responsive, they practiced really well this week. We're not in the cozy confines of Iowa City. We're not able to set the times like we want. A couple bowl activities, which were great. The guys have been flexible, they handled it, a mature football team. I think the coaches on both sides of the ball gave these guys good plans, special teams on top of it. The guys executed it.

Really pleased with everything I saw tonight. We knew they were going to get some yards. We knew they were going to score. We wanted to limit that to field goals instead of touchdowns. A good night for us.

Q. Everybody talks about spreads in football. It still comes down to the line of scrimmage, doesn't it?
KIRK FERENTZ: It does. It sure helps.

Q. You were superior there.
KIRK FERENTZ: Again, I haven't seen the film to your point. I thought our guys played really well on both sides of the ball, up front. They present some challenges for you defensively with their blitzing, their attacking. They load that box up pretty heavy when we were in our run groups.

I thought our guys blocked well, protected well when we needed to. Missed one there at the end. That was more than the line. I thought our guys did a good job up front, got good pressure off the edges. Tough to get to the quarterback. I thought those guys worked hard. We were rotating everybody through. Really proud of their effort.

Q. A program that oftentimes doesn't get classified as very sexy. To get a sexy win with a named program, what does that do for the program?
KIRK FERENTZ: I mean, our goal is to be bowl champions. Had a really tough opponent to play, a ranked team, a team that's very athletic, very well-coached, very explosive.

We had a lot of respect for them in all three segments. There's no downside to winning a game, no downside to that. It's great. To get our 10th win, to get it against a ranked opponent, get it on the road in a great bowl game.

Let me take one moment and compliment everybody associated with this bowl. The Holiday Bowl was great in the '80s. It's better now. Just the hospitality for our players. San Diego is such a great venue. Everything about it is good. Nothing that happened this week that we'd be upset about, that's for sure.

Q. You talk about the senior class, how this was the ultimate team victory. Devonte Young's block, is that what you mean?
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, you think about that. Devonte is a great story in himself. You think about guys like the Paulsens. Nobody was more into the game like Levi and Landan our sidelines. Week in, week out, those guys are selfless. That's how they are. They're that way every day at practice, every game.

It's easier to be a starter. Easier to be the guy out there playing all the time. We have so many guys that contribute on special teams, whatever. They're just good team guys. They do it in the weight room, in meeting rooms, all those kinds of things. That's what it takes to have a good football team.

I can't say enough about them, whether it's Stanley who is a marquee guy or a guy like John (indiscernible) who played on special teams but not an awful lot. All these guys are going to do a great job in life because they just know how to do things. That's ultimately the goal of this whole thing.

Q. You mentioned the total team win. When did it sink in when it's coming together?
KIRK FERENTZ: We always emphasize that, part of being a team win. Some days one of the segments doesn't have a good day or night, somebody else has to carry the load.

Tonight all three complemented each other in all three phases of it. It comes down to our players. I think they have an appreciation for what it takes to be a good football team. They go out and work towards that end. Simply gets down to the preparation part, then you got to show up and compete, whether it's 5:00, 1:00, 11:00. Our guys were whatever it is now 13-13. I'm just really proud of this whole group. They've been a fun group to be with.

Thank you.

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