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January 4, 2010

Kirk Ferentz


JASON ALPERT: We welcome the coach of the Iowa Hawkeyes, Kirk Ferentz. Coach, one day left before the FedEx Orange Bowl. What is left for your team to do to prepare for the game?
COACH FERENTZ: Physically, not much. Certainly it's like a Friday for us at home. Basically, right now it's some mental gymnastics and hopefully get our focus ready and be ready to play the ballgame.

Q. You made reference earlier this week about just how different this feels than the last time you guys were at the Orange Bowl. What do you attribute that to? Is it because you've been to so many bowls since then or is it just a different mindset from the start when you guys came down here?
COACH FERENTZ: The reference I was making is where we were as a program back after the 2002 season. Certainly it was a great year. Again, I think you just go back the first two years we were 2-18 our first 20 Bowl games. I read that somewhere a time or two in the papers.
So, you know, going to a bowl game, our first Bowl game in '01 was a real milestone. It was a great accomplishment. To win that game was a real achievement.
Then 2002 really unfolded in a great way. And we weren't quite used to that altitude. Didn't handle it very well. That's my responsibility. You know, I think we've grown since that point. We've had some good seasons. We've, I think learned how to handle the month of December a little bit better. You know, we've been at different altitudes, but I think we've probably handled the Decembers a little bit better since that time. That's football. That's life. Hopefully, you learn from your experiences.

Q. Can you catch me up on how Stanzi has looked since he's been cleared to come back and how confident you are about him going into this game?
COACH FERENTZ: Sure. The first couple of workouts he was tentative like you'd expect. He was back trying to get his bearings straight a little bit. But the last couple of weeks he's looked absolutely fine.
We really had two separate periods of training, if you will. And once we got through our finals week, things became a little bit more intensive and what have you. Since that period he's been fine.
He's a little sore after workouts. But, you know, he ices it up and we don't anticipate any problems with him at all this week.

Q. Outside of Cody Hundertmark, are there any other position switches you made in December?
COACH FERENTZ: Who said anything about Cody Hundertmark? Oh, just doing your homework. That's the only one right now I can think of at this point. We fooled around with that at the beginning of the month. Just felt like it might benefit him. And based on however many practices we've had, I think it's going to be a beneficial thing for both Cody and the football team.
The biggest challenge is for a defensive guy to learn how to pass buckle, but he really looks like he has a natural knack. So we're excited to see what he can do this spring.

Q. I apologize because I know you've been over this probably time and again?
COACH FERENTZ: I'm used to it, go ahead. I think we've been over everything this week, but we'll do it one more time.

Q. That's what I wanted to ask you about, the decision to come here so early. I know that was different than the last time. If you could please just touch on that again, and how do you think your team benefited from the week you spent here?
COACH FERENTZ: I can't remember exactly how many days we were here last time. But it's something that we've kind of grown into a routine where we like to be at the Bowl site eight or nine days prior to. Part of that is our weather, just also getting used to the environment wherever we may be. We've been in several different towns.
As you might imagine, we have to practice indoors when we're up in Iowa in December. Rare exception was 2002 ironically. I remember we were outdoors practicing in 60 degree weather. That's probably the last time that's ever happened in December.
But we like to get out in the elements a little bit. The first practice we had here was the first time we had actually felt on the field. There was a pretty strong breeze that first day. So that was an adjustment for our kickers and our throwers. I think that's a big part of it.
There's nothing magical about it, what have you. It's a chance to get outdoors, get used to the elements and be back on natural grass, some of those types of things. Also get comfortable with where we're at. So when the game week rolls in, we've got our feet on the ground a little bit better.

Q. Is your team so healthy now that this is the team you really would like to have?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, I think for the most part probably my guess would be as healthy as we have been going into any game, including our first one. Outside of the guys that have had surgeries along the way, Jewel Hampton, Paul Chaney, some players like that. We basically have everybody back.
Dace Richardson, I wouldn't say is 100%. But he's been practicing full speed this past week. He's been able to go on. And his conditioning level is probably not where it needs to be, but we'll play him. I don't think he'll play every snap, but he'll play in the ballgame. Outside of that, we're about as healthy as you could ask for. So we're happy about that.

Q. How much do you game plan for Derrick Morgan? And how different is he than some of the other ends like Brandon Graham or people you've faced all year?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, he's like graham. I mean, we've played a lot of good ends here, the last two years. Lot of good defensive ends. We have a lot of them in our conference, Graham, Penn State's guys were good. You can go right down the list. Last year a lot of good ones, including Penn State's guys. To me he's right there in that category. Maben last year was a marquis player, Graham this year.
Certainly Morgan's an excellent football player. You know, all the accolades that he's received, he's earned. He didn't just stumble into them. All that being said, we're not a big team for, you know, putting four guys on one guy that type of thing.
We're going to try to play our game. And it's up to our guys to rise to the occasion, rise to the challenge. It's going to be a heck of a challenge. Because it's a little like playing their offense, it's every play, every play, every play. They put the pressure on you offensively and Morgan does the same thing. He can beat you at any time.
So if you let your guard down, if you're sloppy with your play, he's going to exploit that. Chances are he'll turn it into a big play because he has that ability. So it's going to be a great challenge for us.

Q. With as high as your team got this year, competing for the Big Ten all year, what is the general feeling going into the Big Ten as an at large team?
COACH FERENTZ: I'm sorry. What?

Q. You guys did so well, undefeated all season. What is the general feel this week?
COACH FERENTZ: First of all, we're playing an ACC Champion. As I've said during the week, teams don't win championships by accident. That just takes a great effort by everybody, starting with the coaching staff who has done a great job.
Coach Johnson and his staff in two years time to just achieve at such a high level at Georgia Tech. The credit goes to the players. They're the ones who execute the plan and they do it in a great, great way. They've done it in critical situations, including in a championship game.
You know, we came up short for our league title. We were after it and came up a little short. But, still, you don't stumble your way into a game like this. Our team really played well during the year. We played well in defeat. We lost two ballgames by ten points. Over the last two years we haven't lost by a wide margin. We've been competitive in every game we've been in.
We've got a good football team. We come in here confident but very, very respectful, very respectful. We know we've got a great challenge on our hands. We know we were the underdogs and there is a reason for that.
So I think we realize we have to play our best football. If you're playing in January, you're playing in a BCS game. That's the way it's going to be. So that's a challenge that's out there for our ballclub.
It's much like it's been during the year. We've had a lot of tough ballgames on the road. Couple have been at night on top of that, too. So I guess this is a familiar environment for us. So just anxious to see how we handle it.
See how we handle the test.

Q. What does an Orange Bowl appearance do for the status of the University of Iowa and what would an Orange Bowl win do for your program?
COACH FERENTZ: I tell you, a win anywhere is good. I've learned that. And a loss anywhere is painful. It's about as simple as that. Doesn't matter if you're in third grade or college. It just kind of boils down to that a lot of time.
All the things that have happened this had year have been good for our school, I think, and our program and our state. And certainly to be in an environment like this, first of all, I'll just take a minute to plug the Orange Bowl people, everybody involved with the committee. You know, this has been such a great experience for our team. We've had nothing but great Bowl experiences. I can't imagine we've ever had a better one than this. Hopefully, we can finish the trip out here in a good fashion.
You know, it's all been good. We're the only game on TV tomorrow night. I know FOX will do a tremendous job covering the game. But it's our job to show up and play, too, and that's what we've got to do. But, you know, to me it's like this in everything you do. It's all about the effort you put in. It's how we perform.
You know, losing is part of football. If you're a coach or a player, you better learn that's part of the deal. The thing that was disappointing the last time we were here is the way we played was hardly representative of the kind of football team we had had. That's hard to live with, you know.
But everybody playing in a Bowl game is good. So half the teams are going to win, half are going to lose. Our hopes are that we go out and play in a representative way of the way we've played this season. That's what I'm hopeful for.

Q. One of your biggest concerns when this match-up was announced, you guys were getting ready is you didn't have any idea how you were going to simulate Georgia Tech's offense. Today, a day before game day, are you happy with the way the scout team was able to put together an attack?
COACH FERENTZ: Our scouts did a great job. In fact, norm came up and made that comment yesterday. Boy, those kids did a great job all Bowl preparation. So we've seen it on tape. We've seen it on the field. On tape, we're seeing it at game speed. On the field, we can't. There is absolutely no way. We could take our starting offense, it wouldn't be close. We just don't have that kind of personnel. We certainly don't have -- nobody can be Nesbitt. We don't have a Nesbitt on on our team. We don't have a Dwyer, and we certainly don't have a Thomas.
But the guys up front do a great job with their execution. It's a totally different kind of attack than we're used to. All that being said, we've looked at it, we've seen it, we've tried to simulate it, but it's not where we're going to see it tomorrow night.
That's going to be an interesting transition for us. We'll see how we handle it. Again, the thing about them is they put pressure on you at every position, every play. That is really the challenge. It takes a great not only deal of good fundamental play, but a lot of mental concentration and focus of the that's how it should be. That's football. That's what the game's all about.

Q. Last year the Big Ten won one Bowl game. Now they're 3-3.
COACH FERENTZ: Oh, Bob, don't tell me that. Is this a tiebreaker? Geez.

Q. Yeah, you're the tiebreaker.
COACH FERENTZ: Thanks for putting the pressure on us. I'll share that with the team. I'll tell them the commissioner called (laughing).

Q. Does he have your number?
COACH FERENTZ: I hope not (laughing). No, the only thing I'll say on that is - I said this back it in August or whatever our media day was. I guess it was August up in Chicago - there's been a lot of Big Ten bashing going on. I think perception tends to get exaggerated a little bit.
I'll say two examples. Last year in the Bowl season, Texas-Ohio State, that was a great football game. Either team could have won. Two very good teams. Same thing with Northwestern and Missouri.
You know, so I think people tend to generalize and stretch things. Imagine that happening? You know, so this year we've played a little bit better it looks like so far. The only thing I would point out is the other theory is, Geez, we have too long of a layoff between games, you know, November to January.
Didn't seem to affect Penn State or -- I'm blanking out here -- Penn State and Ohio State the other day. They both came out victorious. Maybe if we played in December, maybe they would have won by seven more points apiece. I don't know. I'm not that smart.
I think a lot of the stuff, we all have a month to sit around and wait and everybody has to think of theorys and all that jazz. It gets down to two teams playing, that's how I look at it.

Q. Knowing that Georgia Tech likes to go for it on fourth and just about anything, how does that affect your game planning and play calling?
COACH FERENTZ: Well, your game planning, you know, it's very obvious. When the ball's on the wrong half of the field, you normally run your punt return team out or you go punt safe. You know, pretty much with certainty this week is going to be a little different.
Look at their fourth down attempts in the statistics column, and I think they're double plus what the opponents have run. So it just jumps right out at you. It's part of what they do. It's how they're built and what they do. So we have to be prepared to play fourth down defense.
Then flipping it around, they've converted a lot of those fourth downs, just like they've made a lot of big plays. The first thing that jumped out to our offensive staff was the amount of plays, typical amount of plays, the opponents have against Georgia Tech. And it's usually in the 50's, and that's a low number. So really what that tells you right off the bat is that you better maximize every possession you get, because you may not get too many of them during the course of the game.
The other thing that jumped out at us was it seems like whenever an opponent scores, the next time the film comes o there is a six or eight-minute gap, and Georgia Tech's responded to that. They've been very, very good at responding to opponent's scores. That's why they're the conference champs. They've done a great job all season long.

Q. It wasn't too long ago that people were questioning whether Paul could take this offense to the highest level of college football and be successful. What do you think, not only the last two years at tech but the work he did at Navy says about the option, and also what kind of football coach he is?
COACH FERENTZ: You know, I wasn't one of those people. And I don't pretend to know Paul well. But we were first on the field back in '87 together. I was an assistant at Iowa, and he had just gone to Hawaii. And I distinctly remember Bill Brashier, our defensive coordinator and the rest of the staff talking about the challenge that that was going to present. They did a lot of work on it. They were extremely concerned about it, and Hawaii beat us that day, actually, 27-24, something like that.
But anyway, they did a great job. So that was my first glimpse at his work. Learned about the hand bone. I think it was a hand bone at that point. I think I'm correct in saying that. Then you fast forward when he went to -- I'm not going to sit here and say I followed Georgia Southern. When I was at Maine, we were hoping to play anybody in a playoff. I don't want to kid. I would have been thrilled to play them, but we weren't that good.
You know, when he went to Naval Academy it was very, very clear the kind of coach that he is. And I would counter and say, you know, if you can win at Naval Academy, there are some real challenges to coaching at the service academies. The people that have coached well at service academies can coach. That's, to me, what I would say.
You look at Air Force, you look at Jim Young going back to the '80s at West Point. Some of the greatest coaching is done there and some of the greatest kids in the world are playing there. But they have their challenges.
So what he did there I thought was a brilliant hire at Georgia Tech. You had an excellent football coach at Georgia Tech by the way. Chan Gailey is one of the great coaches in college football. But what a phenomenal job. And he's won, you know, they've won 20 games in two years, so that says it all right there. That's amazing.
When a new staff can come in, put a new system in and, you know, have the kind of success they've had, that's absolutely phenomenal. Happy new year to you. Thank you.

End of FastScripts

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