Ferentz: Iowa-ISU Important to Everyone

Kirk Ferentz addressed the Iowa media on Tuesday as his Hawkeyes begin their preparation for their annual showdown with Iowa State. Ferentz talked about a number of topics, including the game's importance, evaluations of Iowa State players and a lot more.

Captains this week will be Jovon Johnson, Mike Follett, Ed Hinkel and Brian Ferentz.

Injury wise, I am pleased to say that we are in pretty good shape, I think. The three guys that we are waiting on are Marques Simmons, Matt Melloy and Dave Walker. They continue to progress. They are going to work today; I don't know how much or to what extent, but at least we are going in the right direction.

And then the game Saturday, it was a good start. I think there were a lot of positives there. Like you would expect for any first game, we have a lot of work to do.

We have a great challenge this week. It will be our first road game, and if you look at our road schedule this year, it will be extremely challenging. Part of the reason it is so challenging is the caliber of the opponents that we play on the road this year. Iowa State fits in that rank.

I think if you look at their team, last year when we played it was hard fought. I think it is clear that both teams really improved after that game and went on to be involved in conference titles and it was a great season for both teams. I put them in the same class as Ohio State, a team that we played early and kept climbing the ladder. They both return a bunch of starters. They are very experienced and improved sine lace September and we will have to try to make up for our graduation and be ready for the ball game and then you have the intrastate rival. It's a great thing for all involved. I think everyone looks forward to it and we are anxious to start our work today.

Q: Did you see anything on tape that we did not talk about on Saturday?

Kirk Ferentz: It was tough to evaluate. There are a lot of little things that we will have to do better. Just give n the circumstance Sat with a depleted roster and how the game turned in the second quarter. We don't know how we will play in the fourth quarter, but this week's game will be a four quarter ball game. There are a lot of little things to clean up right now.

Q: Will Jovon get some punt returns?

Ferentz: He is on the depth chart. Ed did it primarily, but we have confidence in Jovon and Clinton, too. We have not had much discussion. But he will be around knocking on the door, I am sure.

Q: What is the process that you go through in determining how much time Drew Tate gets in a game like last Saturday?

Ferentz: You don't know going in what will happen. The way things went in the second quarter, you react to the circumstances. The bottom line is that Drew had a chance to relax a little bit, but more important Jason got in and got the work. That is a win-win situation

Q: Brian Ferentz and Nick Leaders will have a great match up on Saturday. How does one control the other?

Ferentz: I am not big on individual match ups. If it were boxing, golf or tennis…Football is about how teams react and in this case, units. When you look at their defensive line, they are veteran. They have three guys that played very well a year ago. You look at Nick Leaders, it seems like he has started every game since he has been there. You throw in Jason Berryman, he is excellent as well. That group is like what we had last year on the line. We are not as experienced on the offensive line, but it comes down to how one group plays against the other.

Q: Talk about your relationship with Coach McCarney and how it plays into this game.

Ferentz: I think we are still friends, but we have not talked in a while. We have both been busy. We all follow each other's progress. We are in a unique situation now with the 80's where a lot of us are involved in college football. Ours is unique like Bill and Dan. We are not only competing against each other, but being in the same state. We see each other at different functions throughout the year, and it's fun to catch up there. But as far as us going out to dinner together, it is probably not possible given the logistics of the whole thing. But we enjoy each other's company.

Q: Did you see their game last week?

Ferentz: I have seen it on tape.

Q: Are you as good as he (McCarney) said you are?

Ferentz: Our team? I didn't catch his exact words. I think right now that we are in a place where, the picture will be clearer in October. I am not sure how much evaluation we got done Saturday. We will know more in October and know a lot more in November. A lot of things can change. Last year, both teams improved dramatically after our game last year and it was a very even game last year. The big difference is that they have everyone back and we don't.

Q: Talk about Stevie Hicks and the type of runner he is.

Ferentz: He is a strong, physical guy, very aggressive and tough. We better be ready. I think he is a top caliber running back . We tried to recruit him hard a few years ago. We wouldn't mind having him. Is he thinking about leaving? We would love to have him.

Q: There was a belief at one time that both in state teams could not be good at the same time. Was that false, or has something changed?

Ferentz: I don't know how to address that. I have read about it, and its being proven no and for several years that both can do fine and has done fine. I would add UNI to that; they have done well on the national level. Our division three programs here are outstanding. Football here is excellent and there are a lot of good football players in all divisions. It all goes back to the roots of the players, the coaching they get in high schools. Big schools, small schools.

Q: Is there any difference with this year's games and both teams coming in with high expectations?

Ferentz: I don't know. 2002, we felt like we had a pretty good team and some good ones since then, and they have had good teams five years running. I don't think so. I think it has made it a better game, ABC thinks its better I guess.

Q: Who will be the punter Saturday?

Ferentz: Probably the same guy you saw last Saturday. We will continue on with the rotation unless one guy falls asleep this week. But its even in our minds right now.

Q: This game is big for the fans, but what about the players and the coaching staff?

Ferentz: That is what makes it unique. There are more personal connections. We get that to some degree with some other Midwestern schools in our league and I ma sure they do, too. But there are a heck of a lot more ties here. The players and coaches are no different than the fans. There are more personal connections and added interest.

Q: What will be your rotation at running back this week?

Ferentz: I don't know. I really don't. We are comfortable with all three that you saw, or all four rather in there. Sam did extremely well. W e have four that we feel that we can trust and count on tot produce, and that story is still unraveling to. Neither Marcus nor Albert got enough work to say OK we have this one pegged. Shonn was able to work more, and that was important because its so new to him. Like a lot of your young guys, it was great to get the experience. Friday night it dawned on me at the hotel with how many new faces we had. This guy or that guy has not gone through this before.

Q: What is Antwan Allen's status at this point?

Ferentz: We are still on that topic of ‘I am not sure'. I am not sure. That is three straight…punter and running back and Antwan, three straight where I am not sure. I am not sure of a helluva lot right now, other than the game is scheduled at 2:30.

Q: What is hold up with Antwan's deal?

Ferentz: I am not sure. Right now we are working through some things. I am not trying to be a comic. I wish I could…we took some positive steps towards resolution. I'm not saying it's a positive topic, and there are more steps to go. I don't know when it will all be brought together.

Q: Do you tell players to put the hype away and treat it as just another game?

Ferentz: That is easier said than done. We are going to play in a lot of big games this year, that is sure to say. This counts in that category. Anytime you play in big games when there is more attention from the outside, outside of our day to day activities, you have to develop an ability to keep an eye on what is going on. That is easier said than done. We did not deal with it too well in Miami a few years back as well as other instances. We will have to go through it other weeks this year, too. Now is as good a time as any to try to see how we can handle it.

Q: What are some of the things that make this game more difficult to do that?

Ferentz: There will be a lot of talk. I am not on campus. I go to the talk show once a week, and that is my exposure to the outside if you will. Our players, they are out there all the time on campus, they have class mates talking to them and I am sure people on the street if they recognize them, its ‘good luck' or ‘what do you think'. It's easy to get distracted if you are not careful.

Q: Do you have a strategy there for them to do that?

Ferentz: It's pretty simple. I am glad that everyone is interested, but we have a game to play and get ready for. Players have to develop an ability to…its like anything in life, this is when I will prepare to study and do academics, this is when I relax, that type of thing. Hopefully no one is accepting bouquets for Saturday's victory. You have to look forward.

Q: Coach Mac said after game that his team needed to be most improved in country to compete with Iowa. Did you see that?

Ferentz: I just see a team that played well last year and basically has everyone back and they are experienced where you need it. I doubt they are putting a lot of stock in our first game and we are not either. That is fair to say. That is not a government secret. First games are first games and I think we will see two good football teams on Saturday.

Q: Are teams more dangerous the next game when they enter a contest as a prohibitive favorite and you stumble?

Ferentz: I don't know. I am sure they are going to try to use the improvement thing. We need to improve, too. It's typical first game to second game. Those old axioms are pretty true. We can't get lulled to sleep, and there are things we need to work on. We are hardly ready to take on the world.

Q: Did you have any post traumatic stress syndrome after Clinton Solomon's first catch when he looked hurt?

Ferentz: I didn't flash back, but anytime a player gets injured, your hearts goes in your throat a little bit. You watch and see and not overreact. When it looks like something significant, it isn't and sometimes the ones that don't seem that bad, then a day or two later. We had one like that last week with Ettore, as we thought he was out of the woods. You try not to get too worried and not worry until you have to.

Q: Talk about Kenny Iwebema's performance.

Ferentz: He got off to a good start. I think that all of our young guys got their feet wet and did some good things. They were all hustling, but we have to play better and improve. But they played hard.

Q: What about the condition of the field; is that a concern?

Ferentz: We would like it to be better. But I don't know what we can do about it now, but I am not going to worry about that.

Q: Will your team practice with piped in noise this week?

Ferentz: No. I don't believe in that. We practiced a week ago in Kinnick or two weeks ago and it was loud, but that just makes everyone mad when you do that stuff. It has some benefit, but I am not sure how much.

Q: Did you expect to play five freshmen?

Ferentz: I think the big thing was Ettore Ewen swung it when we knew he would be done for the year, and that opened the door a bit for Ryan Bain and Alex Kanellis. Dace Richardson was more so, he had missed eight days right after 8/20 and we really wanted to watch him last week. We thought we would play him, but we were not sure. We wanted to see if he would hit a wall, and he has not done that yet. This is a new week now and it's a long season. We still have three-plus months of practice, but we felt these guys could improve and get comfortable. We are not going to waste a year with any of them. We ware going to get them involved.

Q: Both teams return proven starters at quarterback.

Ferentz: It's fair to say at least for Drew that we were not setting the world on fire, and we witnessed the week after. I am sure they feel the same way. Bret has gained great experienced and has played extremely well for them. A year later, they have played well in big games and have done well for their teams, so that is a big difference.

Q: What differences have you see in Meyer?

Ferentz: I think confidence, decisiveness and all those things that are important. Both teams believe in their two quarterbacks because they both have done good things through the season and in post season.

Q: Fans get swept up in the rivalry, smack talk and such. Does any of that get annoying to you?

Ferentz: Historically I have seen some things that were not the best. ‘81 was not a great memory, not only in terms of how the game came out, but we went through a period where there was some inappropriate behavior, more so by people on the outside. My sense is that things have calmed down a bit. I only go by what I hear. You hope it would be that way and that everyone would pull for their teams in a real appropriate fashion. This is family entertainment. I think that is where it has been recently. The fact that this series is alive again is great for football in our state and I hope it never ends.

Q: Does it take the out of state kids a year or two to catch up on the significance of this game?

Ferentz: Until you play in the game first hand, you don't truly appreciate the rivalry. They will hear about it, but until you don something, you don't appreciate it 100 percent.

Q: Was Marcus Schnoor pressing too hard on Saturday?

Ferentz: I think he will be fine. All we saw was a guy that was rusty and anxious and who wants to do well like everyone else. He got ahead of himself, but he will be fine.

Q: Two-thirds of the nation will be able to see this game. Does that make it more intense and can it help recruiting?

Ferentz: I think every time you are on a broadcast like ANB or ESPN, it is a positive. Players in the NFL are the same way; they love those Monday night games. When you have that type of attention it signifies that people outside feel it's a big game too. That is a positive and it gives the state of Iowa to showcase things a bit, which is nice. I don't see any downside to this other than some of the silly things that ABC wants to do.

Q: What silly things?

Ferentz: Going in your locker room before the game, or having me mic'ed on Thursday or the pre game. That is silly. I am not up for that.

Q: What do you make of the notion that this is the state's Super Bowl?

Ferentz: This state is unique. It does not happen in Pennsylvania, but it used to. Ohio doesn't have it. Michigan has it in conference. Oklahoma is the same conference, Nebraska can't have one, Missouri, Minnesota and you go down the list. We are unique where there are two different conferences and two pretty good teams. It's exciting and players like to play in big games.

Q: They had struggles in the kicking game last year. Do you do things to add to that pressure?

Ferentz: To me, that boiled down more to personnel. When you are playing young players, you will go through that. Getting Tony Yelk back solidifies that aspect. We know first hand how important it is to have a specialist come through. They have to be pleased to know that Tony is back. How do you plan for what he has been through? We tried to recruit him. You can't plan for that. It does not mean that the guys who had some difficulty won't become good players. They played well on special teams the last several years, but if you can't kick it through, it's something people fixate on.

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