IOWA CITY, Ia. - - Kirk Ferentz didn't bring any blood to Tuesday's press conference even though some fans wanted it after Saturday's loss to Wisconsin. Among the Hawkeye coach's many good traits is the ability to admit he makes mistakes.
After deflecting responsibility from everyone on his team in his post-game press conference, Ferentz owned two of the most glaring missteps in the gut-wrenching, 31-30 loss to Wisconsin. And I say "deflecting" with the knowledge that the coach was probably more avoiding concrete answers until getting a chance to calm down and collect his thoughts.
Ferentz appeared more at ease on Tuesday than he was Saturday, even though he was a tad bit edgy as his team prepares for this weekend's showdown with No. 5 Michigan State. He knew a couple of key plays from the Wisconsin game would be revisited with the media. He handled them well.
Much has been made on our message boards and around water coolers about how the Hawkeyes handled their final offensive drive on Saturday. The clock ran out before Iowa could get off a game-winning field goal attempt. Frustrated fans were baffled at what they saw as poor clock management.
Iowa started its final march with 1:06 on the clock and three timeouts. Eventually, it showed up with a fourth-and-one on the MSU 42 with two timeouts remaining. Iowa used one of them before that play and called a quarterback sneak.
During that discussion, Iowa decided to use its final timeout after the sneak. Ferentz said Tuesday that it was the wrong choice. Given another chance, the coach would have spiked it to stop the clock and kept the timeout to get the field goal unit on the field after the following play.
"Well, in retrospect, I wish we had (spiked) it quite frankly," Ferentz said. "And we had an 11-second play in there, which is interesting, the one where (Allen) Reisner ran out of bounds, that took 11 seconds, part of our thought and for whatever, the sneak took one second, I'm not so sure that happened. We thought the clock was going to be down under ten when -- after the sneak. That was our thinking.
"Retrospect, I wish we had clocked it. I think we ended up with 12 on the clock after the sneak. I'm not sure how that happened. But anyway, that was part of the thinking. Retrospect, I wish I had done it over, could do over. I can't. So, live with it. Cost us one play."
It sounds like Ferentz was basing his decision to take the timeout after the sneak on the amount of time that ran off the clock on the Reisner play. He and offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe didn't think there would be time to run two plays after the sneak.
"You expect at least three seconds to go off of the clock," Iowa Quarterback Ricky Stanzi said. "One second went off of the clock. If three seconds had gone off of the clock, a timeout is necessary. But it didn't, so you can go ahead ands spike, That's kind of where the confusion set in.
"Those are things you can't really prepare for. You kind of have to hit them on the fly. I think Coach Ferentz took the blame for it. We all hold a share in that.
"It's a tough situation. The bullets are flying and you're trying to figure out exactly what's going on. There are so many different scenarios that could play out. It's something we can learn from."
The other glaring play that stood out to fans was Wisconsin pulling off a fake punt for a first down on its final drive, which turned out to be the game-winning march. Badgers Coach Bret Bielema said he saw something on film that gave them confidence it could be executed. If I had a dime for every Iowa fan on our message boards who said they saw it coming, I'd be rich.
"(Punt safe) was a possibility," Ferentz said. "We thought about it. We have two people rushing the punter. We have two other people assigned to watch, to make sure the ball is punted before they leave their responsibility, and that didn't happen.
"That's kind of like the Super Bowl, the line turning and running before the ball gets kicked on the kickoff. That's how you sneak an onside kick in there. It's pretty much a similar situation. Had we gone punt safe it, would not have been an issue. Put it down, we blew that one, that's my job."
Ferentz usually has owned up to this mistakes in his coaching career. After deferring at the start of a wind-blown 2003 game in East Lansing, he said he should have took the ball following a opening drive that saw Michigan State score a touchdown. The next week, former Iowa Coach Hayden Fry said he was going to tell his successor not to admit those things in the media.
"A lot of things, but you don't get that opportunity," Ferentz said of decisions from Saturday night that he would change. "So you live with it and hopefully you learn from it."
The two coaches have success in common. Their personalities are much different. Ferentz is more humble, which works for him.
Fry would not have handled Tuesday's line of questioning as well as Kirk. He probably would have admonished the media for not knowing the game as well as him. That worked for him.
I'm not saying one coach is right or wrong. They were here in different eras facing different challenges. Ferentz is refreshing in this age of coaches throwing others under the bus.
"One thing that was interesting Saturday, we didn't turn it over," Ferentz said. "But there were other things that balance that out. But that's winning and losing, basically, if you're competitive.
"Now the years we haven't been competitive, you know, it doesn't matter. And in '06, we just didn't play with an attitude that deserved winning. So, you know, if you don't do that -- that's the main goal out there, and we did that a couple times. So that's coaching there."