On The Side: Kirk Ferentz Quotebook

The latest edition of a standard Tuesday feature that we call: On the Side. After fielding questions in an open forum (that transcript directly below), Kirk Ferentz meets with reporters on the podium side. Questions get deeper and the coach gives out some of his best information. This week, he discusses the showdown with ISU; how he felt after losing last year, defending the notion that he lacks emotion, what the rivalry means to him, comparisons to McCarney and Fry, plus much more.

Q: How much of last year's (Iowa State) comeback was Fred (Russell) being on the bench (with an injured shoulder)?

KF: We'll never know. I won't know. And I don't think anybody can say. Whoever is in the game has got to play. That's just how it goes. Fred could get the flu this week. We're not going to pack it in if that happens. Whoever is in has to play and get the job done. It wasn't just one guy being there. We just got outplayed in all three segments, quite frankly. We dropped the ball. But they had a lot to do with that. They outplayed us.

Q: Was there a point where you kind of wanted to get him back in there?

KF: We had no options. He was out of the game. It's like I'm not worried about Bob Sanders being there this week because it isn't going to happen. Once a guy is out, he's out. And we go with the guys that are there. That's why guys practice. That's how Fred got his opportunity. That's the mentality that guys have to have.

Q: Did you go home that night wishing that you had done anything differently?

KF: (Laughs) Yeah. Not go to the game. (Laughter) Going home at halftime. I mean, yeah, anytime you lose you second guess everything that you did. You go through everything possible. I've heard the theory about night games, but I tell you, we were ready to play at kickoff. It was just one of those things. The way that I look at it, and I said this many times last year, I think what we saw was our team growing up. We failed miserably. We flatly got beat in the second half. Fortunately, we didn't wallow around. We came back and learned from it. That's the way it goes. It was unfortunate.

Q: Will the second half be a big topic this week?

KF: No. I'm not big on that. You know, the credit goes to them. That's the way it goes. What we need to focus on is playing the best that we can this week. That's really where our focus needs to be.

Q: Of the five or six plays in the second half...

KF: Yeah, I've got more than that, but go ahead (laughs)...

...OK, what was the most significant (play) in turning the game around?

KF: I just think that they all played a major role, even the fumble on our sideline (by Ed Hinkel). We completed a pass that would have given us a first down. I mean every one of them just contributed. You name it. The throw (Seneca Wallace) made near our locker room there...I mean, holy smokes. But that's what happens. They went out and grabbed it. The credit goes to them. We couldn't do anything about it.

Q: How does ISU use (DT Jordan) Carstens? Do they try to find a weak spot in the line?

KF: No. He plays in their scheme. He's got a certain position he plays. He's an excellent football player. It's another great story. We had three of them last year. You look at (Lane) Danielsen and Carstens, they're both walk-ons. I don't know either of them personally, but everything I read it just sounds like they're first class young people and excellent football players. Both of them are high motor, not only talented guys, but guys with great attitudes.

Q: Do you suspect that ISU might throw (Carstens) over Brian (Ferentz) this year?

KF: That's really not his position. I think it would screw them up. You look at it during the four years that I've been here, they've played their scheme. We've played ours. And they've worked out better than us. They've done a better job. I can't imagine that they're going to make any wholesale changes. I just couldn't see that. I'd be very surprised.

Q: What would you call Carstens?

KF: I'd call him a three-point (stance) or a defensive tackle. Nick Leaders is more of a nose tackle type guy.

Q: Do you guys do anything different?

KF: No. It's the same routine.

Q: Do you expect that ISU will attack the edge again this year?

KF: I think they'll be very similar to what they've been. I don't know enough about the other quarterbacks. But I've got to think that the one nice thing about Flynn is that he gives them the ability to stay pretty much to where they've been. They don't have to really revamp their playbook. That's just my perspective on it. I'm not trying to speak for them, but that's how we see it.

Q: With 14 years of this game, what can you point to as the single most important part of winning the game? Is it quarterback play? Is it won at the line of scrimmage?

KF: I think they're all important. Typically, and I'm speaking more about the last four games, you've got to play the full 60 minutes. The team that plays the best for the entire game, and now that this series is what it ought to be, I think that's really the key. It's about preparation and playing the full 60 minutes.

Q: In a lot of ways you're like Coach Fry, a traditionalist and things like that. But the week of the Iowa State game, in talking to his assistant coaches, I mean Coach Fry was "You don't want to be the first to lose to Iowa State."...

KF: We've already taken care of that (laughter).

Q: You may not be the opposite, but you appear to be the opposite.

KF: Believe me, this game is important. Trust me it's important because I live here too. But I think that every game is important.

Q: Is this your NFL background coming in?

KF: I don't know. I'll give you a great example. Wisconsin last year was 2-6 in the (Big Ten) and they played in the Alamo Bowl, which is a heck of a bowl to go to. That's an illustration of how important nonleague games are. That's what this is to me. Now the fact that they live here and we live here, yeah, heck yeah, common sense would tell you that your neighbor likes you better if you win and all of that stuff. But we want to win them all.

Q: I didn't mean to say that you don't. I think the fans wonder (KF laughs loud) about your low-key attitude, perceived, compared to Hayden.

KF: Yeah. I know. They think I'm low key. I never yell at my players. I'm a no-personality guy. Seriously, the perception four years ago was that "This guy is a monotone. He's Dr. Monotone. He has no emotion." Those that know me know that I treat everything pretty significantly. I thought Buffalo was extremely important too. I don't mean to make a comparison because there is no comparison. But you know something, you want to be embarrassed, lose to Buffalo.

Q: I think what Randy (Peterson) might be getting at is that people line you up with Coach Mac...

KF: We're two different people...

Q: ...He brings the CyHawk Trophy out to practice.

KF: ...I can't do that (laughter). We brought the pig (Floyd of Rosedale) out. But you know, we made a big deal about that and we got our butts kicked. So, you guys know me.

Q: Do you remember back when (ISU Coach) Jim Walden used to put the whole season in (this game)?

KF: I don't know if they did or not. He might have said that about the early '80s. I know they played one heck of a game against us in '81. The thing that I try to give our guys is that every game is important. And I think it is just for the reason that I told you before (with Wisconsin in '02). The thing is in a game like this the environment is going to be different. (The players) need to understand that. And I think you're going to see both teams playing at a very high level. You can almost bet on that annually. Any time you play an intrastate rivalry, if both teams aren't playing their best football, there's something wrong with those teams. Those things you can bank on. The crowd is going to be great no matter what venue it is. After that, the best team wins.

Q: Has there been a common thread through the last (four) losses or has it been Iowa State just finding different ways to win?

KF: I've always told our guys that really you always get what you deserve. We've deserved to lose. We've been outplayed. You might be able to argue that they had a better football team in '99 and '00. I think you could argue that and not get laughed off of the face of the map. But I would say that the last two years that you could argue that the teams have been pretty evenly matched. Yet, they've won them both. So, the credit goes to them. They've outplayed us in four straight. Those are the four that I've been around. The bottom line in my mind is that they've outplayed us.

Q: How do contain (WRs Jack) Whitver and Danielsen?

KF: I don't know. That's a great question. To me, they're the strength of their offensive football team. And they're veteran players. They're very good football players. They've got good running backs. They've got some returning linemen that are good. But the strength of their team offensively is their veteran core of receivers and the running backs. It's a concern.

Q: Does that make you think twice about sending the linebackers?

KF: Shoot. We're not a big pressure team anyway. We just try to cover the best that we can. It's going to be a challenge.

Q: Did you recruit (Austin) Flynn at all?

KF: No. We did not. That was the year that we took Jason Manson.

Q: Is there a way to balance the emotion between not getting too high and being high enough?

KF: I hope so because it's still about performing and execution. That's one of the tricks all season long. Guys have to be revved up and ready to go. If they're not, they shouldn't be playing. Yet, they still need to go out and execute their job too. That's why practice is so important and camp, those types of things. If you overswing on a baseball or squeeze a golf club because you're trying so hard, all of a sudden everything breaks loose. It's not a good deal.

Q: Are there warning signs in a week like this where you're preparing for an instate rival?

KF: I don't think either side is going to have problems with concentration or motivation. I think both teams will be snapped in and ready to go that way. Then hopefully it's just a matter of guys understanding that "Hey, this is what you've got to do to win" and going out and doing it. It's easier said than done, certainly.

Q: Do you feel like you guys have equaled their emotion the last few years? It seemed like they had an edge in last year's second half.

KF: You look at it, to me, I thought we played a heck of game in the first half. I thought we looked ready to go. Then, they played a heck of a game in the second half. They won the important half. That's how I look at it.

Q: So, the key is to sustain it?

KF: I think so. You've got to play the whole game. In a series like this, you've got to play the whole game or you're not going to win.

Q: Are you aware of how much media attention that you and ISU receive?

KF: I was aware of it in '99. I don't think we got a lot then. It was probably better that way (laughter). Our Midwest recruiting was not the best at that point either, for obvious reasons. I don't blame anybody in the media because you've got to report what's going on. The facts were that we didn't have a very productive team.

Q: Do you think that your young guys that were here last year took something out of last year's game?

KF: You always hope that everybody learns from every situation that comes up during the course of a season, whether they're on the sidelines watching or during the game. The whole thing again is that this a new team for us just like they've got a new team. The personality of every team is different. We've gone through the preseason stage. We've gone through two games. With each and every week, you learn more about your team. A lot of questions will start getting answered here in the next couple of weeks. We've already answered a few of them. So far, so good. But we have along ride to go yet.

Q: Iowa State used a lot of run blitz in the second half last year. Are you guys prepared for more of that?

KF: You know, I don't think that it was inordinately different than it was in the first half. It was more effective.

Q: What makes something like that work one time and not the other?

KF: I wish that I could answer that. I wish I knew. Hopefully we can find that answer by this week because we're going to see the same stuff. I don't see them changing what they're doing, and I don't see us changing what we're doing.

Q: Do you concentrate more on this year's Iowa State tapes or from your past games with them?

KF: You try to, but those games (this year) really don't help us. The Buffalo tape wouldn't help them a lot. The Miami tape is a good tape for them. Ohio University, from the offense side of the ball, they're so different than what we are. So, you can throw that one in the garbage. UNI is a good tape for us. You're trying to find out more about their personnel. Schematically there's a lot of carryover from what we've seen in the past. I'm sure they're seeing the same thing from us.

Q: In a perfect world, would you rather be coming off the Miami game?

KF: I've never even given it any thought. I don't give that stuff much thought.

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