KIRK'S OPENING STATEMENT:
"It's obviously a tough loss. All losses are tough. This one's no different. I thought our guys really competed hard today, laid it out there. Ohio State did the same thing. We knew they'd be ready to play. They've certainly done a great job over the last 21 ballgames, and today was no exception. It was a great defensive battle out there, kind of what we anticipated coming into the ballgame. I don't think either defense disappointed anybody from that standpoint. They played an excellent game, and I thought our guys played an excellent game.
"Today, the story of the game is that we didn't get the job done on special teams. That's a tough one to live with, but we've got some thing to clean up, come back and do a good job."
Can you talk about the punt block?
"It was reminiscent of 2001, when we had some problems. We felt it cost us a couple of ballgames. I'm not going to say that it cost us the ballgame today, but our special teams weren't good. When you let a guy come up the middle, boy that's a bad thing. And we did it today."
Did you think that those problems were behind you?
"You never take anything for granted. I thought we were more sound and more solid and we have been pretty consistent in the punt protection last year and this year. We just dropped our guard a little bit and their guy made a great play. We're going to have to come back and get that cleaned up."
Did the low punt hurt you on Jenkins' punt return?
"It really did. We didn't punt the ball extremely well today. There's no question about that. We did nothing to change field position, to help ourselves in field position in special teams. Then, obviously, there's a block and a touchdown. Those two things…if you can experience one of them in a game and get away with it, you're fortunate. But to experience two, that's going to make it really tough, especially when you play a team like Ohio State. That's just a bad formula."
Can you talk about the center exchange problems?
"We obviously had some problems there. I think coming into the game we anticipated that we might have some difficulties. I think you could figure that out just looking at our experience level right now. To me it dates back even in camp, where we had a tough time deciphering what our first five was and then six, seven and eight. That was a tough situation because Eric Rothwell did a good job playing center in the spring. But when we made the decision that Brian was one of the top five, Eric's work has basically been concentrated at guard. So, we didn't have a lot of time to put this thing together. The good news is, like some of our other problems offensively, hopefully we'll be able to work through these and get better in time."
Can you talk chronologically about the problems Brian had?
"He's had an MCL problem, basically. His knee has locked up occasionally over the past month; I guess it's been that long. Unfortunately, last Thursday, it locked and didn't unlock. So he had to be manipulated. We were hopeful that during the course of the weekend that maybe he'd be able to get it going again. Basically, during the middle of the week, we got the MRI's back. It just showed that the thing was not totally back where it ought to be. So, that's going to have to be repaired. Obviously, when he went down Thursday, we had to start working Eric there. Eric has had, basically, a week of work."
Is that how got you to the decision to use Mike Jones?
"Pretty much. But part of that is you just go with what you see in practice. David Walker practiced during the course of the bye week and this week. He was only able to complete one or two practices. We felt like Mike was out best guy. Mike had done a good job and impressed us during camp. This was a tough way to start, like Eric Steinbach. This was Eric's first start (at Ohio State). It's a tough place to break in, I guess. But he'll be a better person, a better football player as a result of it. I thought that he competed hard out there. The guys tried to help him as much as they could. I'm sure he made some mistakes. They all did. He's going to be a good football player."
I thought that the best offensive play you guys ran all day was Kaeding's fake.
"Yeah. That's probably a valid point. And, you know, they had a tough time scoring too. They scored on special teams. We scored on special teams. In fact, that was all three touchdowns today. It's about what you'd expect; two pretty good defensive teams slugging it out. That was a heck of a football game. I would have liked it better if we could have played up our special teams, but give Ohio State credit. They did a great job."
Were you surprised with Fred's running today? With the offensive line situation, it would seem like you'd want him to hit it a little faster.
"It's disruptive to your tempo and rhythm when you have to make changes. I think at least the Iowa journalists here know as well as anybody that we have not had the continuity this year that you'd like to have. Last year, I think we missed four or five starts total out of our whole group. Right now, we've certainly surpassed that just with our offensive line. It's not an optimal situation. But you play the cards that you're dealt. We'll just keep getting better. We'll get through this, and we're going to get better. We have a lot of football left. That's the good news."
What led you to the decision to run the fake field goal?
I think Nate was down there tugging on my sleeve on about first or second down. I can't remember exactly when it was. But he was ready. It was something that Lester Erb saw on the tapes this week. We felt that it might have chance for us. Certainly the situation was perfect. If we weren't going to call it, we knew that Keading was going to. (laughter) So, it was just one of those deals. But it was brilliantly executed. It was an excellent play. I thought that maybe put us back in the ballgame. We were hoping,."
Coach Tressell thought there was a hold on that play, just your thoughts on that?
"Well, I mean, you know what I'm going to say. (laughter). That's pretty obvious."
Can you talk about the situations with Jovon and Babineaux?
"I think Jonathan, unfortunately, experienced a broken ankle. That's the prelim report on that. Boy, you talk about a shame. We don't have a finer guy on our team. I think he's quietly been playing as well as anybody on our football team. Those guys inside, he and Jared, do the dirty work. He's a tough match up for people. And he's such a great young guy. You don't want to see anybody get hurt. But it's tough because as we all know Jonathan had a problem a couple of years ago. It's certainly disappointing. You know, he'll bounce back. He's a tough young guy. Jovon, he's slowed up by an ankle sprain. He triggered that thing a little bit again."
How about Mike Follett?
"Follett has got a little bit of ankle too. How serious? We won't know until later."
Did Nathan's ankle slow him down in the second half?
"He was involved in a lot of contact today. He pulled the ball down and did a good job running and making some plays for us. Quarterbacks get beat up a little bit. That's part of the deal. I think he's OK. He's going to be sore tomorrow. That's for sure."
Where do you go from here?
"We just have to keep working at it. We knew we had a tough six-game schedule. Now, we have a tough five-game schedule. We have a lot of good things ahead. I thought this a month ago, as the season goes on, we'll get better. I wasn't quite counting on the mix of things that are going on right now (injuries). But we'll just keep working. We'll get better. We'll be Ok. We're not ready to pack it in yet. I'll promise you that."
Could your defensive done anything more today?
"They could have scored. That would have helped. (laughter) That would have been great. But in all seriousness though, they played a fantastic football game. What else can you ask for? I thought all of our guys played hard. That definitely was not the problem. Courage and toughness, there were no problems there. When those become problems, then we've got problems."
Did you think the defensive lines were similar?
"They play different style of defense. They're a lot more active blitzing and those kinds of things. We're a different personality than they are. But if you are disappointed in today's game, you don't know much about football. You were looking at two good defensive football teams matching up. And, I thought, two good special teams matching up too. That's where we dropped the ball. We just didn't get it done today on special teams. But we'll clean that up. We've been good on special teams. We'll get that back. It's not like our closet is empty right now. I can assure you that nobody on our side has their heads down. We're looking forward to playing five more games. And we're going to compete."
Were missed tackles the reason for the punt return touchdown?
"Yeah. Well, you know, the ball David needs to maybe get it up there a little bit better, some better hang time. We missed a few tackles too. So, it's a deadly combination."
Was Sanders pushed from behind on that?
"I'll have to see it on tape. I thought we maybe had one guy that looked like he might have been tripped. Maybe I'm mixing these things up. But there were no flags. We just didn't get it done."
What did you see on that play down towards the goal line that caused you to take a timeout and talk to the officials?
"I thought their guy was out. But, apparently he had control. I was wrong on that one."
How big of a responsibility did Robert have today in helping Mike?
"It's like being a big brother. We're all in the family here. It's kind of tough because Eric is trying to feel his way out at center. But that's the way it goes. But thank goodness you have a guy like Robert in there. I mean it's fortunate for Mike. It's a great guy to be working next to. It was a great learning experience for him. It really was. Robert can handle that. I'll have to watch the tape, but I thought Mike held his own out there.
What did you mean when you said Brian would need a repair?
"We're looking at surgery on Tuesday. The bad news is that he's got surgery. The good news is that the recovery time is half the time of the ACL. It's a separate knee. It's not related. His ACL is doing great. The positive is that he's got six games under his belt. He'll come back wiser, stronger and more confident. That's the best that you can hope for."