Carbon Copy: Ferentz Presser Q & A

Each week, Kirk Ferentz fields questions from the media in an open 'Question and Answer' session. And each week, takes the time to transcribe these 25-minute exchanges for our subscribers. Kirk had a lot to say regaring Purdue, he spoke glowingly about Robert Gallery and where he might rank in Iowa history, about how he is excited about his offense getting more healthy and much, much more.

Q: Since you have been the coach at Iowa, you have had quarterbacks that have played only one year. Do you want to change that?

"That is the plan. We have been trying to get to that for a while. We have just had a few interruptions."

I think it means a lot. In our situation the last few years, at least Kyle (McCann) had some experience. The good news is that we had three guys that were fifth year players; more mature players and they handled things pretty well."

"The bad news is that we have had three different starters in three different years. The continuity, starting over each fall; that is a little tougher. If you look back to our program in the 80's, and I think this has been the case at Purdue since coach Tiller has been there is that you find a guy that you like and you lock in on him and he plays a couple three years. I think there are a lot of benefits to that as long as you have the right guy."

"It is a great advantage. To me, Kyle Orton is playing like a senior and he is a junior. Matt Rodgers was in this past week and I know that Matt struggled a little bit in 1989. It was a bumpy year for him. We had a transition going on with the line and we put a lot on his plate back then also. He had some ups and downs, but came back and had two great years after that. It's a good situation if you can get to it. The key thing is having the right guy and you still want to get the right guy out there regardless of class."

Q: Is your turnover margin (-1 on the year)a disappointment?

"It has been, because we tailed off. We were doing a great job there for a while and in a nutshell, that has been the story of our season. That is one thing that we did last week. We protected the ball better than we did the week before against Penn State. You look at our two losses, and special teams and turnovers were critical areas for us. We talked about that in August, but you still have to go out there and execute."

Q: Could Grant Steen long snap for you this week if he can't play D?

"We are hopeful. That would be good if we could get that done, but that is a high traffic area in there so I don't know if that is advisable. I thought Kody did a good job. He had one that was a bit off target the other day, but we have handled that snap before but obviously we didn't do it Saturday. This week and the next three weeks, you don't have much margin for error out there so hopefully we can execute all of the "routine" plays."

Q: You have a system on offense, a style that plays to your strengths. Do you do that regardless of who plays?

"I think so. We have a system that we believe in and its like everything else, you tailor it towards the players that you have in a given year. That changes week to week when you have injuries when new players step in, your thinking changes a little bit and you have to keep an open mind. But we have general parameters that we work with."

Q: You have done it with different QB's over the years, and the offense has done well

"Yeah, we have led the league twice in scoring. I remember that stuff (laughs). We have been at the bottom of the league, too, so I will qualify that."

Q: Does it prove what you are doing works?

"I have always thought one of the amazing stories of pro football was the Redskins winning three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks. That is a pretty good sign that they were doing some things well (with their system) and that they had some flexibility. I think our guys do a great job. Our offensive and defensive staff's do a great job. That is part of the deal."

Q: What is it about Purdue's defense that causes you problems?

"I said it last year and I will say it again, it is a little bit of a shell game (with Purdue). The first thing you think about with Purdue is their passing offense. It goes back to Drew Brees hitting the scene and coach Tiller winging the ball around a bit at Wyoming and then doing it at Purdue. They have changed there a little bit as they are running the ball now better than they ever had."

"Their defense has been overlooked. I just talked about the Redskins…you also take a look at the 49ers. You think of Joe Gibbs and Bill Walsh as being offensive guys, but both of those teams had great defenses all the way through it. Usually the teams that win consistently, that is what they have and that is Purdue's case. They have great guys but they are very aggressive, their scheme is aggressive, they are very athletic, they move and run well. It is tough to get them blocked and keep them blocked. They give you a lot to keep on your toes about. They throw a lot of challenging things at you; it is really a nice scheme."

Q: Now that you are into November and getting some guys back, you have to feel better about the injury situation

"That is the good news and I was really hoping over the break (the bye week) that we could get some guys back sooner. I felt during the first part of the season, even during the first six weeks, that our offense would improve if we could get some continuity. We didn't have that luxury and that is the way it goes. I felt that at some given point, we would start getting more guys back than leaving and if we had that situation, we might start to improve a little bit. I think we are in that position right now and it is exciting because we have a chance to improve. That being said, we will face three pretty salty defenses so it will be a great challenge and it will be interesting to see what happens."

Q: How is Brian (Ferentz) doing?

"He is doing great. All of the guys: Brian, Jonathon and Ma'Quan are doing well and are in good spirits. They are moving around right now, they are mobile. Brian in on crutches due to the nature of his deal. All three are in good spirits and making progress and they have their chins up and we will get them back there eventually."

Q: Any thoughts to Mike Jones and David Walker being on field at the same time?

"Yeah, but if we do that we would have to take somebody else off (laugh). You know…I have thought about it, but right now we have a good situation in that we have six guys that we have confidence in. Pete has a little position flexibility. Right now, Mike is the one guy that we are not moving. He is a fixture on the left side and we are working David on both sides, Pete can move outside to tackle. I am more comfortable that we have six guys that are on the field that have played with some proficiency. That is up a couple from a few weeks ago."

Q: Purdue has 18 Texans in their two deep, what is their Texas connection?

"I assume a couple of the coaches have some background there. They have done a great job. We bump into them and Wisconsin quite a bit. We bump into them in Texas and on the east coast. The guy that recruits out there for them is a Connecticut native, so we tend to bump into each other in certain places frequently. I think they have done a great job with their recruiting and I think it shows up out there on the field."

Q: Nathan just had a career day. How encouraging is that going into Purdue where they like to throw it around and can score a lot of points?

"It's very encouraging, from all aspects. At least we are moving in the right direction offensively. The interesting thing, like I said, is that we are going to go up against some pretty tough defenses. Purdue has played as good of defense as anybody over the last four years that I have been back in the league and it will be a great challenge. I know this, it is better to go in there when we are getting better as opposed to when we are getting worse; that is a scary thought. Hopefully we can go in there and do a good job of trying to execute, but I don't anticipate seeing 40 points on the board."

Q: Are you more comfortable going into Purdue than you were going into Columbus?

"Yeah, we have a center that has played at least two games now, to start with. That is a major improvement. Heck, our veteran left guard has played three games now, so we have made major strides. But in all seriousness, we knew that those areas were going to be problems going over there. I wasn't born yesterday. Especially when you consider going against a team like Ohio State, which is not the best way to break a new group in. But we have grown a lot in a couple of weeks and now we have a chance to compete and that is all that you can ask for. The whole thing comes down to that we are in November and we are playing for something meaningful and that is how it should be and it's more enjoyable. We have tried that both ways."

Q: What is one major difference in Purdue this year compared to last year?

"Experience and confidence go hand in hand. They are running the ball better this year, but when it comes down to it, they are going to throw the football. We are going to see some passes this week. I would stick my neck out and venture that one. I don't know what the numbers are, but I imagine they might try a few passes against us. That is the personality of their football team. But the biggest difference is their level of experience and confidence. I know they went through the out season feeling pretty good, a lot like Minnesota who felt good coming into this year about their chances. Both of them are having fantastic years, and you can throw Wisconsin in that group. They (Wisconsin) have had a couple of injuries that have affected them a little bit. From what I know about Minnesota and Purdue, they are a lot alike. I really felt that Purdue would be a favorite this year and I feel that they are still right there and they have as good a chance as anyone. Maybe better."

Q: What did Michigan do to them to hold them to just three points?

"They got the ball rolling and they kept it rolling. Sometimes you get in games like that and it happens, but to me you just throw those out. Once it starts to go like that, sometimes you have those days and they are rare and they are the exception and and they are fun, if you are on the right end. They are not any fun if you are on the other end. To me, you take that one and chuck it aside. Michigan played a great football game and I am not taking anything away from them, they are an outstanding football team we all know that. But there is not that big a difference between the two teams; that is just my opinion."

Q: Michigan used 6 DB's a lot

"They have them to use them. It's like at receiver for them, they have about 40 of those guys and they have about 40 DB's to. We are not in that situation. We are totally different. We are just trying to find 11 guys to get out there."

Q: What do you attribute your spike in penalties to?

"I think a lot of them are just foolish. We had a couple of them the other day…facemasks…to me that is just attention to detail and it is going to cost you. Those are like turnovers…not quite as severe, but we have had a knack the last three weeks of getting penalties at bad times. We get a 20 or 40-yard gain and it is called back, or we get one down inside the 20 and you get pushed back. That is like taking a sack. I think the timing of our penalties have been more hurtful than the amount of them."

Q: What do you do during the week to combat that?

"To me, penalties are either a lack of ability, a lack of hustle or a lack of concentration. It's one of those three things. Two of those are correctable and the other one…you are what you are. Concentration, hustle and effort…we have to do better than that."

Q: Do you do things on offense since you have a player like Robert Gallery at left tackle?

"Yeah. Obviously there was the screen pass we threw the other day. He allows you to do some things, but most importantly, you know his guy is taken care of for the most part. He is human, he makes mistakes too, but he is playing at such a high level. I say this with all due respect to the other players around the country, but if there is a guy playing any better than him on the offensive line this year, last year or next year, we would be pretty impressed. I hope that our fans enjoy him and focus on him for a series or two. This guy is a real treat and is a special player."

Q: Where does he rank in your mind from your experience at Iowa?

"I hate to play that game, but I think the next couple of years, it will become very evident where he ranks because he is such a great player. He has all of the tangibles, the ‘measurables', but more importantly he has all of the intangibles, and that is an uncommon mix. Robert is a special player."

Q: Benny Sapp has been doing a great job at UNI. Have you kept track of that?

"I saw that he scored a few weeks ago. I am happy for Benny and everyone felt it was unfortunate a couple of years ago because everyone here liked Benny. I was hoping that things would work out for him and it sounds like they are. I hope that he has a great senior year."

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