KIRK FERENTZ OPENING REMARKS
It's good for us to get home. We have been on the road for the last two weeks and we lost down in Arizona State and last week up at Michigan. They have a fine ball club. They came in doing a great job on the turnover margin, and certainly that was a big part of the game. They had a lot to do with that, as they are a very aggressive football team and forced us into five turnovers.
On the positive side, I felt that our guys really competed and played the game with enthusiasm and we have a lot to clean up, get some things corrected and hopefully have a better showing against Michigan State this week.
Q: You have been saying recently that if your team can just hold on, the offense will come around. You said the same things last year at this point as well. With a bye week coming up, is that the time frame you are targeting for things to come together?
It's probably a fortunate thing that we have a bye coming, just like it was last year; we really needed it. Maybe that is one area where we have been lucky, because in 2002, we didn't have a bye and that year it worked out perfectly. We hit stride somewhere in late September that year and really didn't have many significant injuries, so it worked to our advantage all of the way.
I think in the case this year, it's a blessing for us. We are a patchwork outfit right now and hopefully we can get some continuity established. I think we are gaining some ground here each week, and a week without a game will be a help to us if we can get through that week injury free. Last year, we lost our center (Brian Ferentz) during the bye week and that turned out to be a calamity when we traveled down to Columbus. We will just keep our fingers crossed, but I think its going to be a positive for us.
Q: Chad Greenway was visibly upset after the second fumble of the third quarter against Michigan game, and you could see him jawing with the offense. Is there any concern about the defense getting upset with the offense at a time like that and it affecting the morale of the team?
Not at all. I have not been worried about that at all with this football team, and less now than ever. I think we have a close-knit ball club and a close-knit team. I think people on the outside are expecting that to happen. Believe me, I have been around it. I have coached a few years and I have seen that before. If it happens with this football team, I will be extremely surprised. We have not played a perfect game in any phase and we are not coaching perfect either, so I would hope that none of us begins to point fingers, because that would be totally ridiculous.
Q: You have a very experienced front seven. Are they the strength of the football team?
They are definitely one of the strengths of the team and we have a lot of returning starters there. I don't want to minimize the losses that we have had, as we lost a great secondary player in Bob Sanders, we lost a three year starter at outside linebacker in Grant Steen, Howard Hodges was a two year starter for us at end, and Jared Clauss started two and a half years for us on the line and he is with the Tennessee Titans right now. So all of those guys are either with NFL teams or were during the course of the summer, so we lost some pretty good players and we are trying to piece that together.
But having four seniors on the defensive line, and our inside backers are not seniors, but they both play like seniors even a year ago and they are doing the same now. That is the strength of our team, it is where our experience is and we need those guys to help set the pace for us.
Q: Is this then one of most talented front 7's you have worked with?
The one last year was pretty good, too. In all fairness, Hodge and Greenway were young last year, but ended up being pretty productive. Last year, we had Steen who was in his third year as a starter, Babineaux and Roth were both pretty good players as juniors, and Hodge and Clauss…Clauss was one of our more under appreciated guys last year. So to say that this group is better than last year's group, that might be a bit of a stretch I think.
Q: What are your thoughts on the proposed fifth year of eligibility for football players?
Oh, I don't know. How is that for an answer? We have talked about it in coaches meetings, and on the surface there are some benefits to it, but there might be some inherent problems that could be created. It would take the pressure off the redshirt decision, but at the other end, I am not sure. Right now I am up in the air and quite frankly, it's not on the top of my thought process list.
Matt Roth is off to slow start and he kind of came alive on Saturday. Did he do anything different against Michigan than he has in other games this year?
With all due respect, I don't think that is an accurate portrayal. I think that outside of the Arizona State game, where that was a total team effort, as we didn't perform down there, that involved everybody. I think Matt is playing outstanding football and has all season long. He got off to a great start and continued that on Saturday.
One thing that I will point out on Matt…We had a pretty good player here a few years ago named Aaron Kampman, and I can't remember how many sacks that Aaron had, but it was a significant amount. But he drew an awful lot of holding penalties that year, and I am kind of thinking that one of these days that Matt is going to draw a few more of them, too. Not to give too much commentary here, but when you get a guy who is as active and works as hard, and Kampman was the same kind of player…Aaron drew a lot of those, which are just as good as a sack. I think we will see Matt do a lot of that over the course of the next seven games. I will be very surprised if there are not more calls. I will be real surprised. He is a tough guy to block.
Q: Does having Norm Parker back in action help a lot?
I will answer that one two ways. There are reasons that teams appoint defensive coordinators, and there are reasons that we all have nine guys on our staff. Anytime you take a person off of the staff, and a leadership position, it has a huge impact. I say that with all due respect, because our defensive staff has done a tremendous job in carrying on without Norm, as have our defensive players. But there is a reason that you have those people in place. You talk about Norm Parker; I don't know if I have ever been around a better person or a better coach than Norm Parker.
We had a guy in Bill Brashier with coach Fry for most of coach Fry's time here…everybody talks about that staff in the 1980's that we had, and I still say that the #1 guy on that staff might have been Bill Brashier, in my mind. Norm is that kind of guy. He is a tremendous football coach with tremendous wisdom, and on top of that he is a great person to have on our staff. All of that talk, the most important thing is for Norm's recovery and I am real happy to say that we are starting to see him taking some strides forward now.