Ferentz: To Soon to Talk Iowa, Big Ten Race

Final installment of Kirk Ferentz's weekly presser

Q: Over the last three weeks, you maybe have gone from worrying about your team being too low to maybe now being too high?

First of all, it's a good problem to have. We have experienced both in recent years. The key thing now, and we have talked with our guys about this, is that they will get some pats on the back this week, and that is great. I am glad that everybody was happy Saturday and Sunday, but the players have to go back to their world on Monday. That is the biggest thing; what happened to us last week is behind us. Now we have to worry about what is in front of us this week, because we have a heck of a challenge. If we don't have our eyes on the road, it's a dangerous path to be taking. Hopefully we have team maturity where we are able to do that.

Q: You have had success your last two trips to Penn State. Have you taken anything from those games?

Yeah, the lesson we learned is that you better go there well prepared and play well. You better be ready for a 60-minute plus ball game, as both of those went beyond regulation. I am not saying it will be overtime, but if we do our jobs, this will be a 60-minute game. If we don't do our jobs, it might be over in 30. So we had better be ready to go. Especially having watched them on tape.

Q: Do your players get charged up about playing in that environment?

I think it's a great football environment. It looks like they tailgate like we do. It is a college town; it has become a really nice stadium. It was more of an erector set 25 years ago, but it's a first class facility. Their fans are enthusiastic. I remember some of the enthusiasm they showed us in 1983 on our bus ride in there. It was kind of interesting. I thought we had Pitt on the side of our busses, the way they were acting, but there was no conference at that time. That is one of the great things being in our conference; for the most part, every stadium you go into has its own personality and character and some elements of electricity. They have that going for them.

Q: Your two wins there have been pretty big to the program.

They were for different reasons. The first one, we hadn't beaten anybody, so it was a milestone. It was one in a row, right? That broke the 2-18 span there and that was really when we were starting to come to life as a football team. That is one that I will always remember.

The one over there two years ago, and again, I have talked about that before. It was almost a direct parallel to what happened to us a few weeks prior against Iowa State, where we jumped out ahead and couldn't handle the prosperity and we couldn't dig in at the end. At least in that ballgame, we dug in and finished the deal. I thought that was a great growing process for that football team. Then a week later was the Purdue game. After we got through those two games, we really kind of took off and learned how to operate the way you have to. That was a unique season, it really was. Anytime you are in a championship season, you have to win some games like that.

Q: It's easier to get in and out of there now versus before, right?

Yeah, you will enjoy that. The getting in is not hard. In '83, we flew to Harrisburg and bussed over an hour and a half, which is OK. You look at the leaves and read the papers. But that hour and a half is about four hours getting back, because there are not a whole lot of routes out of there. The bad news was that our plane was delayed three hours last time we were out there. But John Streif, our magician, the next thing I know we are having a buffet and watching Minnesota-Purdue on the big screen. So John pulled a rabbit out of his hat, and it wasn't too bad.

Q: Nate Kaeding played a big role over there as a freshman. How is Kyle Schlicher coming along?

He is getting better, but I mentioned them with their proficiency at blocking kicks. Somebody talked about Nate I think, Nate had two PAT's blocked by Penn State in his career, which that says something right there. I said to somebody that you don't have to worry about that, at least the Chargers don't have Penn State on their schedule, so they are OK there.

I think Kyle is growing every week, and that is certainly important. He did a nice job on Saturday and was recognized by the conference. We have always had high hopes for him, but he is like a lot of young players. Young players, you hope they mature with the experiences that they get, and he is really making an effort at it.

Q: Do you think they will still respect play action like OSU did?

I hope they do, and if they don't, we had better be handing it off every now and then. That is part of football. We will try to be balanced and diversified. As long as we can execute, that is the other part of the equation.

Q: How do you see the conference race shaping up and your role in that?

I have encouraged our team to take the same outlook at the coaches. I think especially with our type of team. Maybe in 2002 we could peak a little bit, because we had a pretty good group and things were coming together. I have said all along, our margin for error is really thin right now and we have hardly established ourselves. We are one game from being 4-3 right now, which is almost .500 if you want to look at it that way. What we need to do is focus on each step in front of us. If we do a good enough job of that, then maybe we will be included in the party in November where people say we are one of the teams.

But there will be a lot of interesting turns in the next five weeks. I have no idea if we will be involved in that stuff or not, and I am really not worried about that. We have our hands more than full this week, and I can assure you that is what we are worried about. Then we will try to get the next one after that and at some point, we will take inventory. But we are not ready to take inventory right now.

Q: Wisconsin does not play Michigan this year. Are you in favor of an extra game in the league

No. Not at all. Are you suggesting to play a round robin schedule? No, I am not interested in that, and I said that in 2002. If anybody had a reason then to be for it, it was us and Ohio State. I came here in 1981, and that is how it was then, even with 10 teams. It's luck of the draw. I don't lay awake at night worrying about things like that. If you can run the table and have an 8-0 season in the Big Ten, more power to you.

You are playing tough teams, and chances are that you will have some tough games on that schedule if you play in our conference. I am not in favor of that, and I am not in favor of our conference having divisional playoffs. I think you can build an argument there, too. To say this year that you didn't play these three teams, etc.


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