Ferentz: Expects Improvement from Running Game

Ferentz Part III

Last year you had Ramon Ochoa step up, and recently Warren Holloway has done nicely for you.

That is the kind of football team we were last year offensively, and we are that way now, too. We are looking for anybody to step up and help out. Aaron Mickens certainly did a good job for us there in that fourth quarter the other day. It was hardly a work of art on offense, but those last couple of series were big possessions for us. If we are going to have success this year, we need guys like Aaron to step up in critical times, and I think we are getting that. We are going to need that down the stretch these last four ball games.

Q: What can you realistically ask out of your running game?

It's like anything else; everybody has to do their jobs. If you take care of what is in front of you first, that is where it starts. There are a lot of things that we need to clean up on offense from Saturday, needless to say. We left some yardage out there, some plays out there and we have to get those cleaned up or we are really pressing our luck a little bit.

If we can get things beyond that, then you are in business. That is what Aaron did. He converted for the first down like what Sam (Brownlee) did a week ago, which kept us from punting into the wind. Little plays like that that don't seem like that much. With the kind of team that we have right now, for us to get over the top, that is what we need. We need everybody reaching a little deeper than they can.

Q: It seems like there were some yards to be had last week. Was it that Sam didn't see them?

Yes and no. There were some little detail things that we could have cleaned up that you can't see from the sideline that you see on tape. If we had been a little more precise here or there, a three yard game would have been a 10-yard gain. When you have numbers like we did on Saturday, that is usually what you find when you look at the tape.

They had something to do with it, but it wasn't like we hadn't seen that before. Things that are in our control, and we have to try to clean that up.

Q: Will Aaron Mickens see more carries?

We have been planning on using him in the mix anyway, so that is a positive for him. Right now, we need anybody and everybody who can do some things.

Q: Has having the line play together for a little while now play into what you think you can get from your running game?

It will all help. I don't think anyone will mistake Sam for Adrian Peterson at Oklahoma. But Sam is a valued guy, and we trust him and can count on him. Up front, we are at least keeping the guys together in practice now, and we are getting healthy. I mentioned last week that we might get Ben Gates back, and it looks like he is about where he should be. Todd Plagman is back, so we are getting some continuity in practice now, and hopefully that will help. Our thrust has been to try and improve every week. Not every week you go forward, and we certainly didn't last week, but at least our guys competed and did enough to win.

Q: Can you count on the same type of defensive effort that you had last week?

That would be great. We would give the offense guys a couple of practices off per week. I think we have a chance to be a pretty good defensive football team, and we have played at that level the last couple of weeks. For us to have success this year, we knew coming in that our guys would have to play well. We asked them to reach a little deeper, and I think they have responded. Now, the question is can we keep our focus and finish it out. If we can do that, it will help our chances. But we have expectations for our offense and we expect for them to continue to improve. We have done some good things the last month and we just need to develop that consistency that you like to have. I said this after the game, two years ago we were in a track meet game, and nobody could stop anybody in that game, and they had some pretty good defensive guys. Three out of their front four were two first rounders and one who was picked in the 50's.

But this was just the opposite, and that is the beauty of football; you never know what's in store. Both wins were pretty from my vantage point. Even if there was a referee's call in that one in 2002. We still count that as a win here.

Q: Are you referring to Joe Paterno? (NOTE: Paterno said last week that officials had something to do with Iowa's win at Penn State in 2002, some two years after the game has been over)

I wasn't talking about anybody; I was just making a comment. We still count that as a win. I checked it the other day.

Q: What made punting an adventure?

I wish I knew. When we took our safety, we only have one kind of safety play, where Dave runs around. I told Lester that we need a clever name for a quick safety. He said ‘We did that on the first punt.', and I said, ‘yeah, but we didn't call it.' That was the problem there. We already have it in; we just have to communicate it better.

Q: But it didn't affect the game, in the end

We were fortunate. We had the bad snap, the partial block. You can't do those things too often. That was one of those days where we got away with it, but you can't count on that week in and week out. We have got to be better in special teams. That is consistency. We are putting our finger in the dike. Our kickoff coverage has been causing a little bit of heartburn, and boy those guys did a fantastic job on Saturday. That was a major part of the win for us. What we need to do is put all of the pieces together in all the phases if we are going to have a chance.

Q: Some people have said that Matt Roth had been in a slump. Do you feel he is out it that now?

I don't think he is in a slump. I watch those tapes every Sunday, and he has been playing hard and he has been effective. People have had a hard time blocking him all the way through the year. Statistics are deceptive and tough, especially with linemen. It's hard to put a value on a guy's play, especially with how many sacks or tackles for loss. A lot of times that indicates that a guy is doing a great job, don't get me wrong, but he has been playing real well all season long.

Q: Is he the biggest disruptive force you have had?

We slipped him over on their left side and he slipped in there and got the sack right away. He is a high-energy guy and he has stepped up as a leader, the things that you would hope a fine senior player would be doing right now. I am glad that he is on our side.


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