Kirk Ferentz: First of all, just congratulations to our football team, I thought they did a great job. Certainly exciting for them to be a part of that 21 game streak, a real significant accomplishment, an awful lot of people have invested to make that happen, certainly. Including our fans, I thought our fans were just tremendous today, right from the onset, their loyalty, their support is really fantastic. All of us really appreciate that, coaches, players, everybody involved with the team, great to see that. Overall, just pleased with our football team's effort. I thought the played a good game today, came prepared to play We certainly have some things we need to work on, that's very evident, but I think we know where the hot spots are and we just have to be committed to that improvement. The good news is, I think if we will work hard and stay committed we'll see improvement short term as well as long term, that's really where our focus is. Just happy to get the win today.
Q: Your execution was sharper.
Ferentz: I thought so, we gave our skill guys a chance to perform today. It starts up front, your lines on both sides of the ball have to set tempo, and I thought our execution was better, it was crisper. Again, we're going to need to continue that to give our guys a chance to execute.
Q: Did you maybe find your best combination today on the offensive line?
Ferentz: Only time will tell. I think, bottom line, we made that decision during the course of the week. For whatever reason, Mike just hasn't seemed 100% comfortable out at the tackle position, so we wanted to get him back where he's played a lot of football, it looked like he was really into the game and playing efficiently. Marshal has invested a lot of time, not only in the summer, but in the spring out at tackle, so we didn't think that was going to be an earth-shaking move there. It seemed like we were a little crisper today. Hopefully, that'll be a step in the right direction for us.
Q: You guys were rotating Dace in there as well.
Ferentz: We obviously made the decision 5 weeks ago to play him, so we're committed to bringing him along. He's certainly not ready to play 60-70 snaps a game, but we do want to bring him along and give him some experience. As long as he has a good week of practice, we'll try to keep pushing him where possible.
Q: You mentioned the fans earlier, how big of an effect do you think they had?
Ferentz: They were great all through the game. You play a no-huddle attack, which Illinois has used, certainly it can help you. That's the other thing about our fans, I think they're extremely knowledgeable. Besides being very loyal and enthusiastic, they're really knowledgeable of the game, they know when to get noisy. Certainly they're doing their part to help us, and have through all 21 games, and a bunch before that where we weren't as successful.
Q: With the miscues that Illinois had, how much of a momentum swing did those provide?
Ferentz: They helped, obviously. Red-zone defense, first of all you have to keep them out of the end zone, that's extremely critical. Obviously they get down in there, if you give them 3 points rather than 7, to come up with the blocked field goals, that's a big plus also. It looked like the ball was coming in a little bit low, but Kenny was doing what he's supposed to do and gave himself a chance if the ball was low. (Jason) Reda is an excellent kicker he was a great kicker in high school, a guy we really had a lot of strong feelings for. It wasn't a fit for us because of our kicking situation with Kyle (Schlicher) being younger, but he's a tremendous kicker. You'd probably have to ask him, I was thinking maybe it was the first time he'd been kicking on grass this year. It might have been a factor, thought I'm sure he practices on it. He's a tremendous kicker.
Q: How much of what they did offensively, how much did you attribute to the no-huddle, they way they ran their offense?
Ferentz: It's tough preparation, I said on Tuesday, they've done an awful lot of things in four ballgames. The thing you never know, coming into a ballgame in your preparation, you never know what percentages you're going to see. Again, we were familiar with the shot gunned attack, the no-huddle attack from playing Florida a couple years ago. As I mentioned Tuesday, the big wild card was the option attack. They got a little bit of Air Force flavor in there and that makes for a real tough preparation. I thought their quarterback and their whole team did a nice job of executing.
Q: Did you feel like the defensive line took some steps today?
Ferentz: I think we did, I thought we grew during the game. That's what I was alluding to a little bit earlier. I think we're the kind of football team, if we keep our attitude positive and put the right energy and commitment into it, we'll have a chance to improve weekly. Maybe even during the course of games, but we can't take anything for granted. It's like a lot of circumstances we've been in, our margin for error is not real big.
Q: What did you get out of this home game versus the previous two? Maybe seeing some crispness that wasn't there in Ball State and UNI?
Ferentz: I don't know if I'm good comparing. I thought we did the things we had to do for the most part. I felt we showed up ready to play and executed better. I thought the effort was there, we still have too many things that we have to clean up, too many missed tackles. Traditionally, we've been a pretty solid, tackling football team, but we haven't the last couple weeks, that's an area we certainly have to clean up. We had a couple penalties that really hurt us in the first half, especially offensively. We threw a pick, added a turnover later on. Those things are obvious. They are obvious, but they're still important and those are the things we have to address.
Q: How does a team go from -9 to 300+ yards rushing?
Ferentz: I don't know if I can give you a good answer. I don't know how many years I've been in coaching, but I've been involved in games like last week's. I can assure you, they are no fun. I don't know who has less fun, the players or coaches, it's probably pretty even. I know this, I've learned through my experience, you can't dwell on those things. You do your best to learn from it and put it behind you and move on. We went through some tough times like that in 1982. I could probably pull out a lot of examples. In 82, we started our, couldn't make a first down for two games, then went on and had a good season. You just go on, keep trying to find answers.
Q: Did you make a concerted effort to get the backs the ball in the passing game?
Ferentz: I think if we're going to have a chance offensively, we need to be as diverse as possible, try to use everybody every possible way that we can. I'm not sure that they game plan was a lot different, but maybe the way the ball got distributed, it worked out that way.
Q: Is Albert (Young) OK?
Ferentz: Yeah, he was cramping a bit there in the 3rd quarter. I think he was IV'd a little bit. He probably could have gone back in if we needed him.
Q: How about Follet and Miles?
Ferentz: I think they just got bumped in the shoulder, I don't think it's anything serious.
Q: Where did you see the most improvement today?
Ferentz: I just talked about, what were we, -9, -13? We couldn't move the ball last year.
Q: Is that on the line or the back?
Ferentz: Everything starts up front. I'm not pinning it on those guys or saying it was all because of those guys that we did well or bad, but things start up front for you, you have to be cohesive. It's everybody. We're getting into the right plays, guys were doing the right things in terms of execution, so we played a little bit better.
Q: Do you have something in Damian Sims that you maybe didn't know you had?
Ferentz: We've always thought Damian was a pretty good football player, we weren't sure we had room, initially and that's what prompted us to explore the cornerback position. We had a position in need there and a position of depth. When he's gotten into the ballgame, he's certainly done a good job. That's really not surprising to us, I said back in August, he really has made improvements since a year ago, he's much more mature now, physically. He's always been a very serious guys as far as football goes.
Q: Why all the missed tackles?
Ferentz: I couldn't tell you. I just know this, we have to get it cleaned up. It looks like we're in position quite a bunch, for whatever reason, we're just not finishing the play. It's hard to be a good defensive team if you're not a good tackling team. I know that sounds really basic, but it really is true. Every time you sit in a meeting where you give up 400+ yards in a ball game, it's always the common, "We missed X amount of tackles." It's usually too high. It starts there. If you can't be a good tackling team, we work on that daily, it's going to be tough to be the kind of defensive team you want to be. We're not good enough right now to miss a tackle and give up 5 more yards or 10 more yards, which is typically what happens.
Q: Did you use the (unstoppable) play?
Ferentz: No, we're going to save that for a critical moment. A critical time, if you get the pun.
Q: Their third down conversions were pretty high, especially in the first half, lower in the second half, obviously.
Ferentz: I thought we got better as the game went on, that was a focal point for us on both sides of the football going in. We didn't do well on third down on either side of the football last week. That's something we really have to keep working on, it's a team thing. Again, it's starts up front. If we can generate a little better pass rush, especially on the mid to long yardage situations, that'll help us a little bit. In the fourth quarter, it looked like we were flashing a bit there.
Q: The play calling opened up a bit today. Did you see something on tape that led to that reverse?
Ferentz: No, we've had that play every week. These guys were pursing very hard, and during the course of the game, they even came out, early in the game, really squeezing us down on that weak side, so we thought it might have a chance in the proper place. It was executed really in a nice fashion.
Q: Could you rate the artistry of Ed Hinkel's dive into the end zone?
Ferentz: I didn't get a good look at it, so I'll have to see it on tape. I was very impressed with is catch though, on the punt. That was quite a play. Coach Dahm might be trying to recruit him for center field on that one, really a nice grab.
Q: Talk about your schedule now. The way the schedule works, you're back out on the road at Purdue. Is this team learning enough week by week at home?
Ferentz: We'll know that next week, the end of next week. We'll know that, and it's like most questions, we'll know all the answers here in November. That's the challenge that's in front of us. However you want to look at the month of October. I look at it from the positive side, we've got 3 at home and one on the road. We go on the road next week, come home for two. We know the challenges of the road. If you look it up, we've done pretty well on the road the last three years, compared to anyone else in our league. We're right up there with anyone else who's doing real well. We don't have a phobia, we don't have a mental block or anything. We've done as well as anybody, the challenge is can we do that next week. It's going to be a heck of a challenge, because we're playing a good team.
Q: (On the importance of this next road game)
Ferentz: Every game for us is important. We're 1-1 in the league right, and I think the kind of football team, it's real apparent to everybody right now, everything we do is important. We've only got six games left. We're right about at the half way point, six conference games. We're 1-1 and so every day is important right now, I think our guys understand that.
Q: Were you guys at all cognoscente of how much pink there was up there?
Ferentz: I didn't catch that. I didn't notice until really the first time our defense took the field, the ovation. To me, that is so representative of our fans. We're 1-10 here 7 years ago, I say it all the time, we had 55,000 people our here. We were 1-9 coming into the ballgame and our fans are here cheering their lungs out and being supportive. To me, that's what makes this whole situation pretty unique. It's hard to imagine there are better fans around the country. Some may have more in their stadium, but I doubt if anyone has better.
Q: Are you putting more and more into Albert Young's play? Asking him to do more each week?
Ferentz: Yeah, I think if we don't, you guys probably ought to ask me to get my head examined. He's really emerged as a go-to guy, if you will. One of our most productive football players. He's a mature young man, very competitive, and pretty talented in a lot of ways. We need to get the ball in the hands of all of our guys who are capable of doing things, and certainly Albert is one of those guys.
Q: Last week you mentioned cutting back on the playbook, did you cut back a lot this week?
Ferentz: I don't know if we cut back a lot, but we trimmed it out. We let go of a lot of things, and I think that's probably a good rule for us the rest of the way. We really pinpoint what we want to get done, and you still never get to everything in a ballgame either. The game dictates which direction you go. It's always a fine line, you've got to have enough going in. I think certainly with some of the new players we have in certain areas, it'll be helpful to really keep it as clean as we can.
Q: What did you think of Mattison today?
Ferentz: Bryan plays hard, all the time. He's got a great attitude, very positive attitude. It looked to me like in the 4th quarter, he was really coming alive a little bit. He's a hard charging, good effort, positive effort guy. That's what's going to enable him to make plays. I think he really grew today.
Q: Chad Greenway lined up at the defensive end spot a bit, is that something you're trying more often?
Ferentz: We'll see. I don't know, we'll see.
Q: Illinois had 18 tries for third down today, what does that say?
Ferentz: That's good news/bad news. We have to do a better job of getting off the field on third down, simple as that. Illinois did a nice job. They had a nice game plan, they threw an awful lot of screens, they've got a lot in their playbook, they executed well.
Q: Will it be helpful to be able to watch Notre Dame vs. Purdue today?
Ferentz: No matter what's on tonight, I'm happy. It's been a long month, September was a long month. First game was an early one, we got home, but it seems like it's been just perpetual. I'm looking forward to doing the show here and going home. Even sitting on the porch, it's nice out. It's still going to be warm tonight, I may just sit outside for a while.
Q: How's Alex Willcox?
Ferentz: Alex we held. He tweaked his shoulder, freak thing Wednesday, it would have been. It was a game day decision, we tested him out before the game, and just didn't feel like it was in his best interest. I'll know Tuesday, but I would hope he'll be back next week.
Q: (On the number of reps for defensive linemen)
Ferentz: I don't think anything's changed. The way I look at it, we're really young up front, and we really need to continue rotating those guys.
Q: (Have you seen the improvement you're looking for?)
Ferentz: I thought so, yeah. That's again the good news to me about good players or inexperienced players. Mike Follet's not a hardened veteran guy at the defensive line position. I'm really confident we're going to see strides, we'll see the same thing with our offensive line. That's certainly going to enable us to do a lot of things. That being said, we're going to have to clean up the missed tackles, holding penalties, things of that nature.
Q: What did you feel like you got out of the defense?
Ferentz: You hate to give up the yardage, but the most important stat still is point. To their credit, if you keep people out of the end zone, it gives you a chance to play with a little bit more confidence. That's the first step, keep them out of the end zone.
Q: Is this how you would have envisioned the running back situation in camp?
Ferentz: I'm not sure how it was going to pan out, they were all doing well in camp, but you're never quite sure. It's like any position. Until you get into game situations, you're not quite sure how guys will react or how they'll perform. The good news, it's been pretty positive. Guys have done a good job with the opportunities they've had.