Q: Opening Statement
Kirk Ferentz: To start out, a couple comments real quickly. Obviously we're pleased to get the win. I thought our guys played hard today, and certainly there are a lot of things we have to clean up. I think the guys got ready mentally, the effort was there, and we played hard. Now the task for us is to clean up some areas and get better and improve. I really want to give a lot of credit to Montana. As I said on Tuesday, we had great respect for them coming in. As much winning as they've done in the last 13+ years, it's no surprise. To me, there were even more impressive today. I thought they had an excellent plan, the coaches gave them a great chance to be ready for this football game. The thing that jumped out, it's one thing to watch film, but when you're out on the field, with a team out there, they really played with great toughness, great effort, and that's a football team that's obviously going to win a lot of games again this year. I was extremely impressed with them and I think you'll hear that from everybody on our staff and on our team. The only other thing, obviously you're happy with a win, and Gary and I were talking in the locker room about how unbelievable it is with this stadium renovation that's been done. For the team to come through Krause Plaza today, with fans lined up there, and then the Kinnick statue, which just kind of took me aback yesterday at the ceremony, the first time to have a chance to see it live, see it again today. As I said on the radio, obviously somebody a lot smarter than a football coach had that plan. To me, the exciting part is our players will have to walk by that each and every time, have an opportunity to see Nile Kinnick coming into the stadium. That's true this year, next year, and decades beyond. To me, it's a great finishing touch to this whole project, we're thrilled to death.
Q: Do you think that is something the players really look at?
Ferentz: No question, Bob. It's something we really talked about during the week with this re-dedication ceremony going on. I had to tell the team last night, again, my focus has been on the season and trying to get ready for this ballgame. Yesterday, when that was unveiled, it was just unreal, then the plane flying over top was a nice touch also. I just can't imagine, I'm sure other people have nice things, but boy, it's a magnificent finishing touch to this whole project. I've always felt, there are a lot of special things here, but to have a stadium named after a gentlemen like Nile Kinnick, we're very, very fortunate.
Q: It seemed like Albert got you over the rough spots early as some of the young guys gelled.
Ferentz: No question. That's what you do with your veteran players, certainly. They came in, obviously, intent on trying to slow our run game down a little bit, and did a very nice job with it. They had a good plan for that, and then most importantly, I thought their players really played hard. That's a physical group. I can assure you, the teams I coached at Maine didn't look like that. Those guys, I'm very, very impressed. Albert kept working out there. I thought all the guys kept working, our two new linemen, I think got into the flow of things after we got going. Obviously we've got a lot of rough edges right now, things we've got to smooth out. I thought we improved as we went along, outside of the mistakes that are going to get you beat.
Q: What caused some of those penalties early on?
Ferentz: I think it's just part of early-season football. You hope it's not going to be like that. Penalties, problems in the kicking game, we had some of both today. Outside of our PAT/Field Goal kicking, I think we have some work to do in our other areas too. Nothing really looked crisp out there. Part of that was our opponent, they did a heck of a job.
Q: How long is Kyle supposed to be out?
Ferentz: We thought he had a chance this week, we really did. If you'd asked me on Tuesday about it, we kind of thought he'd be out there kicking on Thursday and playing Saturday. He wasn't able to kick on Thursday, he wasn't able to kick Thursday, so that kind of made our decision for us to hold him out. We're not real wild about putting people on the field that can't perform by Thursday. We just felt like it was in our best interest, and more importantly, his best interest, to hold him out. Hopefully Tuesday he'll be ready to go again.
Q: Is it nice to know what you've got in Austin?
Ferentz: Yeah, that was really a pleasant surprise. We were joking about that, I told Gary yesterday at the I-Club breakfast, it might be 50/50. When he hits it, he hits it very well. You saw he has a very strong leg. But based on the last week of practice, it was like 50/50 he was going to hit the ball or hit the ground. I thought those odds were starting to decline as we got closer to the game. Obviously we were real pleased with the way he kicked today. Maybe even better was after he had a couple good kicks, he kept his focus. He didn't start relaxing, but I think he really performed very well for a first-time player.
Q: What's Kyle's injury?
Ferentz: He's just got a strain, right now. I think he'll be ready on Tuesday, I would assume he'll be ready. It's something pretty mild.
Q: Did you think, when you were recruiting Dominique that he would be a first-year player?
Ferentz: No. As I mentioned the other day, he wasn't a super-duper-eight-chip-double-dip recruit or whatever, however those ratings go. He was a guy that we thought came on during the course of the year. Our staff did a great job of identifying him. We looked at him on film, we were impressed with him, then we had a chance to meet him in person. Phil and Lester shot up there, I believe, and just came away very impressed. Then he came in early December and the process just continued. We really thought he was a good fit with us. He's an outstanding young guy. What we saw today with him out on the field is really kind of how he's been practicing, just kind of acts like he belongs. He doesn't seem to be overly in awe of anything. What you saw today is really how he's been practicing. Sometimes those ratings miss a couple guys, and I think maybe we found a guy who has some potential.
Q: Drew said he saw it him right away, when did you see it?
Ferentz: We don't get to see him, players get to see them before we do. Anytime a football is out in the summer time, we can't be around. Those guys were tossing around and Dominique was here for a little bit. Not long. Those guys, they tune in pretty quickly. QBs especially tune in with the receivers. We saw it, basically with the first week of practice, just the way he handled himself. All that being said, we're going to see some drops, I'm sure. We're going to see him blow some assignments. When you choose to play a young player, you make the decision that you're going to live with some of those things. One play I was really impressed with, Anthony Bowman, it was on a block he didn't make. We had a nice play and he backed off of a block. You expect a young player to maybe make a dumb decision there. He kind of got his body out of the way. That, to me, shows a little something there too, that was real impressive.
Q: Is this maybe the most weapons Drew's had over the years?
Ferentz: I don't know. It's hard to say. I'm a little partial to that Hinkel guy we had. Ed just made so many big plays. Some real evident and some that weren't so evident. We're going to have to collectively try... He was a guy who really, going back to 2002, who was really a key guy for us. Collectively, hopefully, we can get there. We're not there yet, by any stretch. But there's some potential. Obviously we had some drops today, I think that'll come around. Hopefully we get those drops out of our system right away and everybody can relax a little bit and everybody can start performing the way they're capable.
Q: (A comment on the running backs and tight ends)
Ferentz: We're not ready to sign off on the receivers yet, but I think they've improved. We feel good about our tight ends and our backs.
Q: What's the deal with the helmets that kept coming off?
Ferentz: Not quite sure. I'm not quite sure. That's on my list of things to check on, for sure. It was really, obviously, in excess.
Q: Any other injuries?
Ferentz: You probably noticed Tom (Busch) was out in the second half. We think he's just got a strain, we're going to x-ray him right now. He took a helmet to the side, an unprotected area. They're going to x-ray to just be sure there's nothing we're missing.
Q: Talk a bit about Alex Kanellis and the rest of the defensive line.
Ferentz: I was saying on the radio, compared to last year at this time, night and day, which is really good to see. Those guys have been practicing really well. Alex is a guy, he's a handful. Both he and Ryan Bain. Kind of a Kodak moment for me, somewhere in the 3rd or 4th quarter last year, up at Wisconsin, where they had the ball down inside our 20 and I looked out and both those guys were in there playing. It wasn't like you noticed it. I think it was kind of representative of the whole group. Probably the thing I was most impressed with from the group was that I really thought they worked hard in the pass rush. That's an area where we need to make some ground up. That's something we weren't real good as last year, at the end even. I think we've grown up now, that's the next step is to see if we can generate some pressure up front.
Q: (A question on how well Mitch King played)
Ferentz: Yeah. Mitch is probably the most slippery of the guys last year. We certainly hope that he'll continue in that vein. Mitch is a guy that likes to play the game. That really became clear last year. Once we got him through the transition from LB to DT, he's got that defensive mentality and passions you like to see. I think he takes great pride in his performance out there.
Q: What kind of positives do you take into next week?
Ferentz: There are going to be plenty of them on there. The good news is, like every game, but particularly early in the season, we've got a lot of things that we not only can clean up, but need to clean up. That's going to be our focus this week. That'll start tomorrow. Our guys have been pretty good about that through the years. We're not taking anything for granted, but we've been pretty good about, 'Now we see it, here's what we have to do to correct it." We've got to have a great attitude this week, no question.
Q: Bryan Mattison, it seemed like he stood out at points in that game.
Ferentz: We've had a lot of focus on some other guys, Mitch and Kenny have probably been a little more flashy in last year's performance, they probably hit a bit more of a note. Bryan's one of those guys that just digs and digs and digs. I'm not saying he's Aaron Kampman, but he reminds me of an Aaron Kampman type player. That story turned out pretty good for Aaron recently, as well as well as when he was here. That's, to me, a good analogy I'd make right there. Aaron wasn't a flashy guy, necessarily, but he just works so hard. That's what has carried him so long, his pro career as well. Brian's got that mentality and attitude. He's worked extremely hard on his body. He was 215 when he came here. He works hard every day in practice, he's a student of the game. His dad was a coach, I think that probably helps too. He's one of those guys that really pulls everything together for us. He's been a key player for us on defense.
Q: When it was 17-7 in the 3rd quarter, it seemed like the attitude changed, they got a little more focused, maybe. Was there anything being said on the sideline?
Ferentz: Nah. I didn't say a heck of a lot today, period. Part of the day was just kind of watching to see how we were reacting to things, what we're going to do from the onset, really. I think overall I was pleased. I think the guys got ready during the week pretty well. There were some days I wasn't sure, more so a week ago. This week we were a little sloppy in some areas on Tuesday, but got better as the week went on. I thought Thursday we were really business-like, which is good to see, because I wasn't quite sure if we were going to get there. I thought the reactions, for the most part, were good today, too. The one thing I can say, I think we're getting good leadership. That's starting to emerge, from not only our older guys, but some other guys too. Guys like Bryan Mattison, some of our juniors, Albert Young. That's going to be key for us. If we are going to improve this week, that stuff all comes from those players, they have to be talking about it, it's got to be important to them.
Q: How did you think your young linebackers played today?
Ferentz: I was really happy, John. We missed a couple tackles, a couple out in the open that were visible. I'm sure we missed a couple more, too, that maybe got hidden. I thought overall our communication was good. Mike Klinkenborg is the guy that kind of kicks that off a little bit. It seemed like we played pretty solid out there, we made some adjustments. They played some things that we thought maybe they would, maybe they wouldn't, we were throwing some darts getting ready for this one. Overall, pretty good. I told the guys on the radio, Abdul was down on the sidelines, I had him call Greenway and tell Greenway he could never have made that play Humpal made. Only in his dreams. I'm sure Chad'll take exception to that one.
Q: Coming in, you wanted to improve the kick return game. Just comment a little on that.
Ferentz: I guess I made an error there, I just talked about the kicking game. That looked a little bit better, although we had the penalty there in the 3rd quarter, or 4th, somewhere in that second half. At least we got off to a little cleaner start there. I think we've got something to build on, it was good to see.
Q: Early in the first half, Montana took a shot down the field, 1-on-1 coverage. Did you breathe a sigh of relief when he stuck with that guy and was able to break it up?
Ferentz: Oh yeah. The first thing you worry about with new guys at corner is you worry about balls going over your head. A, being uncontested, and B, the ones that are contested you don't get. We've got work to do out there, no doubt. We didn't give them anything real easy today, that's always good to see, especially in early ball games.
Q: What's Signor's story, as far as coming here?
Ferentz: It starts with Reese Morgan, he does a great job combing the state. Then with special teams involved, Lester does a great job, and Darrell, we have a special teams camp that we have every summer. We try our best to really know what's going on. If somebody might have an interest and can get into school, we're willing to go with it. Austin's a guy that we thought had a real strong leg. Like most guys last year, he really went through an adjustment period. Erratic, getting the ball up, it's a little different kicking off the ground. As I said this week, I wasn't quite sure in practice, either, how that was going to go. He's really improved, he's worked hard to improve and he's a very pleasant surprise how he performed today.