Our captains this week are Miguel Merrick and Bryan Mattison, Albert Young and Scott Chandler. Those guys will provide great leadership.
Injury wise we feel like we are in pretty good shape. Things have not changed to my knowledge since Saturday, except that we expect Kyle Schlicher to kick this week. He kicked a little bit on Sunday and we are expecting him to go today and hopefully kick all week.
I think it was a good start overall. There were a lot of good things that showed up on the tape and a lot of things that we need to clean up that came out on the tape as well. We got off to a good start on Sunday looking at the tape with the players and make a few corrections on the field on a very brief workout. Our focus will turn today for getting ready for Syracuse.
A few things there, we are looking at a road challenge. It's our first time on the road. We will be playing in a dome, which is not a huge deal. We have had experience there. This will be our first time on the road and also I think we are playing a football team that is probably a little better than people on the outside would think. What we have to do is try to guard against the feeling that we are playing a 1 win team from last year and realize that this is a team that has improved and is in the process of improving. We need to be ready to play a good football game because of the opponent and learn how to get ready during the course of the week. Q: Have you had a chance to map out how this game will go for Ken and Herb this week, as far as playing time goes?
Kirk Ferentz: They are back. They are done now. To my knowledge at least, we are done with all forms of discipline and that has been ongoing and certainly last weekend they had more. But they are back with the team full scale now. How things go in practice will determine that, I expect both to play a lot and possibly both start. It depends on how they perform this week.
Q: Is playing in a dome a big deal and what have you heard about the atmosphere there, and is it different from other domes?
Ferentz: I was there in 1980 when I was a grad assistant at Pitt. It was a live, wild environment, just like any dome. They can get loud. I am not a big fan of dome football, but its one of those deals. The only surprise in this whole thing is that its not air conditioned, and that will be a factor for both teams, just like a hot day outside. It will be warm and muggy in there and both teams will have to be smart about their hydration habits in the game and leading up to it. That will be a factor.
Q: Will you practice in the bubble this week?
Ferentz: We don't plan on going in there at all unless it's necessary. We have been in there and we can practice on turf outside. Other people do that. We have been through the heat and humidity, but we want to take a fresh team there and emphasize hydration and rest all week long.
Q: What were the good things that you saw on tape?
Ferentz: Overall, I thought our temp improved as the game went on. We were more cohesive later. We started out roughshod in some areas. I think our overall cohesiveness, timing was better as the game went on. There were some circumstances where we have to be better, where people need to be more cognizant of what the other guys are doing. That showed not only on offense and defense, but in the kicking game. A couple of guys ended up in the same spot. That is not a good thing; we opened the door for them in coverage and protection. We have some things there to clean up.
Q: Were you intending to lean on Albert so much against Montana?
Ferentz: We plan on leaning on Albert all season long. We told him that and to be in shape, and he is eager to go. He is excited about the year and he is just a proven football player. It's kind of like when we had Fred Russell back in 2003; he had a great year in 2002. Albert is a different back and we will use him in different kinds of ways than we did with Fred. I am a dumb line coach, but if you have a good player you should get him involved as much as possible and we plan on doing that, not unlike Ronnie Harmon back in the 80's. If you have ability, you want to get him out there and keep him busy.
Q: What has happened to Syracuse over the years? They went from a BCS team to 1-10 last year.
Ferentz: They had a great run, no question. At a given point a year ago, they decided they wanted to change things a little bit. I think what you see now is a combination of a new staff last year and that is always, not always but there can be that period of acclimation. What they do schematically, it's pretty complex, so I can see where it would take some time for that to get across. One thing that jumped out at me though, they remind me of our Minnesota game in 1999. You look at the last two games they played against Louisville and Notre Dame, two good teams. If you watch the film in the third quarter, both games are jump balls at that point. So despite their record heading into those games, they are on the road at both places, those guys showed up and played and played well. They took another step if you look at the tape last Saturday. They are intent on getting where they want to get and I am sure they will. I just hope it doesn't start this week.
Q: Isn't this the kind of team more scary to plan against, because they might be able to put it all together for a game?
Ferentz: It will happen for them, that is my projection. I don't know if scary is the right word, but I know what you are saying. We need to be ready to play a good ballgame. We cannot focus on 1-10, that was a year ago. There is a mirage there. We need to be ready, and that is tough. The climate is that our guys walk around this week and hear that they are just going to a 1-10 team and Iowa State is next week. That is the world they live in and one more thing that we have to try to address.
Q: Your last two road openers have not been good for you. Last year you didn't score a touchdown on the road until the Purdue game.
Ferentz: I read that somewhere this morning. I can't tell you where it was from. It will be on the list today. It's a good challenge. Our two openers the last two times have not been very pretty. Not that we are reliving the past, but it's one more challenge for us. It's an illustration that we are trying to make September a positive month for us and this is another step, the most important step.
Q: When Greg Robinson was in NFL, he was known for bend don't break defense and big plays on third and long. Has he translated that to the college game?
Ferentz: They are not there philosophically like they want to be, but they are very multiple. I remember him when he was a coordinator with the Jets with Pete Carroll and we played them in 1994, then we went to Denver a few years later when I was in Baltimore. They were a tough preparation in both of those games, a little unorthodox in some areas and a lot of things to get ready for. We are looking at the same thing. It's one of the more complex game plans, potentially, that you are going to have. He is an excellent defensive coach.
Q: How would you describe (Syracuse quarterback) Perry Patterson?
Ferentz: Talented, probably the biggest thing he is fighting now is accuracy, but he can throw the ball. He is a big guy and a good athlete. The accuracy thing is what he is trying to conquer right now, but he is capable.
Q: Albert said that you guys were going to pump in some crowd noise this week during practice.
Ferentz: No. Not unless he brings something with him, but no. A lot of people do that. We just haven't done it. We did it here with Coach. We really haven't. Maybe we have a time or two, I cannot remember, but it didn't make a big impression. We probably go beat, so that is why we haven't done it since then. It just makes the coaches mad because no one can hear them.
Q: Does the road game come at a good time, to get the players away from potential distractions with the Iowa State game looming?
Ferentz: I have not thought much about that. I vote for playing at home every week, but they wont let us do that. We have to go on the road sometime, and this is as good a time as any. I am not sure that it will matter. Once we get to Friday, whether we are home or away, its like being in camp. We can close the doors a little bit. To me, what I worry about is after the game on Saturday until Friday. Where their heads are. That is why I read papers all the time, plus I like reading what everyone writes. I like to read the papers to feel the pulse. I don't cruise around campus; maybe I should start that.
Q: A lot of coaches say that they don't read the papers.
Ferentz: That is one more thing I learned in pro ball. Pro ball players talk more freely and I wanted to find out what they were saying, who they were shooting bullets at. I think you are stupid not to read papers. I haven't quite caught up to the Internet yet, but I have people that throw stuff in front of me. If you want to know what your audience is reading, that is important for me, as a coach. Most coaches that say they don't read the papers, they lie. Or fib, I don't want to say they lie.
Q: Were you surprised at Dominique Douglas breaking into the mix this fall and on Saturday?
Ferentz: He is a guy we felt good about. He has looked comfortable all the way through. You never know what will happen in games, just like Austin. I would not have predicted that by practice, but he played well. I read something that Doug's nickname was Doug E. Fresh. I thought that guy worked in the produce department, so I learned that on Sunday in the papers. I am getting educated as we go along here.
Q: Is it fair that the Big East Conference has become a national whipping boy? It's almost like whomever wins between Louisville and West Virginia is going to win the league.
Ferentz: I am not an expert on the conference, but I know that those two teams are pretty good. I think that conference stuff is cyclical, or a lot of the times it is. Losing Miami impacted things, but Louisville is not a team that people want to play, that is for sure. I am not good at ranking conferences. They seem to go around a little bit.
Q: Talk about Jason Manson; you used him as a receiver and a quarterback on Saturday. Do you get to the point to use him more at receiver and cut ties at quarterback and turn things over to Jake Christensen?
Ferentz: He has practiced extensively at receiver this camp and even in the spring, more so in the spring. The surprising thing to us is that we took some time, about 10 days out and rested Drew a little bit and gave Jason and Jake all the work with the one's and two's, bouncing around a little bit and he really looked sharp. I told Ken that we are going at this wrong, maybe practice doesn't make perfect. He really performed sharply, and I was surprised by that. That is a luxury for us if we can keep him working at receiver he can jump in and play well at QB, that is a good thing. That is the best of both worlds.
Q: Is it to get Jason some time on the field, because his clock is ticking.
Ferentz: We are trying to carve a role if we can. I don't think that we have a better…you hate to have a favorite son, but we don't have a better guy on the team, a more team oriented guy…we have a lot of them, but Jason has been tremendous since he has been here. He is an outstanding young guy and we trust him totally. If we can get him in the game in another role, that is a possibility.
Q: Unrelated to the game, was Brian (Ferentz) getting cut (by the Falcons) unexpected and did you ever cut anyone when you were in the NFL?
Ferentz: I never played that role. It was not unexpected. Brian got hurt and missed the last two games, but they had told him after his injury that they had some love for him. He got signed to the practice squad and that is outstanding, considering that he missed the last two games. If he does his job, it gives him a chance to hang around for a year and maybe make it next year. If he doesn't, he will work in the real world like us.
Q: Is that role (cutting players) something that coaches would rather not do?
Ferentz: I think everyone doesn't want that one. There might be one or two guys you want to cut. I remember one guy that I wish they would have let volunteer. Only because this guy fell asleep in the first meeting we had. He was a free agent and supposedly wanted to make our team and he fell asleep right away. Then he cut his hand at walk thru, so we couldn't cut him until he got that healed up. He hung around all week and drove me nuts; he kept sleeping, too. But most guys come to give their best and no one wants to tell someone that it's over. That is a hard thing.
Q: Do any college kids fall asleep in meetings?
Ferentz: Sure. Are you kidding me? So do coaches. I am just joking. It happens sometimes, not too often.
Q: You mentioned that Rafael was struggling with some of the tight end hearing his line calls. Do you address that special this week due to a road game coming up?
Ferentz: It's part of the process. It's one of the things we have to improve on. Relative to the past, the last two centers we broke in Brian Ferentz and Mike Elgin, it's tough. Bruce Nelson had the advantage of being a two-year starter when he took over. I thought that Rafael did a nice job. His calls might have been quieter, and he was slow snapping the ball on that false start that Mike Jones got credited with. I think that for a first time out, that was a good performance and something we can build on.
Q: So does Rafael have that spot secured for all season? How has Seth Olsen been doing?
Ferentz: Seth is doing really well in practice. We have rotated around when he has been in the first group on the rotation. Mike Elgin is still our backup center. He would be our starting center just as easily. We move mike in there and Seth plays guard. He is doing a good job, and I am looking at it like we have six guys that we would not blink to have any of those guys in there. Every position is up for grabs all the time if guys are not getting it done, we will make a move.
Q: Talk about Ettore Ewen getting in there on Saturday
Ferentz: That was one of the great things that happened on Saturday. It's not the Albert Young story, but kind of like it. We have had some guys go through significant back to back year injuries. Ettore had two tough years and he missed this spring with a torn pec. He has had a rough go and for him to get on the field was a major accomplishment. I thought he played well. He had about 17 or 18 plays. We want to get him in the rotation. This is just a huge start for him. It was good to see that for the team, but more importantly for his confidence. Anytime a guy that has been through adversity like that you like to see a benefit come his way.
Q: It must be hard to block him.
Ferentz: He is a challenge. That is good and that is what we saw last year in particular, he was doing a good job in camp. You hope no player has to go through more than two setbacks like that. We are hoping to get him in the rotation and keep it moving a bit, that would give us seven guys that we would feel good about playing in there.
Q: Is your team old enough and mature enough so that you don't have to remind them to stay focused on the Syracuse game and not look ahead to the Iowa State game?
Ferentz: I have not thought about it until this press conference, and I won't mention it. The challenge is every week is a season and you have 12 seasons that we are looking at. That is cliché, one at a time, but it's really true and that is how you have to look at it and think. We have plenty on our plate right now between Syracuse and our own challenges. That is more than enough for us to be focused on right now. If they have any time left over, they need to study or take a walk with their girlfriends, but that is about it.
Q: The Big Ten went 11-0 in the opening week for the first time in its history. Does that point to how solid the league is?
Ferentz: It's way too soon to say I think. We'll know better in a month. But it's a great thing. We are all happy to come out ahead, that is for sure.
Q: What did you think about the new clock rules?
Ferentz: I read somewhere the game was 28 minutes shorter than the average. It didn't seem that way. We figure about 72 snaps a game and we went into this one with 62, and we had 61 gradable plays at least. That is just part of the deal and I did pick up talking to the officials the other day that they are going to use common sense at the end of the game, which was good to learn. As far as if there is a penalty on a kickoff at the end of the game, one of those deals. If there are: 05 seconds left, you can't kick the ball out of the bounds and the clock keeps running. If you are behind, it will affect your tempo more in the second half. It's probably like the two-point play; unless you are deep into the game, you don't think about it.
Q: Does this put more of an emphasis on a strong running game?
Ferentz: It does not hurt at all. It never hurts. A running game and a defense increases your odds.