Purdue Week: Ferentz Main Press Conference

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz spent 24 minutes answer questions from the assembled Iowa media on Tuesday during his general question and answer press conference. Here are all of his words, including an injury update, his thoughts on Purdue's offensive and defensive philosophy, his recollections about the 1981 season and much more...

KIRK FERENTZ OPENING STATEMENT Iowa Sports Information Director Phil Haddy made an announcement about several members of the 1956, 1958 and 1981 teams being back in town this weekend, along with the coaches…to which Kirk Ferentz began his opening remarks)

I feel like I could get some advice this weekend, there are some pretty good minds coming in. That will be great

I will start by saying that I want to thank our fans for their support Saturday night and the environment was created. I am in my 17th year now of experience at the University, and I can't remember that stadium ever being any better. It was a fantastic environment and it was a privilege and honor to be a part of it. Our players feel the same way. It was an unreal environment. OI wish we could have delivered a better outcome, but we appreciated it.

Our captains this week, we will go with Andy Fenstermaker, Bryan Mattison, Adam Shada and Marshal Yanda.

On the injury front right now, the disappointing news with Devan Moylan; I told you it was significant, and it looks like we will lose him for the season, at least through November. He will be out. Marcus Paschal, really right now is the only guy that, or I shouldn't say the only guy, but he looks the iffiest. I am not optimistic on that front. From where I am sitting right now, I can't foresee him coming back this week. We have a couple of other guys that are wait and see during the course of the week. On the positive front, Rafael Eubanks, he will practice limited today (Tuesday) and we anticipate him being back to full speed by midweek. He is doing well, so we will go from there.

The Ohio State game, we played an excellent football team that played extremely good football on top of it. It was disappointing. I thought we played extremely hard and did some good things, but some things we have to clean up and Ohio State had something to do with that. We have to keep moving on, and that work begins today.

We play Purdue, and like you would expect, they are very explosive offensively. It starts with their guys up front; they are veterans and they know how to handle situations well and they react well. They are very productive. They have good skill players, a few excellent receivers and their backs are very good. In their offense, if they have a good quarterback back there, which they do, it gives them a heck of a chance. Painter is playing very well right now. They are up and running there. On defense right now, they are younger than what you are used to seeing from Purdue, particularly on the back end. They are gaining confidence defensively, in the second half against a good opponent the other day.

On special teams, to add interest to the game. We thought we had a challenge last week with Ohio State's kickoff return guys, now these guys throw out two guys that are more dangerous with Bryant and Sheets. We will have to do a great job in coverage this week to have an opportunity there.

The last thing, we are excited about the reunion of the Rose Bowl teams coming back. The 50 and 25 year reunion and also the 1958 team too. It will be a lot of really neat things going on here on campus; it will be an honor for our team to play in front of all those great players and teams. It should be an exciting week.

Q: Are the injuries to Marcus and Devan hamstrings?

Kirk Ferentz: Yeah. Devan's was really unusual. Marcus is not, I don't want to say it's not significant, because he came out of the game. Those things are just throwing darts. I wouldn't even want to predict it right now.

Q: What can you say about Marcus Wilson?

Ferentz: Right now he is our starting safety, which he was as of the first series Saturday night. We talk about next man in, and I thought he jumped in and did a nice job. He has been playing a lot of corner this camp, so he had a lot of work last week and jumped in and did a pretty good job. Now the question is if he can sustain it. We don't have a week off; we will really get tested back there this week.

Q: You talked about good things you did in the Ohio State game, what were they?

Ferentz: First of all the effort and intensity level. I thought our guys did a good job during the week getting ready to play, and I thought they played hard at every position. We had some excellent plays in the game, some good runs and good passes, same thing on defense. Then we had some plays where we opened the door and gave them opportunities. They had a lot to do with it. The key is eliminating the rough areas and minimize those areas, and not giving the opponent the easy avenue. That is where we are at right now. It's an ongoing process, but in some strange ways, even though we lost, we made some progress and that is where our focus is.

Q: Purdue is giving up 30 points a game this year. Is this a game where the offense could get on track?

Ferentz: Time will tell. It won't be easy, I know that. Purdue is a very young and inexperienced in the back end. They have four new starters back there playing, and a couple are very young. That is not typically what you see from Purdue on defense. There will not be anything easy for us, there never is. What we need to worry about is what we are doing. Hopefully that we can do a better job in execution in practice. It hasn't been stellar or consistent at any point, and that has shown up on the game field.

Q: Traditionally, Purdue has been a heavy blitzing team. Are they doing that this year?

Ferentz: Not as much, although they came after Notre Dame pretty good in the second half and had some effectiveness. We are a blitz magnet, so we will see some stuff I am sure. At times we see some things we have not seen. We will get a surprise or two, we got a couple the other night. That is part of football. Percentage wise, not maybe what they were a few years past. The worst beating that we have gotten from Purdue was over there in 2003. I am not sure they did blitz that day. They lined up and kicked our tails. I am not sure they did anything other than play one front and one coverage basically the whole game. You are right; they come at us with some crazy stuff. In 2004, we saw some stuff that I am still trying to figure out what they were doing and it gave us a lot of problems. But the year before, they had a salty defense and they lined up and got after us. They didn't have to blitz that day.

Q: Before the season, you said you wanted the offense to take pressure off of Drew so he didn't have to do everything. Has that happened? You have not had a 100-yard rusher yet this year.

Ferentz: Two games ago, we had three backs with 50 yards. We are getting production from the running back position. Overall, I would say we are just not playing as consistent that we have to play at to be a good team. Drew is our quarterback. We need that position to play well, and for the most part he has done that. I thought for the most part, especially in the first half he did a good job the other night. The third quarter was over like that, and we are in a situation where you have to throw, that is no fun, especially against a team like that. I throw those stats away. I focus on what we did in the first half and I think our game plan was good and we were moving well, except from the one turnover there.

Q: Has this been a good practice team?

Ferentz: I think we have practiced well. Our attitude has been good, but we have had too many moving parts. It's not a complaint, because that is a reality. What we need to do now is get continuity established and practice with that. I think I mentioned a week ago, the Illinois game, we had an exchange problem in that game. Geez, you would like to think that by that point in time, four games in to the season, you are beyond that and there is a reason for that. That is the kind of stuff. We are six games into it now, the season is almost half over and we have to minimize those and make the makable plays.

Q: Have you had an offense like that before, with so many moving parts?

Ferentz: Probably not a good offense. We have one, but we are not as good as we need to be. But I am confident we will get there.

Q: Do you worry about a let down this week?

Ferentz: You worry every week until you see the team practice. You always feel better or worse at the end of the week based on what you see there in practice. Overall on general terms, no. That is one of the points we made a week ago, and not that it means it will get done, but we all new after the game on Saturday that one team would be 5-0 and the other would be 4-1. And there would be another game the next week. We allowed everyone to feel bad, including us, on Sunday, but its back to work on Monday. If you let that loss linger, it's going to handicap you this week and we can't afford that. We are not a good enough team to go into any game shorthanded, so we have to be ready mentally, and I think our guys understand that.

Q: You preach a lot about not getting too high or too low. Is it hard for the players to buy into that?

Ferentz: It was not just another game the other night, if you had a heartbeat at all, it elevated getting off the busses. It was an unbelievable scene. That is a part of sports. You will have peaks and valleys, but somehow you have to get yourself back to center by Monday. You have all year to think about that mentally, to get ready for a season. Those games are scheduled a long time in advance. If you can't handle that, then you are probably going to be encountering some landmines in your time as a player. As a coach, you get over it and keep moving.

Q: Do you know Purdue's Defensive Coordinator Brock Spack? You hear about Purdue's offense, but he has given you fits.

Ferentz: I remember him as a player when I was here in the 1980's, very aggressive and he is an aggressive coordinator. I have great respect for him. From my vantage point, I don't think anyone has done any better job in our league, and I think Joe Tiller and his staff are one of the best staff's in the nation. If you look at their records, which I haven't, I am guessing you are going to find that they have won as consistent in the history of Purdue football. I think it's like the 49ers, everyone loved the west coast offense, which was excellent and great under Bill Walsh. With Purdue you think about that offense, for good reason. They took the league by storm when Coach Tiller got there. But good football teams play good defense, the 49erse played excellent defense when they won those Superbowls, and Purdue has done the same thing. You have to give credit to Brock Spack and the coaches. They are aggressive and sound.

Q: What are the challenges of playing against Purdue's offense?

Ferentz: They are wide open in terms of formations and personnel. I think they do a very nice job of taking their personnel and making it match their system. They have done some different things and have been effective. On our opening drive last year, it was off the beaten path for a Purdue team and they took it down there 80 yards and we were looking for answers. They make you play the whole field; it's not just pass, pass, pass. Sheets is an excellent runner back, and that little guy they have is really good, too. They keep you on edge all the time. They have always done well with the quarterback position. I have great respect for Coach Tiller. When Kyle Orton was a young player, they were more of a ball control offense, whatever year that was. Run the clock, play defense. They have done a good job of playing to their strengths. That is what good teams do. Then as Orton became a senior, they took their shots.

Q: Your defensive backs will really be tested against Purdue.

Ferentz: They will find you and they will complete balls, there is no question about it. You have to keep playing.

Q: Will there be any chance of a different defensive wrinkle as you are playing against another spread offense?

Ferentz: Are you talking about a nickel? (laughs) We are two down in the count right now and its too late to go recruiting. We are what we are. I think we are comfortable with that. I think we know our personnel and what gives us our best chance. We are two down in the count right now, and I can't see Marcus or Devan playing. We are getting thin. It limits your options there. That being said, I always go back to the Sunday after Northwestern put 50+ on Michigan in 2000. I remember watching the tape with Norm that night and I went home that night thinking no doubt about it, we will play nickel. Norm came in the next day and said we were going to play our defense and it worked out well. I am with him there. I am not sure that we have anyone that can match up with Gonzalez, in fact I am sure we don't, on a consistent basis. I have heard and read that stuff, but he is going to be a tough matchup for anyone in the league at any position. That guy is a heck of a football player.

Q: How is Mike Klinkenborg adapting to coverage in the passing game?

Ferentz: It's a tough matchup, just like it was tough on Abdul when he played here. You get a guy that is a box linebacker, that is the hardest thing they have to do, but it's a part of football. If you go on and play beyond, that is a part of the deal too. If you put all DB's in there, they can run the ball too. When you play a good offensive football team, there is a little give and take in there.

Q: Will he have the same responsibilities this week?

Ferentz: These guys do the same thing. They will matchup on people, that is offensive football. I thought Mike played well the other night. I am not sure we have a DB that can handle Gonzalez one on one. They may have one or two that can, but there are not many guys in the league that can matchup. Not that I am Joe Prognosticator, but he will play well for the next ten years. I have not seen many players that good in our conference since I have been there.

Q: Has Damien Sims been making his case to start?

Ferentz: Yeah, he does every day and every game. He plays well. The only problem he has is that we have a pretty good one on the line above him. If Damien is in the game, I feel good about it. I feel the same way about Shonn. It's a unique situation for us because we have three guys that we have great confidence in and Brownlee has played well too when called upon. Damien gives us a good change of pace and has done a great job. I guess we are saying that Albert is better because he has started each game, but we feel that both are excellent players and he has a great attitude and we are real happy with him.

Q: In what areas is Albert better?

Ferentz: I mean, I don't know. (some silence) Just general observation, we think he is a notch above or we would start Damien. It's no slight on Damien, we have seen Albert do a pretty good job and I thought he ran well the other night, he blocked extremely well. He is a versatile and well rounded back and Damien is not far behind. They are both good players. Really good players. Maybe Damien could matchup on Gonzalez, you got me thinking there. I think he probably could. But we need him on offense.

Q: You recruited Corey Sheets. Has he become the player you thought he might become?

Ferentz: We thought he was an excellent football player and he is doing great. He has great speed.

Q: What are your recollections from the 1981 season?

Ferentz: That was one of the great years of my life. I promise you that I had no idea about any of this stuff, how good it could be being in Iowa. The only thing I knew when I came here is that they had not won very much. I knew that Coach Fry was a square jawed ex-Marine from Texas, so I did get a hair cut and put a tie on before I interviewed. But outside of that, my knowledge of Iowa football was limited and I had no idea what was going to happen. It was one of the great years of my life, my wife's life and it was an unreal year. The thing I remember about it was that I had been a GA at Pitt where we were #2 in the nation the year before, and we had some great players on that football team. I think we had 11 guys drafted off the ‘80 ball club and that is not including Jimbo Colbert and Dan Marino, the underclassmen. I came here, and off the senior class we had two drafted; Ron Hallstrom and Andre Tippet. I saw real quick when I got here was the sense of comrade between the team, the staff and that jumped out. Then basically, it was a team that you could tell that they were tired of losing. They were determined. You look at the seniors on that team, guys like Kittle, Mel Cole, Simonsen, Pat Dean, they were tired of losing. It was a strong willed team and I thought Coach Fry did a masterful job. I missed the first two years, but he did a masterful job of pulling that whole thing together. I don't think any of us will ever forget the Michigan State game and what happened afterwards. How lucky are you to be involved in something like that or be in the stadium that day. A lot of people put effort into it. That team was so determined. That was a great story in college football.

Q: Do you remember Phil Blatcher's running for 247 yards that day?

Ferentz: He was running downhill. Once it got going, it got going pretty good. I remember that first play of the game, Bob Stoops hit their tight end and stood over top of him with his hands in the air and Tippett took it inside the 10 or five and then we scored. Obviously the Michigan score and that kind of thing. It was a great day. An unbelievable day. We got it going good in the second half, I remember that. It was pretty tight for a while. They picked one off in the end zone. It was getting kind of sticky. After that the team took off. Those are the things you remember. What a great group of guys; they were a lot of fun. I wasn't here for the 1956 team, I missed that one. But I met a lot of the guys.

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