NIU Postgame: Kirk Ferentz Transcript

Kirk Ferentz spoke with the media on Saturday following Iowa's victory over Northern Illinois. Read what he had to say about Jake's poise, the play of his defense, playing like a team, and more in this premium transcript.

Kirk Ferentz: We feel a lot better than we did a week ago, no question about that. Thrilled to get the win today. I thought our guys played extremely hard and really want to compliment Northern Illinois. We got what we expected there. They're a tough football team, they play hard each and every time out there, and every guy on our staff has great respect for Coach Novak, his staff, and their football team. I think today you saw why, they played the game the way it oughta be played. We're thrilled to get the win. Was it a perfect game? Hardly. We all realize that. We squandered some opportunities. Part of that was our doing, part of that was Northern Illinois'. The good news is that right now we have a lot of things we feel like we can improve upon, things we can get cleaned up. That's the task that's ahead as we enter the last month of the season. Coming into the game, the best we can do is be 6-3. We're happy to be at that point, thrilled about being bowl eligible, it's something we never take for granted. It's an extremely significant accomplishment, and with 3 weeks left, that's where our focus will shift here as we transition this week.

Q: You probably didn't want to put that much pressure on Jake, in the 4th needed a drive to score, how do you think he responded?

Ferentz: That was one of the highlights of the game, certainly. We had some lowlights in there too, unfortunately. I'll comment on that here in a second. That was a highlight, not only Jake, but the entire offensive team responded. There were some times during the game today where we played good team football, offense, defense, special teams kind of combined and meshed in there. You're exactly right. At that point in the game, we had to respond, needed to respond, that was critical. I thought he did a great job of orchestrating that drive. He overcame some adversity during the process as well, after we took that sack down there. It wasn't easy, but he really did a nice job with the big conversion on 4th down. Certainly he did a good job hanging in there, getting the ball to Scott. Scott made a real nice effort to the ball in the endzone.

Q: What did you want to see him take from today?

Ferentz: Jake? First things first. To me, it was just to manage the game, lead the offense. I really think he did a good job. Was he perfect? Hardly. He missed some throws, missed a couple reads. They threw a couple blitzes, not that we hadn't seen before, but they shuffled a few in there that maybe their emphasis was different. That's what you expect, not unlike Syracuse. They gave us a couple things to worry about also. No matter what happened, I don't think he got flustered out there, he kept his poise, he was very communicatable on the sidelines, his awareness was pretty good. I think that showed up in that last drive too. That was crunch time, no question about it. Our offense responded. If your QB's not a big part of that, you're going to be in big trouble. That was really a highlight for us. It's really pleasing to see that.

Q: When you went on 4th down, was Kyle's struggle part of the thinking?

Ferentz: I'd probably seen enough of our field goal unit, the whole unit, for the day. I was kind of feeling the same way about our kickoff team, too. They came back and did some good things in the second half. We've got some work to do there, no question about it. That's disappointing. I think just overall, in general terms, our effort was good today, probably the thing that is disappointing, we are playing some young guys right now, Jake or Jason, whoever was the QB, was going to be inexperienced. We've had that at other positions, too, that's where the guys who have been experienced really have to help grab the rope a bit. We're not doing quite good enough of a job there yet. We've got to get everyone more involved, a bit more consistency from guys that have been out on the field. Not only some of the obvious things you might be thinking about, but some more subtle things. For instance, us not, on the first kickoff, we didn't keep contain, reminiscent of our kickoff at Indiana. The individual responsible wasn't a veteran starter for us, but he's a veteran kickoff guy, he's been here enough to do that right and has done it right. When we've done things right, we've got tangible evidence a guy can do it right. When we're not doing it on a consistent basis, that's a concern, certainly. You live with inexperience errors, but we've got to do a better job where we are experienced. That, to me, is our big challenge ahead of us. You can't do anything about having to play a guy that hasn't played, that's part of football, nobody's squawking about that. We all need to do a little better job of hanging on and helping out when someone else is in there.

Q: Kyle has been so accurate most of his career, is it a technique thing or a mental thing?

Ferentz: I really don't know. To me, I'm confident it'll just be a blip. It'll be something that'll pass through, we'll work through it. He's done a lot of great things. He'll bounce back, no doubt about that, he'll bounce back. Sometimes you have a bad day, and that's no fun. At that point, we felt like we should go for it and see what happens. Hopefully the worst case scenario is that we might be in an overtime situation if they kick a long field goal. I felt like we needed more points, more than the 3 at that point.

Q: Is Kyle healthy?

Ferentz: He had a leg strain early in the year, but as far as I know, he's healthy. We just have to get him back up on his feet, get him back in a groove.

Q: How much did Albert help get the offense settled down?

Ferentz: That's kind of what I'm referring to. With as many new faces as we've had at times, the guys that have been there need to help us out and get them involved. You can't do it if a guy's hurt. Albert's working through that knee right now, I'm not sure he's 100%, but he's probably awfully close. You'd have to ask him. We had the turnover with Albert. My guess is that's some rust showing, as he hasn't worked extensively. There's a cumulative effect when a guy misses significant time over a course of 4-6 weeks, whatever it's been. We've got to play through that without it costing us. That's something we've got to clean up a bit. It was good to get him back and involved. When he's healthy, he's obviously one of our proven performers, an energy guy for us.

Q: Do you still expect Drew to be able to practice eon Tuesday?

Ferentz: That's what I'm hoping for. He didn't come out to practice Tuesday or Wednesday, he was still on some pain medication, and it was a tough thing. I don't' know if he could have gone on Thursday or not. The good news, yesterday he seemed like he's doing pretty well. Today he seemed like he was doing pretty well. The plan is to make a splint for him tomorrow, a protective splint. He'll see the hand specialist on Monday and hopefully be cleared to go Tuesday. I should know that by the time we get together Tuesday. That's the plan at least. It'll take a lot to keep him out, this guy's a tough guy.

Q: Talk about Jake and how he's performed. He looked at ease in the pocket, is he beyond a freshman as far as his mentality?

Ferentz: I'm not ready to pronounce him a savvy veteran yet. We've watched him improve over the last several weeks. Again, that's something a coach is afforded, the opportunity of watching guys that maybe the public doesn't get to see as much. He's worked at it real well. That's a key thing, it's a hard lesson for young guys some times. Everybody has an opportunity to improve every time they go out there. Sometimes it's hard when you're not playing, you just kind of, I call it a cocoon, you get in a cocoon level, where it's warm and comfortable, there's not much pressure on you to go out and perform. Some guys don't handle that so well, but I think he's really practiced well. He's taken advantage of the time he's had on the field to improve. Jason's done the same thing. Both those guys have really competed and kept Drew sharp and honest. That's something you like to see, it gives you a chance. The thing you can't simulate in practice is game situations, games pressures, those things. Particularly that last drive we talked about. To me, as much as anything that happened today, that may be the most positive thing we saw out there that our team did.

Q: Did you call that play at the end because it's a good comfort zone for Jake?

Ferentz: We were trying to (A) get the first down, and (B) score. That was secondary, but we wanted to get the first down, that was critical to keep the thing going, keep the ball out of there hands. We wanted to get points out of the drive obviously. It wasn't an easy play. They brought pressure that forced us to throw an unblocked guy, that's part of the game. He made a good throw, and Scott made a real good effort to get the ball in the endzone.

Q: What was the key to keeping Wolfe in check?

Ferentz: I think the only way you stop a great player, and he is a great player. We played one last week that was exceptional. A different style of player, but boy, I tell ya, you'd love to have Mike Hart or Garrett Wolfe in your backfield. The whole key thing there is team defense, that's how we're build anyway. The good news is, there, that we didn't do a great job of playing team defense a couple weeks ago at Indiana, and I think we did some things I would characterize as being uncharacteristic of us. We lost leverage too easily, didn't tackle well, and I think we did a much better job today. That's the good thing about playing a guy like this. If you're not at your best, you're going to pay for it. The last two weeks our guys have really done a nice job in practice, our scout teams have done a good job of getting after our defense a little bit, and I think our guys fully realized a week ago and realized today that if we weren't at our best, we're going to see #1 shooting down that sideline or shooting between our defenders. That's something you don't' want to see. You're going to lose that battle if he gets free. I don't' think he came out of there too many times today. I know there was one over by our bench where we lost leverage, but overall, I thought our guys did a good job.

Q: When did you decide to go with Jake?

Ferentz: I'm not being political, but we really felt good about both guys. I guess we just felt a little better about Jake. Again, it wasn't just a decision we made during this week, although that factored into it. We've been watching him, all of them, we watch everybody certainly in practice. We'd been watching the last couple weeks, we felt like he was a little more consistent that Jason's been, just a little bit. The next question is, how are they going to handle this week. Now this week, everybody knows Drew isn't playing. Circumstances change a little bit. Both guys, I thought, rose to the occasion. I was talking to Gary earlier in the week about it. It's something I'd forgotten, but I guess everywhere I've been through my career, when the #1 guy definitely isn't going to play, the #2 and #3 always come out that next week and throw the ball better. Geez, hadn't seen the guy throw that well. That happened this week, and that's a good thing. We saw that in practice and felt pretty good about it. You get to the game and you're never sure. I'm confident that if Jason had been in there, he'd have played very well too, I felt that way. I think all of us did.

Q: The flea-flicker play opened up their offense. What do you think that play did to your defense?

Ferentz: It threw us off our rhythm. It was a good play, well designed, well conceived, well executed. It takes time. It's hard not to under throw that a little bit because it's a play that eats up time. It got us on our heels a bit, and got them going. It was either an 80 or 78 yard drive, I believe. It was long, I know that. One was 80, one was 78.

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