"First of all, I would like to congratulate those honored on Saturday with the wall of fame ceremony. That is very nice and well deserved. I think it's a reflection of the stability of the program. We miss all of the good stuff (in the locker room at halftime).
Injury wise right now, we are gaining some ground. Two guys for sure out are Adam Shada and also Shonn Greene, they are in the recovery mode right now. They both have a chance next week.
Captain wise, Mascus Paschal and Bryan Mattison, Miguel Merrick on special teams, he is on each one of those, and Jason Manson will lead the team offensively. Jason handled tough circumstances last week in an exemplary way. It's easy to say you have a good attitude, but he backed it up with action. He was a big part of Jake's success on Saturday. We were glad to get the win and we have a lot to improve on.
Northwestern is a team that has a record that is disappointing to them at this point, but you don't see that in their play. They play really hard. They bounced back after a tough loss from two weeks ago and they played Michigan real tough. They are physical. They have had a rotation at quarterback, and from our point of view, we can see why they have settled where they have. It gives them a chance to operate more effectively. Sutton is a great running back and he played well a year ago and is again this year. They have a big and physical offensive line.
On defense, they are playing hard. They have had injuries that have hurt them and they played well against Michigan who is an outstanding team. We have our work cut out for us. Q: What is the status of Drew Tate?
Kirk Ferentz: I thought he handled the week well. There was no decision there after surgery. He has been in good spirits. The pain went away around Thursday. Sunday they made a splint for him and he feels good with it. He has taken some snaps with Rafael yesterday morning, and did that under center and in shot gun without problems. Unless we see something the next two days, and unless there are issues with ball security, the worst is behind him. Playing against Michigan with the injury was the challenge. What we have now is operable and I hope it works real well. I don't think it's a major factor.
Q: Does he have a splint?
Ferentz: He wears one in normal hours, and then another one. It's a firm, protective thing. You can drink coffee with it, if he wants to have a cup of coffee with it. It's not awkward. If it was on the right hand, it would be real concerning. I don't think it will be a huge thing for him. One hand handoffs will be interesting.
Q: Will Drew start?
Ferentz: As long as practice goes well. The good news is that his arm should be good. Unless there is something unforeseen, I don't think it's a big issue.
Q: Northwestern's coach Pat Fitzgerald is just 32. What were you doing at that age?
Ferentz: I have to think about that. I was here, I know that. That was 1987. I was coaching the line, life was good, and my scope was limited at that point. It's a whole different realm of responsibilities for Pat. Those circumstances were hard. It's not like he had time to prepare. I think he is more of a big picture guy than I was at that age. There was talk that he was going to be the heir apparent. I first met him this summer at the league meetings. Just being around him for a short time, you could tell why they wanted to go with him down the road. He has handled tough circumstances in a great way.
Q: Could you have been the head coach at Iowa in 1987?
Ferentz: That would have been less realistic. That wasn't on my screen at that time. Bump Elliot would have had better judgment
Q: Will you remind the team of last year's game against Northwestern?
Ferentz: I am not big on going back, but walking down to shave this morning; it's similar to a trip we made earlier this year, we didn't bring our best effort. It's hard to live with. But the teams are different. When you watch the tapes, bad memories come back; it won't affect the game. We have to worry about the areas where we are not doing well in and improve, and improve the rest of the way. If we do that it will help our chances of winning.
Q: Do you think the players that were involved in the game last year will use it as motivation?
Ferentz: I would hope that none of us is proud of our performance that day. It was a long bus ride home. It seemed like it took 2 hours to get to O'Hare, then a long way the rest of the way. There were not pleasant thoughts on that bus.
Q: Is there anything you can do with the receivers to hang onto the ball?
Ferentz: Practice. There is no magic. If I knew, we wouldn't be dropping balls. We need to grow as a team and improve our concentration level. We are not playing the kind of ball we hoped we would have been playing by this stage.
Q: What is the status of Ed Miles (who was arrested for simple assault over the weekend)
Ferentz: Probably not near as dramatic as some of the accounts I have read. I am not trying to minimize anything. It is what it is; it's a simple misdemeanor, if in fact that is decided on the 28th. I will deal with it because it happened, and if it is a simple misdemeanor, we'll do more. I am not expecting any bomb shells. I don't think it's as dramatic as some of the accounts I have read. I am not laughing it off, it happened and we will deal with it. Technically he was arrested. If you get a speeding ticket, you get arrested, too, and when you sign the ticket, it says you will show up in court or pay the fine. If it was more serious, and I have talked to people on both sides, but now knowing what I have heard, it will be handled in house.
Q: Will he start?
Ferentz: Yes. Unless there is more to the story, but I have talked to a lot of the people involved.
Q: Your teams in the past have finished strong in November. Do you sense that with this team?
Ferentz: Not yet, we did some great things Saturday, but not enough of them. For the most part, what has happened in the past has happened in the past. This is a new month and a new team. We are not playing where we need to be at this stage, if we have high expectations. What we need to do is to kick it up another gear to continue that trend. Just because tomorrow is November, that won't make us a better team.
Q: Did you spend a lot of time investigating the Miles situation?
Ferentz: I talked to the parties involved, some officials that would have a different slant on it. If there is more to it you keep probing, but I am satisfied I have a good handle on it. My guess is what happened happens a lot in a college town on Friday and Saturday. People get speeding tickets, and that isn't good either as accidents happen. But I am satisfied with what it is. I am not trying to be Judge Judy. What happened Saturday, I am pretty comfortable I can handle that one. If there is more to it, it will come out. If what I think happened happened, all that you will know is what I tell you. When guys disappear from the field, then you will know there is more to the story.
Q: This week is extremely important to set up the month of November.
Ferentz: It is. It's a cumulative effect. One of my concerns is that when you put a new player on the field, there will be ups and downs. Jake had never played when it counted. What we need is for our guys that have played, to be able to count on them and to get their best performances. That is how we have done well in November. Everyone on the team has to continue to improve. Our scout teams have done a nice job the last two weeks and that has helped us get ready for the games. We have played better the last two weeks, and I think we can do better. All phases of special teams come to mind, and we are not taking care of the ball right now. The penalty situation, its always the same a,b,c's; numbers wise weren't bad, but we had two personal fouls that cost you. They came at bad times and we have to do a better job of that.
Q: Is Drew being back after only a week extraordinary, with what he has?
Ferentz: It's not my thumb, but I think the worst is behind us. For him to perform at Michigan with the pain he had, I am guessing the worst is behind him and that he will be able to function pretty well out there this week. For what he has to do, it would be fine. If it was his right hand, he wouldn't play.
Q: Does he have a higher pain threshold than some other people?
Ferentz: All players are different, but in being around him for four years, his is high. He finds a way to get on the field if he is permitted to. We like to see that. You saw Bob Sanders, and at times he looked done for a month, but a play later he is out there.
Q: Drew probably won't tell you how bad he is hurting, so do you watch him closer?
Ferentz: All we want to make sure is that he can function and not putting the team at risk. Ball security is an issue, but seeing the split, I think he will be fine.
Q: How do you balance the temptation of getting Jake some more experience?
Ferentz: There is no temptation. We want to win this Saturday against Northwestern. Come Thursday, if we think Jake or Jason gives us the best chance, we will go with them. If this thing impedes his performance, you go with the next best option. There are no guarantees that it would be Jake. Jason did well last week, too, and I think he would have done well in the game.
Q: Do you worry about a rust factor for Drew, like you did before playing Iowa State?
Ferentz: We are so much farther into things. He had missed a lot of time back then. He has missed three days of work. My guess is that he will be fine to go.
Q: Given Jake's performance on Saturday, do you start to think about the depth chart in 2007?
Ferentz: What it did is gave us a window of exposure that we wouldn't have gotten. We walked away positive about his play as opposed to the alternative. I think we will have healthy competition. In a perfect world we would play each guy a half. Our focus now is 2006, but he gained some experience out of it. Based on what I am seeing, I think we will have healthy competition in the spring, I think the two younger guys are doing a good job. But that being said, we like what we have seen so far, but it's early in the game.
Q: Are you surprised that none of your players has earned a Big Ten award this year?
Ferentz: A, I haven't thought much about it and B…I haven't thought much about it. The only time I pay attention is when someone calls us and tells us we won. I couldn't tell you who won from the last few weeks. I am guessing one of the OSU guys won when we played them, probably Gonzales. I would have voted for him