Q: You guys' trademarks have been ball security, special teams, how much does that eat at you, the way you guys have played through 9 games, the style?
Kirk Ferentz: That's not an optimal situation. Everything affects everything, so there are some reasons for it. We're not thrilled about it, but we're more focused on the fact that it's an opportunity for us to improve. If we could do better in those two areas, it would certainly increase our chances of having success at the end of a game. Those things factor in, they really factor in.
Q: What was it about shaving that reminded you of NW last year?
Ferentz: I don't know, you're just walking down a hall, thinking about things. I don't know what.
Q: What is it like to watch that unfold? You just have no control, the bounce of an onside kick..
Ferentz: It's hard. Some days things just seem to unfold that way. Usually you open the door for that somehow, someway, something you do in the game. The energy you bring to the game, the concentration level, whatever it may be, there's usually a variable in there.
Q: What opened the door for them last year? Obviously a veteran QB at that time…
Ferentz: Yeah. I think there were a lot of things you could point to in there, but you usually go back to missed opportunities. I'm really fixated, there was a series in the game, in the 3rd quarter where we had better than average chances to move the thing forward and close it down, we couldn't get it done. 3 plays, bang bang bang, any one of the 3 we should have and could have executed better, routinely. Not special plays. Had we done that, we would have been down inside the 10. No guarantees you're going to score a TD there, but at least… Unfortunately we didn't do that, that's kind of etched in my mind more so than the end of the game, that was our chance to close the deal, and we didn't do it. When you don't do it, teams come back. You open the door for them to do that. Just like we did at Indiana, we had o0ur chances and didn't close it.
Q: Did you guys let down a little? Subconsciously, if anything?
Ferentz: In that game? During that game? It's possible. We obviously weren't playing as well in the 4th quarter as we were in some other parts of the game, that's not good either. That's not good either.
Q: What happened on the bus ride?
Ferentz: Just traffic coming out there. You know that road, there's no way to get out of there. I think one of those busses actually went down through the city. That was a split, it was crummy either way, it just took forever to get out of there. It was a fitting end to the day, it really was. Probably good medicine for all of us.
Q: Has NW changed much, or are they pretty much the same?
Ferentz: Attack wise? Not really. I think the biggest variable this year that I'm seeing is the QB situation. A year ago they were settled and oiled, this year they've played 3 guys. I think that's probably the biggest part of the equation.
Q: Two of them are freshmen.
Ferentz: Yeah, I think so. Our defensive staff really feels like they can see why they've arrived where they've arrived.
Q: With how slow you guys have gotten out of the gates offensively, have you contemplated kicking it at all?
Ferentz: No. I always say I'm not superstitious, I am a little bit I guess. I don't like the message it sends. Not unless we get in some severe weather. I mean really severe. Michigan State took it 80 yards into the wind that one time. So much for thinking you're smart.
Q: You think guys, like Albert had 1300 yards last year, you can argue because of injury, whatever factors, have had a sort of a lost year this year. How do guys deal with that? They still have next year in there pocket, but they're in the middle of this year, you're got to kind of bring it back.
Ferentz: It's one of the frustrations. I've said many times, I think it's probably the hardest thing to deal with as a coach. None of us are faith healers or magicians. It's one of the things athletes have to deal with, it's a reality of being an athlete, particularly in this sport. We're not the only sport that gets guys hurt. You just have to learn to deal with things. One thing about injuries, there's nothing you can do about it. You can't avoid them, you try your best, but you just can't do it, it's part of the game, part of the deal. You deal with it, and I think if anything, it maybe teaches individuals a special appreciation, it's like anything in life. When your health isn't good, you have a newfound appreciation for having good health and being able to do things you take for granted. If there is a positive spin to it, that's it. The toughest ones are the ones like Devan Moylan, he's a senior, a hard working guy, I don't have much good news for him right now. Those are a little tougher.
Q: There's still 3 games left, still a bowl game.
Ferentz: No question. Forget about all-big ten stats, forget about in Albert's case 1300 yards, that's unrealistic, but that's what I'm referring to. That's been part of the equation too. Some of our guys who would have been counting on, and are counting on, if you can't make it to the field, there's absolutely no way they can help that way. There's no way Drew Tate could throw a TD pass on Saturday. No way Albert could run the ball sitting on the sideline, or Kenny get a sack. He played 2 snaps the other day. I think the other guys grabbing the rope are doing a pretty good job, but the other part is that we're losing some guys that are experienced. The experienced guys that are left have to take more of the lead when that happens. It's tough. You grab solace in whatever you can. The other thing is that it's not the end of their career, they have X amount of games left. A guy like Devan, the clock's ticking right now unless he gets a special exemption, and I doubt that's going to happen.
Q: A guy like Kyle, he's had an injury in the year, and he's kind of hit a slump, stretch.
Ferentz: He's had a bad little stretch, yeah. He's just got to work through it. It's like any other player. Kicker is like a QB, his performance is a little more visible to everyone. Not as obvious as my buddy the right guard, you know? He could be having a tough day and it's usually not quite as distinct to everybody. You don't have people pick up on it quite as much. You have to work through those obstacles and focus a little bit more and just try and mentally fight through it.
Q: How do you stay patient with a kicker? Here's a young man, 9 kicks in 3 years, obviously very accurate. It's kind of like the hitter, you know he's going to eventually get up to the .300 mark. How do you stay patient?
Ferentz: You do what you can do. I don't' have any great answers.
Q: Madden used to say he would stay away, he wouldn't talk to him.
Ferentz: I don't talk to kickers much anyway, I don't have much to say to them anyway. Other that just keep your focus. I don't pretend to be an authority on their techniques or any of that stuff, I'm really not much help there. All I know is that the better you practice, chances are the better you perform, so I guess that's where I'm at, I guess.
Q: Have you gotten feedback from coaches and things, what is it that's amiss?
Ferentz: I don't think there's one thing. There have been some that are technique related, but there's not just one. If there was, we could correct it a lot easier. Nothing real dramatic.
Q: Can you talk about the snaps, Albert kind of said last week about the snaps Drew was taking in the locker room at halftime of the Michigan game, sounds like they were excruciating.
Ferentz: You just have to make sure before a guy goes on the field that he can actually do his job. We had to find that out. We weren't trying to be masochistic, but you need to make sure the ball's not going on the ground right away. That's what this week will be for. Again, I don't anticipate this being anywhere close to what he had to do there. They couldn't whip up a splint that would be functional for him in that game.
Q: Does he have any other toughness snapshots that stick out?
Ferentz: You go back to the Michigan game, that probably says it all. Just dawned on my like the program covers, him and Michigan, right? Hopefully he won't have to play up there again. It's not a surprise. You meet this guy for 5 minutes, you know one thing about him, he likes to compete. Some guys, despite their personalities, some guys just have an ability to persevere through a little bit more, or come back a little quicker or whatever. We've had some good examples around here of guys that have done pretty interesting things.
Q: What's he been like to coach? He seems like a unique personality.
Ferentz: Yeah, you guys all get a pretty good snapshot of him from the outside. My whole thing has always been, I've never had any problem with any athlete. I only felt like maybe I was going through a wall one time in my coaching career where a guy might physically take me and ram me through, and it was here, in the 80s. It's one of my favorite players of all time, I knew what his motives were, I knew why he was so upset, and the weight differential was significant, like 100 pounds, not to mention strength. There was nothing I could have done about it if it had happened, but he's remained one of my favorite players, because I knew his motives were pure. People can scream at me, yell at me, I welcome it, I have no problem with that as long as the motives are right. I know a couple weeks ago, something was written about Drew screaming coming off the field, well that's Drew. It's always about the team, it's never about him. You can be the most polite and respectful (guy) but if your motives are about you, I got no time, none of us have time for that. To me, it's not the personality, it's what are the player's motives. If the motives are right, I'll take any exterior that comes our way, that's not a problem. That's life, everybody's got a different personality. Greenway was different than Sanders, Sanders was different than Hodge, Babineaux was a quiet guy. We've had all these personalities here, but all those guys were all about what they can do to help the team. I've never had a running back walk in yet and say, "I'm not getting enough carries." I haven't heard that yet.
CLICK HERE for Part II of today's Kirk on the Side transcript.