Q: Charles' level of play recently keeps going up.
Kirk Ferentz: He's really playing well. He's playing physical out there, he's challenging receivers. He's been hit with a couple pass interference calls, but those are really so subjective. The thing I'm impressed with is that he keeps playing aggressively. We want our guys to keep playing aggressively, you have to, in pass defense. Charles is a guy who's always worked hard, he works extremely hard. You like to see that pay off with good play.
Q: You're 3-3 with guys from Baytown.
Ferentz: It's been pretty good for us. They were all ‘football guys' with a football mentality, they love the game and like to compete. They all work extremely hard.
Q: Mel Kiper's got him on his list now
Ferentz: I saw that the other day. A little bit of a surprise, but… That puts him in elite company. I think he's smart enough to know, that until the season's over…. That's a nice compliment. I don't know if they're watching our tapes, but that's a nice compliment for Charles.
Q: The fact that you guys won this game, does it offset any of the frustration or doubt Jake may have after missing some throws?
Ferentz: First, the goal is to come out and have them smiling at the end of the game. We definitely have rough spots we have to work through. We did enough to get the win. That's still the most important thing. Tom0rrow, we go through the film to critique and correct, like you always do. The biggest challenge for us right now is more consistently in our passing attack. Just in the first half, when we were throwing the ball efficiently, that opens up everything else. If we're going to let them sit their safety down in there, it makes it tough to run the football. When people do that to us consistently, it's going to be tough.
Q: With a 12-month program here, how important is it to close the year with a bowl?
Ferentz: It's really important for us, on a couple fronts. First and foremost, we've got a string going right now. If you look around the country, it's hard… I think there are 15 teams that have gone to 7 straight, we're tied with another team for 6 straight, that team happens to be Southern Cal. That gives you an idea of how of just how challenging it is. Just like it's challenging to win championships in our conference. There aren't a ton who have done that in the last 7 or 8 years. It's also significant as a reward for our players, in particular our older guys, our seniors.
Q: How much could it help the passing game to have these extra practices?
Ferentz: It'll help everything we do. That's the nice benefit of a bowl game, it gives you a chance to keep working and keep improving. We've always tried to treat it that way. With the exception of the Orange Bowl, we've typically improved as a football team. It's really good, especially as young as a football team as we are, that'd be a nice side benefit.
Q: How important was the bowl last year?
Ferentz: It was really big. We were extremely fortunate. I thought that was a lot like our 2001 year. As you recall, Virginia ended up upsetting Penn State that year, otherwise we would be going to the Silicon Valley bowl. The rug got pulled out before the Penn State/Virginia game. I think that was the same year UCLA opted not to go. Remember that one? If you go to a bowl, you've got to buy 12,000 hotel rooms, something like that. That was big. Last year, it was really big.
Q: Why was it big?
Ferentz: It kept our streak alive, but more important, it was a chance to keep playing. None of us felt good about where we were a year ago. After that 12th game last year. It was a real low point for us. It gave us a chance to get back together as a team and feel better about ourselves and how we were doing.
Q: Have you ever seen this many bowl-eligible teams in the conference?
Ferentz: It's got to be a record, I'm guessing. On one hand, I wished we'd played a little better, finished better in the second half, but we're just happy to have six wins. We've got to figure out a way to get seven. Seems to be the year of nothing easy.
Q: To finish .500 in the conference after the way you started…
Ferentz: That's real important to us. The way we were a month ago, everyone saw that coming, but it's something we can build off of. If you compare it to the way we finished last year, 2-6 in the conference. Last year, you can argue was more disappointing than any we've had. In 1999 we expected it but last year was just one of those deals.
Q: After Purdue, it was a quote that Mike Klinkenborg made, he said something about winning four games after Purdue and making a miraculous finish. At the end, it seemed like just a senior linebacker talking. Now it seems possible.
Ferentz: Miraculous might be a bit strong, but it'd be a heck of finish. That's the best we could do at that point. It's significant. How the team plays during the last quarter of the schedule is important too.
Q: What's different about this team than four weeks ago?
Ferentz: Not a lot, other than we're just playing better. It's been a gradual thing. That's why you run the whole race, you get a chance to improve here as the year goes on. If you're not improving, you waste an opportunity, you put yourself out there for disappointment. We went down that road last year. This year, we're on the right track, we're competing hard. We're not always pretty, but at least we're competing hard, playing hard. If you do that, you give yourself a chance. That's one thing, as young as we are, our young guys are seeing that, they're seeing it firsthand. They've got great role models in those 12 seniors.
Q: You talk about the team not being pretty. When's the earliest you can expect to be pretty?
Ferentz: Next week would be alright. (Laughs) First things first, if we come out with a win, we'll be happy. Obviously we're hoping to show improvement. We're just moving forward.
Q: Did you do anything different before the game?
Ferentz: No, not really. I kept my comments pretty short today. We played a little better.
Q: What kind of steps has Jake taken? Today, backwards? Lateral?
Ferentz: Hot and cold. We had him going pretty good in the first half. The second half, to their credit, they used a few things we hadn't seen in the first half. We didn't adjust as well as we needed to. It was more off our rhythm, they did a good job today. It just gets down, again, at some point we've got to do a better job of making plays that are makeable. Not the great plays, but makeable ones. Protect a little better, making better throws, catching the ball more consistently. Sometimes you have to make a hard catch, that's part of football too. I still think it's something that's spread around, but if we're going to be an offense that can put up some numbers that you'd like to put up, you've got to be able to do that for 60 minutes. A lot of times you're going to have a dip somewhere in the game, that's part of football. We have to be more consistent.
Q: What can you do with a QB's accuracy at this time of the year?
Ferentz: You just keep working at it, repetition, practice, that's it. That's the only thing.
Q: From up above, he looks like he's humming it in there sometimes.
Ferentz: That's OK. It's like baseball. If you try too hard or try to aim it, or direct it, that doesn't work. That's why practice is so important. Running routes consistently, at the right speed. Practicing the way you play on Saturday, it's cliché but it's true. If you don't have that kind of temper, you can't establish the good timing. You go back to the days of Johnny Unitas, the work you do with those receivers is so important.
Q: How is he doing going through his progression?
Ferentz: Pretty well, for the most part. We missed a couple today. Some of those were on some looks we hadn't practiced so well. One play, they left one of our guys uncovered on the boundary.
Ferentz: We weren't expecting that. In all fairness to Jake, he didn't get that read. It would have been nice if he'd seen him on that one. Would have helped a bit. That's hard. As a coach, you understand it. Would have been nice.
Q: Western Michigan coming in, this game seems like an afterthought. I know that's not what it is with you guys.
Ferentz: For obvious reasons, it's not. Basically, for us to have a chance to go to a bowl game, it's hinging on this thing, as was today's game. The reality was, six makes you bowl eligible, but it wasn't going to cut it. We all understood that. To me, equally as important, it's just a chance to finish with seven wins would be very significant for this team, a great feeling. To finish with momentum as opposed to what we did a year ago, that's important. I don't want to rank importance, but they're all important to us. I think the other part of it is that it would be great for our seniors to experience that. They've invested so much to this. If we can finish that way, that'd be significant. Our fans have been fantastic all the way through this. I'm just hoping we can sell the last 1,000 tickets to keep that string going. Our seniors, they deserve this, they're a special group.
Q: With you guys getting hot, this Ferentz to the pros is going to start coming up again.
Ferentz: I'll gladly deal with that, if that happens. (Laugh) The other one would be Ferentz to Alaska, right?
Ferentz: Yeah, ok. Send me a couple thousand miles further.