Kirk Ferentz: It’s a tough road ahead. He continues to impress, but the last two weeks, he got tweaked early in the first quarter, and he wanted to play all day long. He tried to sneak back in in the fourth quarter. We tried to rest him this week and be as smart as we could without aggravating that thing anymore. You’d never know today that he missed a beat in practice. When it’s game time, he wants to go. I’m not inferring that he doesn’t want to practice, he practices very well, but he knows where to go right now, so we need to get him to the gate ready to go.
Q: How much has he helped your identity, as an offense?
Ferentz: That’s what I like about what Jewel Hampton’s doing, too. He’s running tough, his yards are coming tough. We’ll gladly take Fred Russell, if they’d let us have him back for another year, we’d take him too. Good backs have different styles, but you just play to a guy’s style. Good backs are good backs, they’re productive. It’s kind of like QBs, the style doesn’t matter if they get the job done. All that being said, a physical runner, everyone feeds off of that. That’s a good thing.
Q: None of the players seem to want to touch the topic of Heisman talk. Is that the way you’d like it?
Ferentz: It’s premature. I said earlier, I’m hardly worldly. I don’t even know who else is in contention. I’m not saying our guy is, but it’s like Brad Banks. Nobody knew who Brad Banks was in August, and he finishes second on a close ballot. He did it because he played well for 12 games. That’s how you win awards.
Q: You were very forthcoming in your press release on Friday. Talk about that 24 hour period.
Ferentz: It was tough. It’s tough.
Q: Can you go through the timeline?
Ferentz: It was a middle-of-the-night call, which indicates family, usually. The others come in the morning. It’s very, very disappointing. It’s dumb player behavior, and it’s very , very disappointing. We’ll find out if this is going to be a learning experience or not.
Q: Was the call from James?
Q: Who was worse on him, Mary or Brian?
Ferentz: It’s a toss-up, right now.
Q: Were you tougher on him because he’s your son?
Ferentz: Just given our circumstances, right now. I think I read in your paper that we’ve had 20 since April. You didn’t write that, but that’s one thing that jumped into my mind. It means we had 17 from April-April and three since. I don’t condone anything that’s happened in those three violations, but we’re back to at least dealing with college kid problems. All that being said, I don’t like it, nobody on our team does. We’re just not going down that road.
Q: Talk about Pat. He talked a bit about how he almost gave up football last year. He was jus frustrated.
Ferentz: He’s already been a great example for a lot of guys on our team, and probably a lot of people in general. That’s one of the great things about football. A lot of life lessons get taught. Sometimes if you hang in there, persevere, good things will come your way. If you don’t, they’re not. That’s one thing that’s obvious. There are no guarantees that if you keep pushing, good things will happen. That makes it even better to see a guy like him get rewards. He’s working hard for each and every one of them. I’m just really proud of him.
Q: Did you know he had those hands?
Ferentz: Yeah, we did. We thought he was a pretty good athlete. Our biggest concern, honestly, was his size potential. To play in our conference, especially at MLB… He proved me wrong. Not that we were that skeptical, but he’s a good football player. He’s a good football player, very instinctive. I say instinctive, that’s because he studies. He works at it. It helps your instincts.
Q: Bringing up Ken’s name, those two plays, toss sweep comes from scouting. The draw was called. I’d hate to say it, but that was a pretty good job.
Ferentz: It worked out OK. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. I’ve said all along. I’ll probably say it until I’m done, I think we have a great staff. On a lot of levels, not just calling plays or drawing plays. They do a lot of things well. I’m lucky to be with them.
Q: Are you more steamed or more sensitive to criticism of your coaches this year than you’ve been before?
Ferentz: Steamed probably isn’t the right word. I guess I may be more in tune to it. I realize which way the wind’s blowing right now, all that stuff, that’s fine. That’s part of what we do. At the end of the day, you can’t control any of those things. It’s like anything else, you just ask people to be fair with their opinions of people. That’s the beauty of sports. Everyone has an opinion. 30 years ago you go to the corner tavern and talk about it there. Now people go on the Internet and don’t have to offer their voices. It’s always been a big part of the magnetic charm of sports, I guess. People have opinions about things.
Q: I know you’re not big into ranking stuff, but as far as toughness, bullies of the Big Ten in 2002… Where is this team at, on that scale?
Ferentz: We’re just a team that’s improving. It’s a team that comes to work every day with a good attitude, they’ve been focused on improvement. We are improving, that’s our goal. If we can keep doing that, maybe some good things will be there for us at the end of the year.
Q: You had touched on the play calling at the end of the second half, other than the one drive with the penalties, you didn’t face more than a 3rd and 7 at any time in the second half. Is that play calling, execution, or a combination?
Ferentz: A little bit of everything. When you can do that, things will go the way you want. Hopefully we do a better job on the third and shorts, get that percentage going. It’s always more fun when you have momentum. If you can run the ball, it makes things a bit easier.
Q: Do you guys hit the recruiting trail next week?
Ferentz: I don’t have as much bravado about it. Everyone I’ve read about with a bye week is out the door Saturday night. I’m old fashioned. The most important thing to me is the players on campus. Next week is a very important week with our guys here. We’ll find some time to recruit, but it’s not number one on my list right now. I’m worried about our guys on campus, getting the attention they need to get. We’ll figure it out, we’ve got a period carved out. Our coaches need rest, just like the players do. It’s important.
Q: You don’t sound real well, do you need rest?
Ferentz: You know how your mom teaches you to come out of the rain? I forgot to come out of the rain yesterday. I’m not smart eno9ugh to come out of the rain, or wear a hot.
Q: There’s still a lot out there (on the field)
Ferentz: I think we’re capable of improving a lot more, and that’s exciting, that’s a positive thing. That being said, we can go out and turn it over 4 times in the next game, and we’re back at square 1. We’re capable of improvement, that’s exciting.
Q: You always said Shonn would make a great LB, has that curiosity passed?
Ferentz: That was a short-lived experiment, huh, back in that December. It’s like having Dallas Clark as third team OLB, that ranks right up there. We figured that out.
Q: How different was it to start the game on defense, with the defense providing the offense an opportunity.
Ferentz: It was a flip, a switch there. It was OK with us. It turned out fine. Maybe we’ll try it that way next time. The defensive guys didn’t seem to mind.
Q: Did you guys put together a tape of some kind?
Ferentz: I don’t know. What are you talking about?
Q: A motivational tape, commentators….
Ferentz: I heard something about something, I don’t know. I’ll be sending a thank-you note, though. I don’t know if it helped, but it didn’t hurt.