Q: How will it be preparing for a team that you have never faced?
Kirk Ferentz: It's a little different from that standpoint. December is always a challenge if you are in a bowl game. It's a good challenge; it's one that everyone welcomes. Bowl preparation, we are in the thick of recruiting; everyone gets stretched thin but it's a good situation to be in.
Q: When you were 3-3 earlier this year, I felt that your team had the potential to be third best team during your decade in Iowa City as head coach, due to its ability to dictate terms on both sides of the line of scrimmage. I think that has come to pass as the year went on. Some folks take things for granted along the lines of players automatically responding when they are 3-3, and staying the course. In reality, that doesn't always happen. You have to have some special feelings for this year's team.
Ferentz: There is no question about that, Jon. It is interesting we finished up in Minnesota this year, it was our last game of the year in 2002, and in 2006. Talk about two extreme feelings. We clinched the Big Ten in 2002, and the game in 2006 was maybe the exact opposite, the other end of the spectrum. I don't know if I have ever been more disappointed with the performance of a team as we had that day. We went through those extremes, and wrapped the season up a few weeks ago, it felt closer to 2002.
That being said, I know we didn't finish undefeated in conference, but it was a good feeling because of what the team had accomplished, and most of all the manner in which they went about their work, handled challenges. I can't say enough about the way the players stayed the course and focused on correcting the errors that were keeping us from winning. We were playing hard enough to win, just not well enough to win. At the end of the day, the credit goes to the players. They did a great job and stayed the course and we had tremendous leadership, not only from the seniors but others on the team.
Q: You made the ‘fat cats' comment after the Northwestern loss in 2006. Has that element been extracted from the program?
Ferentz: I think so. I didn't mean to be uncomplimentary towards any individuals. For whatever reason, a sense of entitlement crept in and we are all guilty. I am the head coach, so the responsibility is mine to make sure our team has the right mental attitude. Each of us, maybe we assumed some things and took some things for granted. We had had some good success for a few years in a row, and for whatever reason, I think we lost our sharpness that you have to have.
Things never come easy, at least worthwhile things, and at Iowa, we don't have the same deck of cards that some other places do, depth wise. For us to have a chance to be successful we have to do things the right way all of the time and for whatever reason we let that slip. I don't say that with any disrespect to our opponents in 2006, but we lost some winnable games. That will happen in the course of a season, in the course of a period of time, but at the end of the day, you need to win more of those than lose those, and that second part of the season, we didn't improve and we left too many opportunities on the field and that was a disappointment.
Q: I know a lot of athletes and superstitious and since Tate to Holloway in the Cap One bowl, the close games had gone the other way. That was until Penn State. Are you going to keep wearing the hoodie now?
Ferentz: (Laughs) There is one good thing about losing games; we went 1-10 in 1999, and we have had some games since that time that weren't great. I think one thing when you go through a tough stretch, you learn that superstitions, and whatever tie you wore that day, it doesn't matter (laughs). It gets down to performance. We did go through a period as you mentioned, after the great victory in the capital one bowl where we struggled to win close games. We went through that same challenge in 2001 and we broke the ice in the Alamo Bowl against Texas Tech, we drove the ball and Nate kicked the field goal and Bob Sanders comes out with the interception on the ‘Hail Mary' throw. That was really our first close game, during that stretch, where we had won.
I alluded to that with our team coming out of Illinois. We were in a similar circumstance and we were hopeful that we would be able to break through before a bowl, if we would even make it ot a bowl game. It was the next week against Penn State where we were able to come back and drive the ball again, kick the field goal in a winning circumstance and come out with that close win, and had to do it the next week against Purdue. I hope we have climbed that hurdle. That is a part of success, teams learn how to win and handle those situations. We came up short at Illinois, but a week later we conquered that.
That is a positive sign and I was very pleased with the end of the season, because that is another situation where you are not quite sure how a team will handle the last game of the year, what the focus level is. We played a night game up there; it's a different routine from the other 11 Saturdays. The guys handled the entire trip well and we came out with what we wanted. We have seen a lot of growth with this team. It gets back to the mental attitude, and how the players approach things and the work and effort they compete with.
Q: All that being said, I haven't seen those short sleeved shirts you guys wore in the desert back in 2004 at Arizona State.
Ferentz: (Laughs) I can't remember what I wore, but I am sure we told (equipment manager) Greg (Morris) to throw everything out after that game.
Q: When you look back through all of the great teams you have had at Iowa, where is this one going to rank? Maybe you can answer that better in January, but is this one of the best?
Ferentz: We will know better in January, we will have a better feel. We still have an opportunity to win a ninth game, which is significant. We have won eight, which is more than we have had sine 2004, so that was a good accomplishment and the way we did it is the most important thing. TO this point, I will say this has been one of the most enjoyable teams I have worked with at any level and at any time of my career. IT has been a great team to be around day to day, and I can't say enough about the players we have on our football team. They have a great attitude and have been easy to work with. I am confident that we will keep our focus and play well.
That being said, when you play in January, everyone is good. There are not bad teams playing January 1st. IT will be a tough game, a tough challenge to handle a bowl environment and keep our focus. But based on what has happened this year, this team has been good at focusing on what is important and getting the job done. We are eager for that opportunity, and if we could win the game, that would make us a Top 25 team which would be a nice accomplishment and a great way to remember this season. We have had great teams in general year in and year out, but this team has gone that extra mile which is fun.
Q: I know you pay attention to things like this; a lot of teams are running the spread offense, and you field about a thousand questions on the spread each year. Do you think in BCS conferences, the proliferation of spread offenses will be a fad that fades here over the next few years?
Ferentz: I am not quite sure if it is the run and shoot or not. That was sexy in the 1980's. Then defensively, the 4-6 Bear package ran its course, too. That is part of football. Things do tend to come and go and I think there are parallels to the run and shot and the ‘spread'. I think the bottom line is that you do what works for you and what fits your personality and your locale, too. I guess I was brought up in a world where blocking and tackling are very important, playing off blocks is important. That is something we have always believed in and have always believed that if our teams are veteran enough and coached well enough we will have a chance to win football games. No matter what your system of choice may be, it gets down to execution and success with how you choose to live.
You look at Texas Tech; they do a great job and know their system well. They have had great success this year, and it's a credit to them. Flip it around and look at a team like USC or Penn State, the two teams in the Rose Bowl, and they are more conventional with tight ends and fullbacks, they run the ball. Oklahoma is somewhere in between. They throw it around quite a bit with a great quarterback, but they also run well and have a good offensive line. There are different ways to get the job done.
It's like strength training, when I was growing up in the 1970‘s there were schools of thought about free weights and Nautilus. The Cowboys and Dolphins were Nautilus and the Steelers were free weights. It's about commitment to what you believe in and execution. I think that is true in life; it's not about systems, but the people involved in the systems and how they function within those systems that make for success. I think it depends on what you believe in and I think in our climate, and it's true in the NFL teams that play in cold weather in December; if you can't run the ball, it's tough to have sustained success. I am a little more old fashioned, but it's worked for us. We have had our fair share of success the last seven years and we feel comfortable with what works for us.
Q: I would be curious to hear what some of your personnel department friends in the NFL have to say about their jobs right now, with so many players coming out of spread programs.
Ferentz: It's trickled down to the high schools, too. There is a proliferation of spreads. It's hard to find a fullback on the field. It is where we are going now. It makes sense with all the seven on seven leagues and passing leagues that have exploded. It's a different direction. I have already heard comments from NFL people saying they are having a hard time evaluating quarterbacks because of the challenges that the spread presents.
Q: I have heard from a few people that Kinnick will be going to Field Turf next year, and doing away with the natural grass. Can you comment on that yet?
Ferentz: All I can say is it's a possibility. Basically we had major challenges this year. We knew coming into the season that we had some drainage issues and we didn't have time to address it this past year after the floods. It was an unusual summer as all of us know. We will have to make a decision within the next month and move forward. The good news is that alternative, synthetic turf is a totally different thing than it was back in the 1980's. 1989 was our first year back to grass. In a perfect world, you would love to have a grass field, but it's hardly a perfect world. This past year was the best growing season we had. Our field guys did a tremendous job. Our field was in great shape all year long. A couple of years ago, we had to pull the turf up (2005) as a result of a hot and dry summer. Penn State had to do the same thing and they have an ag school right there. It's a huge challenge in a typical year. The turf gives you another alternative. We are looking into it now, and we have not made a final decision, but we are keeping an open mind on it.
The Jon Miller Show can he heard daily on 1460 KXNO in Des Moines, or online at www.kxno.com
KXNO & WHO will be doing some broadcasts from Tampa leading up to the Outback Bowl, as well as a post game show. Iowa fans making the trip south will be able to hear those programs on location, and of course, those not making the trip can tune in over the air. The times below are listed as eastern, then central
Tuesday, December 30th
-1460 KXNO (www.kxno.com) The Jon Miller Show (3pm-5pm/2pm-4pm): LIVE from Stumps Supper Club in Channelside. Jared Clauss is going to co-host with Jon on Tuesday and Wednesday. So being there will be a lot of fun, and should be a great environment.
-1460 KXNO (www.kxno.com) Marty & Miller (5pm to 7pm/4pm to 6pm): LIVE from Stumps Supper Club in Channelside. Their program will begin at Stumps.
-1040 WHO & 1460 KXNO (www.kxno.com) 7pm to 9pm/6pm to 8pm): Live broadcast from inside the Hawkeye Huddle. I will start things off, then will be joined by Marty and Miller, at the Tampa Convention Center
-AFTER the Huddle, Stumps is hosting 'Hawkstar Karoke' for Iowa fans...it sounds pretty cool. They will have a live band, and people can get up on stage with the band and sing. They usually do this on Friday's, but are making a special event for Hawkeye fans.
Wednesday, December 31st
-1460 KXNO (www.kxno.com) Both The Jon Miller Show and Marty & Miller will broadcast from Stumps Supper Club that day and into the night, same times as above.
Thursday, January 1st
-1040 WHO & 1460 KXNO (www.kxno.com) Jon, Marty & Miller will broadcast a LIVE pregame show from Raymond James Stadium, (7am to 9am/6am to 8am). This will lead into the Learfield Pregame Show that Iowa puts on. At that point, we will broadcast another hour on KXNO only. Site to be determined, and I believe it will be at the SW corner of the Stadium. You will see the KXNO/WHO Tent.
-1040 WHO: A Special Outback Bowl SOUNDOFF will air that day, immediately following the Learfield postgame show that can be heard on 1040 WHO and across the Hawkeye Radio Network. It will originate LIVE from Stumps Supper Club, and will begin approximately 3:30 eastern, 2:30 central. It would be great to have the place packed with Hawkeye fans, and I am sure that we will have open mic's for people to come up and ask questions and provide comments about the game. It will air until 8pm eastern, 7pm central and should be a lot of fun.
We hope that you can be at some of these broadcasts to let the Hawkeye spirit blast through the radio back to the state of Iowa, and I think it should be a lot of fun each and every day.