Q: What do you think of the Heartland Trophy?
Kirk Fererntz: It's a nice trophy. I won't say any others aren't nice looking, but that's a nice looking trophy.
Q: What did you think of it when they introduced it?
KF: I thought it was a good idea. I'm with it. Trophies are big in our conference. It makes sense since it's a game that doesn't rotate off of our schedule. It makes perfect sense.
Q: What was the diagnosis of your run defense when you looked at the tape?
KF: It wasn't terrible. We made some errors and gave them some opportunities, some seams. I'll say this, too, they're a good football team. The guys on the other side of the football got scholarships. They're trying. And the guys we played the other night, they had some pretty good players. We're hardly at a panic place at all, but I hope we can play a little bit better. But those guys had it going pretty good. They came in here to win the football game. They came pretty close.
Q: What do you think about the new bowl lineup?
KF: I've kind of heard about it the last two months or something like that. Right now it's about 37th on my lists of things I'm thinking about. I have a hard time getting to three, I've got to tell you. I'm not doing so good with two, either.
Q: It seems like in 2004 your team started gaining turnovers and it hasn't really turned off.
KF: I can't explain it. We're playing a little smarter. That's a part of turnovers is playing smart, playing aggressively, which ties in with smart and confident. You can't just play aggressively or you're just a fool. But it's really good to see. They're playing the defense. When we play the defense, we're not bad. That's a big thing.
Q: Is this a chronic foot, ankle type thing with Tony?
KF: Hopefully not. It was a bad ankle sprain. Those don't just disappear, which is why we kept holding him out. He probably could have played the week before. But the earlier you come back, the greater the risk. And I'm just not a big one for putting players out there when they're 75 percent even though they're cleared. I don't think that's fair to the player. If this had been the end of the year, we might have pushed faster. But when you have so much football ahead, here's a guy in his senior year, why would you want to have him limp around for six weeks? I don't think that's fair. You can't listen to players because players are going to tell you they want to go out there. You can't do it. If it was an offensive guard, tape the thing up and maybe the guy can go out there and slug it out. But when you're playing a position where you're out in the open like he is, it's not right. Plus, now you're rendering him kind of ineffective. That's not what anybody wants either.
Q: How do you fight the temptation when you're at Penn State to not press the button?
KF: Well, part of my job is to look at the big picture and do what's best for everybody. It's starts with the player but also what's best for our team. He might have decided that game, but we all knew going in that he probably wasn't going to play. So, I think you just kind of make that your attitude. When you get a guy back, it's a bonus. There's no guarantee we were ever going to get him back this year. So, that's kind of the mindset you've got adopt. And it's a bonus if the guy returns.
Q: Are you kind of hoping that Tony's return is kind of that lynchpin that makes the offense that much more explosive because of what he does in the middle of the field?
KF: Yeah, it will help. If you had taken Shonn (Greene) out of our lineup last year, it would have been a different team. It's not the same because running backs are little bit more prominent on offense than a tight end, but it is the same in my opinion. I think Tony is that caliber of a football player. He's a top-shelf player, so it impacts us. And we just had so much flux on the offensive side, that…it looks like we're settled outside of Paul. But at least our receiver situation has kind of settled down a little bit. The line is getting close to being settled. We've found an answer at the running back position so we're starting to pull it together. I'm just hoping it will start showing up on Saturdays.
Q: Do you remember how you first found out about Tony?
KF: I just remember seeing film, but I can't tell you exactly when that was.
Q: Didn't Matt Bowen's mom teach at his high school?
KF: She did. That didn't hurt. I think he got a good grade from her. I'm just making that up.
Q: How does Tolzien compare to other Wisconsin quarterbacks?
KF: Again, I don't want to speak for them, but I would think they're very comfortable with them. He just seems to be a great fit. And I'm not sure they ever got comfortable last year just looking from the outside in. Right now, they're just kind of clipping right along offensively. They're really doing a nice job and he's a guy that can throw. He runs the offense really well. He looks like he's in charge out there. That's how they've been offensively.
Q: The two programs seem to mirror each other philosophy wise.
KF: We're both kind of dinosaurs. We're old fashioned and out of vogue at this given point, but that's OK. I enjoy watching their film, I've got to tell you. Even when we're playing them, I enjoy watching their film.
Q: In terms of Tony and his injury history when it comes to the NFL…
KF: They'll figure that out. That's for them to figure out. I don't have to worry about that anymore. We just want to see him play seven great games.
Q: Is he a first day guy?
KF: I don't know. That's still…that's way too far off right now. I tell you what, if every game was like last week, it would be a no brainer. There aren't a lot of great tight ends out there, ever. That's never been an issue.
Q: When you were a (NFL) coach, though, and you had a player that simply had that history of injuries, you were in the (draft) room.
KF: You have to acknowledge it and figure everything out. It just depends on how heavily you weight it. And I think a lot of those questions will be answered over the next two months. It will play itself out kind of like our season will.
Q: Don't you wish you guys could figure everything out like that?
KF: Yeah, it would be really nice. I remember Phil Savage leaving here in 2002 saying it's got to be the scariest thing in the world giving a scholarship. They know everything. And they still don't know.
Q: You described yourself as miserable. I think that was a little tongue in cheek. Are you still miserable when you're 6-0?
KF: Yeah, there's plenty to be miserable about.
Q: Like what?
KF: Everything. Everything that's wrong. That's the fun part of coaching in its own sick way.
Q: Is this the deepest you've been on the offensive line in a while?
KF: Yeah, we didn't plan on revealing Reilly, but he revealed himself. Dace, weren't counting on Dace last year at this time. That's been a pleasant surprise. We've had some good stories develop and that's always nice. Usually it's the other way around. But the way our season is going this year, a great illustration, Reilly uncovers himself because we got one of the all-time flukes (Bulaga). I've never been around one of those in however many years I've been coaching. So, out of something crazy came something good. Sometimes life works that way.
Q: Is Julian not been himself this year because of the surgery?
KF: He missed camp. That's such a big part. In effect, we have two work days during the week right now. In camp, you have 25 of them. That's really where you build your fundamental base. He's playing catch-up right now, but he's doing a lot of good things out there. We know he's a good player. It's just a matter of him getting caught up right now.
Q: He seemed in good spirits on Saturday.
KF: He's a great guy. He's a great team guy. He was really playing good going back to the bowl game. You guys don't watch film, but it was fun to watch. He was really playing well and Calloway was really playing well. He's not there yet. He's been playing but he's missed a lot of time, too. Again, these are things that people don't see on the surface. He's not playing to level he can play at yet. It's exciting if we could just get them there. I've seen them. I've seen them on tape play that way. I'm hoping with each week we're going to get closer to get those guys hitting it like they're capable.
Q: Can you rate the maturity and growth of Adam and Brandon over the last six weeks?
KF: I don't say it often, but I've been impressed. I usually don't say I'm impressed, but I'm impressed with both of those guys. I hope that's not the kiss of death.
Q: What impressed you?
KF: Just the way they've acted like they belong on the field. I've not seen either one of them looked overwhelmed once. That's pretty impressive for guys as young as they are to be that way. Maybe they're just oblivious. That's good. It's just kind of how they're built. That's a good trait. I wish I could identify that one in recruiting, too.
Q: How much of that is Lester (Erb) talking to the guys?
KF: A lot has been said about Erik and the good job he's done at receiver. And he has. He's done a great job. But Lester has done a pretty good at running back, too. We lost a great coach in Carl Jackson. We've been able to maneuver right through that. Part of my thinking with Erik is that I knew Lester was an excellent football coach. He worked with me on the offensive line. This guy can coach football. He's been great with those guys in all areas, not just teaching them what to do, but also working with them as young guys and anticipating the challenges they're going to face.