Q: You are 8-0, yet you seem down and you might think you guys are 4-4?
Kirk Ferentz: We could be.
Q: Your excitement level is down is what I am trying to say. Is it due to the injuries?
KF: I am looking ahead, that is all. The reality is we could be a 4-4 team, so I think we need to be mindful of that. I am extremely pleased we are not a 4-4 team. If we don't handle the next four weeks well, we could be an 8-4 team. Our margin for error is slim anyway, but with these two good starting players gone, it's slimmer
Q: Does that ground players, the injuries, and keep their heads level?
KF: I think it would add to the grounding process. It's hard. It's hard losing any player, and from a win-loss standpoint its hard losing good players.
Q: How does the Dace thing ricochet with the team? They are aware of all the stuff he has been through.
KF: It's similar to Tony's situation. The first thought I had was that I was hoping it wasn't his knee, for obvious reasons. I don't know what that would have meant. The good news was it was a different part of his anatomy. With any player that gets injured, you feel badly for them. If a guy has already been through it it makes it that much more tough to deal with. But Dace knew that too. When a player comes back from an injury, you are always aware of the fact you can get hurt again, it's the reality of the sport.
Q: Was Dace ill going into the game?
KF: We have had a lot of guys with colds. I don't think that affected anything. A guy fell on him and there is nothing you can do there.
Q: Is Dace going to try to petition for the 6th year?
KF: We have not had that talk yet. It's clearly an option for him, and it's his option. We would love to have him back. We will support his decision
Q: You talked about Rogers being overweight when he got here; how bad was it?
KF: It was tough to evaluate his skill level. That is not uncommon for your players. Sam Aiello came in at 325. Holy smokes, what did you do.
Q: Was Josh Brown's body different?
KF: Yeah. He needed a little extra fitness program.
Q: Have they been running scout team?
KF: Yes. Brad, we do a little work with those guys. They are doing developmental things, and we get them in during the week a little bit. Q: You have some kind of film on them? Ferentz: Yeah, oh yeah. Nothing against Brad but I hope we don't have to go that far.
Q: What will it take for Brad to have to play?
KF: I hope we don't find out. But we are running out of guys.
Q: Is it feeling like 2004 again?
KF: In some ways. The close games, at least we are not next to the bottom in NCAA in rushing right now. We didn't have any 100 yard games back then. We had two backs outrush Royster, that is interesting. We haven't hit that low yet, that was severe.
Q: Who are you looking at for punt returns?
KF: Anyone that wants to get back there. Sash, Spievey, those two guys would be the top candidates. We might have a guest appearance from someone.
KF: No. Kickoffs but not punts.
Q: It seems like he brought some juice back there for you. What hasn't worked for him there in the past?
KF: That is the best I have seen him. He has been tentative when he has been back there. It's a different routine back there. It's like punt returning, it's hard to predict. You'd think he would be good at it, but it doesn't turn out that way. You never know who has that knack. Colin does a nice job back there, he is slippery and makes good decisions.
Q: Does your depth at running back influence whether or no your use Wegher on kickoffs?
KF: As of today, no. But we haven't had that long discussion yet. You can't be afraid to walk across the street. You have to talk about it and think about it. There is a balance there. If it doesn't work, you wonder why you did it. If it does, no one says a word.
Q: Is he banged up, too?
KF: There were a lot of guys on both teams that were banged up. That was a physical game. That was a hard hitting game. We have a lot of guys. Brandon survived. He got smacked by Arizona on that screen pass. If he can survive that, he can take a lot of things. I was sold on his toughness there.
Q: Looking back on this season and all of the injuries you had back in camp that gave some people a chance to get some practice time, and even in games, at least you have some experience this year to replace some of the guys that are hurt.
KF: That is the plus side of it. We have had a lot of guys get a lot of work in camp that weren't planned to play. That has paid off. Riley Reiff is a good example; he worked a lot with our ones during camp because our tackles were out a majority of the time. I am sure that helped him when we threw him in there. It goes back to the last scrimmage we had on a Friday night when Stanzi was the only guy in the huddle that started in the bowl game. That was sobering to me, we were missing a lot of guys. It probably dawned on Rick, too. The good news is that a lot of those guys got quality work in camp, the bad news is that we have had a lot of guys catching up. our tackles and Julian. The other night when we had to have it the guys executed well and that is a positive.
Q: On Rafael, what is the difference this year?
KF: I can't say specifically. Part of the problem last year is he got nudged out by a guy that has played as good of center as we have had in the last decade. That was the circumstance there. The other thing, when you are winning your older players have to play their best and Rafael is a good example of that. He is playing his best ball right now. that is what it takes for us to have a chance to have a successful group.
Q: Is he finishing blocks?
KF: He had some medical issues last year, but he has put everything aside and is playing every snap like it's his last one. It has been good.
Q: Amari, going back to Iowa Central, you had Clinton Solomon and Amari there and they came back. What happens there?
KF: The side story there is Kevin Twait and Reese worked together at one point so there is a relationship there. We have a good comfort level there. We know they will be held accountable there, and if they are not doing things the way we would hope, Kevin will be forthright with us. That is nice to know. It happens to be that school. That seems to be where it has worked out.
Q: How is Amari different now off the field?
KF: A friend of mine taught school that I taught with, who is retired now. His son is a up and coming basketball coach. He is friends with the AD at Amari's school and he was there the summer before Amari came here. He said Amari didn't know we played Ohio State, Michigan or Penn State. He was an in town guy. When he came here, this was overwhelming. Now, he has a routine, he is doing things by the numbers and taking care of business, which is good. It's a hard lesson to learn.
Q: Did you rewatch the hit on Sandeman?
KF: I am not surprised. All of us are coaching the same way, that is a point of emphasis right now with the officials, and sportsmanship. Those are going to get called, just like celebrations. I don't think it was a cheap shot. It was one of those things that happens and they are calling that right now. It was a tough aggressive play and he got too high.
Q: Big 10 officials have been getting banged on this year.
KF: It sounds like the SEC is really getting it. Someone told me that five of their coaches have been reprimanded. They are out of control down there it sounds like. Officiating is always a topic. From my vantage point it has been good. We haven't gotten every call but the crews are communicating. One thing that happened the other night, and it was a substitute guy on the sideline after the original guy got hurt, what a hard hitting game, right? You had a guy out of position, he was an umpire working the sideline. But they got together and I like it when they get together. It doesn't always come out our way but I like the teamwork as opposed to the guy that thinks he got it right.
Q: Some times through the years you have gotten heated with officials, but we haven't seen that as much this year. Is that a conscious thing?
KF: In 10 years I have learned it's better to be quiet when you can. But there will be that moment. Good officials let you voice your opinions. They shouldn't have rabbit ears and I have not encountered anyone in our league that does. It usually doesn't do any good. One thing that does make you mad is if one guy sees something and they don't communicate.
Q: Is Stanzi a guy you offered on senior film?
KF: Senior film and senior year. We had an interest in him all the way. But it wasn't until after our season, I think it was in November that we made up our minds. We did the same with James Vandenburg. We saw both as seniors and tracked them. Jon Wienke is the opposite, we offered him at the end of his junior year at our camp.
Q: With Rick, did you have any idea of his makeup before he got here?
KF: We thought we knew what we had. We hope to be right on everyone. You can evaluate what you have to evaluate. There are other factors, you don't know how guys react to the situation they walk into. It's easier to predict that in college than in the pros when you give them millions of dollars and free time you never know what you are going to get. In Rick's case, we all had great feelings about his leadership capabilities. They had a great season and those are things you like to see. Again, the proof is in the pudding and the credit goes to him because he has worked hard during his career here.
Q: Can anything prepare someone for 1:37 left 1st and 70 to go?
KF: I don't know. Everything you do prepares you, or takes away from things. The one thing about him is he is not going to miss opportunities because he is not prepared. He works extremely hard and to be a good quarterback at this level you have to do that. We had good ones in the 80's and they all shared that trait. they were committed to working hard to give themselves chances to be prepared for the moments. They had done everything they could to be successful. Great players understand they give themselves a chance to have success by preparing well. I think about the play against Arizona that tracked Grigsby down with Spievey and Hyde. If guys will do that, it might not pay off totally, but that was a huge thing. Bob Sanders against Michigan in 2003 was big because it was a four point play as they kicked a field goal and we won by a field goal. How did I get onto Bob from Rick.
Q: Where does Rick's confidence come from? The other 58:00 were not too hot.
KF: He understands that is football. You cannot worry about what is behind you. I know he used the other 58 minutes to be prepared. At the end of the day the credit goes to him.