PAUL JENSEN: Coach, congratulations and welcome back.
COACH FERENTZ: Well, thank you. Great to talk to you, and we are thrilled to be coming back.
PAUL JENSEN: Would you like to make an opening statement?
COACH FERENTZ: Sure would. First of all, we're just so excited to be coming back. Everybody involved with the Insight Bowl last year just treated us in such a first-class manner. We're just really excited. And it is interesting because, you know, we haven't played in a Bowl in Arizona ever until last year. And, boy, I tell you, we couldn't have had a better experience.
So we're just really thrilled about that. And then much like last year, we're matched up against just a phenomenal opponent and right down to the fact that they have — last year we played a tremendous quarterback certainly at Missouri. And now we're facing another one.
So, you know, it is hard to finish. It's exciting. And the other side bar, obviously, is Oklahoma has a great tradition, great football team and, coincidentally, a coach that played at the University of Iowa, was a great player here and couple of guys on the staff as well. We're absolutely thrilled to be part of it.
Q. Don't you and Coach Stoops know each other quite well?
COACH FERENTZ: I don't know if he would own up to that, but, yeah, we do.
When I got here in 1981, that was my first coaching job — full-time coaching job in college. And Bob was a sophomore — excuse me, a junior on that team. And as you may know, that was a very historic year for football history. Iowa had 19 straight losing seasons going into that year and ended up winning the Big Ten and going to the Rose Bowl that season.?
When I got here, the thing I observed is we had a group of guys that were very, very hungry. They weren't the most talented group in the world maybe but a team that was certainly tired of losing. Coach Fry had done a great job.
And Bob was a junior on that team, but, yet, he was one of the leaders of the football team. No question about that. And not the biggest or fastest guy on the team but certainly one of the smartest and toughest, and that really is what epitomized that team is a tough, smart group.
They did a great job. Bob was a great player here, great leader. And then stayed on as a G.A. and part-time coach for a couple years and took his first full-time job at K-State in the mid '80s, and then a year later Bill Snyder went to Kansas State and hired Bob. And nothing but good things have happened in his career since that time. So he's a guy I've got tremendous respect for as a person and certainly as a football coach. Just done a phenomenal job his entire career.
Q. Coach, have you paid much attention to Oklahoma this season and kind of what they have gone through as of late?
COACH FERENTZ: It is kind of funny, we're in the — right now we are trying to build a new facility here, so we actually went there last June to look at theirs and they were kind enough to host us.
And I had no idea at that time we would ever be playing, never dreamed of it. If I had known that, I might have tried to steal a playbook or something when I was there. I blew that one.
I have watched them a little bit on TV, seen them casually. We saw them on film obviously last year getting ready for Missouri. They had played Missouri. And I just know this, they've had tremendous players there over the last decade, and they are very well-coached. So it is going to be great challenge for us. And Landry Jones is certainly a great quarterback.
Q. Coach, can you talk about your season and your team, please.
COACH FERENTZ: Well, we have lost a lot of good players over the last two years, so we knew we had work to do this year. And it has been a little bit of a season of ups and downs. And we probably had a few more injuries, fortunately nothing — overall nothing real serious.
We do lose one — actually three players to surgery. But, you know, that's, I guess, part of the deal. But we've seen more ankle injuries and things like that.
I don't know that we — It was a good year where we could afford those kinds of things. That affected us a little bit.
But all in all, the guys played hard and did a good job. And, certainly, the high point of our season would have been beating Michigan here a few weeks ago. We really played a good football game that day against a very good opponent. And we had a couple losses, like anybody, I'm sure we'd love to have back. You don't get that chance.
This team will be eager. Our seniors have won 35 games over the last four years, and three of those are Bowls. So we got a great challenge on our hands.
And certainly playing Oklahoma, we will have more than our hands full — our hands more than full, I guess, would be better grammar, right?
Q. Who are some of the key players that Sooner fans will see for the first time?
COACH FERENTZ: You know, for us, certainly our running back who kind of broke out a little bit in the game last year in the Bowl, Marcus Coker has had a good season.
Our quarterback James Vanderberg is replacing Ricky Stanzi. He has done a good job.
And the highlight player on offense would be Marvin McNutt who really has had a great career here and really had a strong year. Just was selected as the Big Ten Receiver of the Year. That's named after Pat Richter and Desmond Howard, the Richter-Howard Trophy. He got that the other night. Or award, I should say.
Marvin is probably our most decorated player offensively. I think we got a solid group on our offensive line.
And then on the defensive side of the football, Shaun Prater, our corner; Mike Daniels, Broderick Binns and Tyler Nielsen, our linebacker. Daniels and Binns are both defensive linemen. Those are our four most veteran guys defensively, and they've played well for us this year.
Q. Wanted to ask you about playing (indiscernible) two years in a row. And, second of all, your defense this year, I know in 2010 obviously (indiscernible) couldn't seem to get guys stopped. Just talk about your defense this year, how it's played, and what will be crucial for you defensively playing a team that throws it around as well as Oklahoma does?
COACH FERENTZ: As far as going back to Arizona, it is interesting, we have never played Arizona in a Bowl game there. We played Arizona, Arizona State "Home and Home Series" through the years.
But last year was our first trip there. And we're just so excited to go there. And it is no knock on Florida or California certainly, or Texas. But it was a great changeup for us. Our fans loved it, and our players couldn't have had a better experience or the location. But a bigger part of that, much bigger part of that is just the hospitality that everybody associates the Insight Bowl extended to our team.
And I know Missouri as well. It's a very well-run Bowl, and we've been fortunate. We have gone to a lot of great Bowl games, but we never got treated better than we did last year. We are very appreciative of that. And I know our players' response, they will be very excited to know we are going back there.
Like last year, we are facing a heck of a challenge. With the quarterback from Missouri last year [Blaine Gabbert], plays for Jacksonville now. Gosh, we had our hands full. And now we're facing a very similar type foe.
Missouri threw that ball around and scored well last year. And now with Oklahoma the same way, we are going to have to be at our absolute best. We have lost a lot of good players on defense the last two years, at all positions. And so, hopefully, we'll be healthy, other than one of our defensive ends had knee surgery about a month ago. But outside of that, we should be healthy and we're going to have to be at our best each and every play because Oklahoma is a very explosive offensive football team.
Q. Kirk, you guys played without Norm being around on the staff a lot last year. Just talk about having him back and the difference he's made this year. And maybe I got to assume your players gained a lot of lessons and toughness from watching a guy like that.
COACH FERENTZ: There is no question. Last year was a very tough year. Norm weathered a lot a year ago. It was great having him back. He was back with us the month of December last year. And I think that made a real difference certainly. That was helpful. And now, you know, to have him back this year, it's been great.
And you are exactly right. He has served as a source of inspiration, I think, to everybody, not just our players but our staff as well. He has gone through a lot of battles over the last couple years here health-wise. Yet, he has been able to stay the course and has done a phenomenal job again coaching our defensive team.
Q. On James Vandenberg, quite a difference how he seemed to play this year at home and on the row. I guess some of that is being a young quarterback. But talk about his development. Obviously, he has a great player there in Marvin to throw it to. But James Vanderberg and how important he is to what you do and what you have seen out of him this year and the steps taken.
COACH FERENTZ: You know, a couple things on James. I said this to our media up here back in August. You know, he played last year. I think all of us on the staff were comfortable. We felt he really would have excelled and played well a year ago. But sometimes, you know, good players get positioned behind other good players. And I think that's what we had in this case. Ricky Stanzi is our first NFL quarterback in the time we have been here.
So James got positioned behind a really good player. And I think he did a great job of maximizing his opportunities a year ago while he was waiting. And I think he really played well this year.
And to the point about him on the road, I think I'm always a little more specific, I think. I think sometimes we generalize about how players play in certain circumstances and whatever. I don't know. I would take exception to that. To say that's the case, I don't know if that's 100% true.
So, you know, I think that's part of — like you said, it is his first year starting. He learned with every turn certainly. And every week was an experience right through our last game. None of us played well or performed well against Nebraska.
So, you know, we're anxious to have a chance to try to bounce back from that. And that's probably going to be a challenge every bit as daunting as winning at Nebraska. To beat Oklahoma in Arizona it is not going to be an easy task. We know that. We are going to need a great month and be at our best to have a chance in the ball game.
PAUL JENSEN: Look forward to seeing you soon, coach. Coach Stoops should be joining us momentarily.
Congratulations, Coach, and welcome. We appreciate your time.
COACH STOOPS: All right, great, thank you.
PAUL JENSEN: We will open it up for questions.
Q. I know you mentioned it before you are good friends. Can you talk about your relationship to Coach Ferentz?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, we are very good friends, Kirk and Mary, my wife Carol and I. He was very influential in my life. He was a young coach. I was a player. And then as a graduate assistant trying to become a coach, he was very good to me, always. Very close with him, related to him because he was the youngest coach on the staff. His wife Mary was always great to me and my wife.
So very much — there is a very close attachment there and not only to the Iowa program but to Kirk and Mary especially as people. I hate the fact that we're playing each other; but, hey, it's a Bowl game. It will work out.?
But we're — and he's done an awesome job at Iowa. I always follow the program. And he and I got our jobs at the same time. I've always admired the way he coaches and respected the way he coaches. So it has been fun to watch them have such good years as well.
Q. Bob, when you say he was very influential to you as a young coach, what do you mean? What kind of examples can you give us?
COACH STOOPS: He is just a coach. He loves football, always has related well to his players, always been very much a motivator and coach that players relate to. And I always recognize that. And I guess I related to him well as a young player myself and then even as a young coach.
Q. You were interviewed for the Iowa job a day before — whatever, a day or two days before Kirk was hired. Can you go through that scenario, that situation?
COACH STOOPS: Well, that's water over the dam. In the end, I was very fortunate and lucky that I had just also interviewed for Oklahoma. By the time I got out of that interview, Oklahoma had an offer there that I was excited about.
And to be quite honest, I felt, you know, I was at Iowa for ten years, and I loved it. I still love it. Some of my dearest friends are from there. But it was, like, I've been there, done that. This is something new, exciting. And, let's face it, too, a great tradition and great leadership at Oklahoma. I thought this is what I need to do, you know?
And I felt really in my heart, you know, Iowa had their heart set on Kirk maybe as well. I'm not — I don't know what they were. But in the end, I thought, you know what, I love the opportunity at Oklahoma. My wife and I talked about it. It is like, hey, let's go with it. And that was it.
Q. I read somewhere that the last time Oklahoma played Iowa, you were playing for Iowa. Do you remember much about that? Can you tell us about it?
COACH STOOPS: I do. Traveling into Norman, Oklahoma, as a red-shirt freshman. And I grew up in Ohio. And this is the God's honest truth. I loved Oklahoma. I loved the way they played, the Greg Pruitts, the Joe Washingtons, the option quarterbacks, Coach Switzer.
And I thought, how ironic. I thought — I think it was our second game of the year. Here I am a red-shirt freshman, the second game I ever play in, and we're going to Norman, Oklahoma and playing against Billy Sims and J.C. Watts and these guys. Oh, geez.
And I mean, Billy Sims, he is like the Tazmanian Devil running through the line trying to get a hold of him. We did pretty well. We had a heck of a game.
And they really didn't pull away until the fourth quarter. I think they won 21-6. It was 14-6, I believe, into the fourth quarter. Anyway, it was a heck of a game.
Q. Can you talk about the progress Landry Jones has made this year and what you see different in his game compared to what we saw last year out here at the Fiesta Bowl?
COACH STOOPS: He's made steady progression. He is a great quarterback, very much in line with the other great quarterbacks we've had in Sam Bradford and Jason White and these kind of guys. And works hard, great leader. Great arm.
You know, the last few games, you know, without Ryan Broyles it has been more of a struggle. And without Jaz Reynolds — he missed part of the game the other night. He missed, I believe — or he missed the Iowa State game also.
Losing some receivers has made it more difficult for him. But he's managing. He is a great worker, very talented guy. And, you know, a really special talent with his arm.
Q. Has he talked about coming back? Is that an issue at all?
COACH STOOPS: That's something we'll discuss here in the next couple of weeks. You know, there is a lot of legitimacy both ways, what are the opportunities. And we'll see what best for him.
Q. You started the season with a lot of national championship aspirations, and I know injury has played a big part in your season. We are accustomed to seeing you defense be more dominant in some games. Teams had success throwing the football on you. Can you go through, was your defense caught in between this year in terms of some numbers, some injuries that you assess defensively? What would you say happened this year to the Sooners?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, I would say in two to three losses coverage was very poor. I would say in our last game, you know, our run defense is probably the biggest culprit along with offensive turnovers. I mean, we have two turnovers for touchdowns and two other three-and-outs around the 10-yard line to give them great field positions.
So, anyway, yeah, I think it's been very inconsistent. You know, we played nine games really well and we played three defensively very poorly. I would say for sure in two of them, offense really contributed to it with turnovers and field position and momentum and those kind of things.
And a little — some of the scores look better than they really were, like a little too much too late. In a couple of them, that Texas Tech game and Oklahoma State game, the offense was as big a part of it as the defense.
Q. This really seems like the year of the quarterback with Luck and Jones and the kid from Baylor [Robert Griffin] and the other guy in your state [Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden]. How does Landry Jones rank? How do you compare them? Are they a similar group?
COACH STOOPS: No, they're all different. They all come from a little bit different schemes. I don't know how you compare any of them. I don't have time to do that. That's probably a good full-day conversation, to be honest with you. That's up to you guys to do that, and it is worth doing because they are all really good.
Q. I don't know how much interaction you had with the team either last night or this morning, this afternoon. But can you kind of illustrate or paint a picture of what their mind-set is? I know you came back from tough losses before on Monday and said they had a good practice, but today seemed a little bit different.
COACH STOOPS: No, today we haven't been with them. So they were off today.
Q. Any thoughts about last night, the way they reacted in the post-game?
COACH STOOPS: No, they were very — as I said, just like if you were in my press conference, I said very somber, very sobering, very quiet, and obviously dejected.
Q. How much are you looking forward to the fact you get a number of Bowl practices to try to get everything going back in the positive direction and also to work with especially some young players on defense like Geneo and some of those guys?
COACH STOOPS: Well, it will be important. We have a lot to get straight. We have a lot to correct. And I don't know if just the Bowl practices can get it done but we're going to try. We'll see.?
We're always excited to get with our players and with our team, and we'll see how they will respond here later in the week.
Some of your closest friends there at ESPN a little bit earlier tonight were very critical of you and your team in the way they said you didn't show up and you weren't motivated to play. How do you react to that?
COACH STOOPS: Well, what are you talking about, "my closest friends"?
Q. I was being sarcastic.
COACH STOOPS: I was going to say, I was going to say, "what are you talking about here?" We showed up to play. That couldn't be further from the truth. That's masking the problem if you say, Oh, we weren't ready to play, didn't want to play, any of that. That couldn't be further from the truth.?
We just weren't good enough, made mistakes. Landry Jones has never dropped a pass, sitting there ready to throw a ball out to the flat. You are saying he is not ready to play and he drops the ball? That doesn't make sense.
You know, in the end, we got hit with the team that's really good, No. 2 team in the country in my mind. We made too many mistakes which — with the players, we had a lot of drops, turnovers from a true freshman, dropped passes. And Landry Jones, a guy that we have — you know, that's been a very reliable player has two turnovers for touchdowns. It just happened.?
In the end, we weren't good enough to do it and they were hot at their place second year in a row. We got hit with a perfect storm. And within probably four, five series, it amounted to 24 points, game over.
So, anyway, no, that doesn't — we were ready to play. I don't believe that for a second. And that's given our players too much of a break. If they're good enough — if we were ready to play, we would have won the game, I don't buy that. That's giving our players too much credit.
Q. You saw Oklahoma State did not — they were third in the BCS. They did not go to the national championship. What are your thoughts about that?
COACH STOOPS: Well, I don't think that's right. I voted them second, so obviously I felt they were the second-best team in the country.
Q. Every coach loses players in the year. I wonder if there were some guys you lose not just because they are great players but emotionally any guys take it harder and if Ryan Broyles was one of those guys. Can you talk about the impact of losing him, maybe not just X and O-wise but what it might have done to your team from an emotional standpoint?
COACH STOOPS: Well, there's no denying it. He and Dom Whaley, our leading rusher, whenever he went out, I think he was first or second in the league in rushing yards. And Ryan Broyles has set an NCAA record for receptions. When you lose these guys, you're not the same team. To say certain guys or whatever are going to go in there and do the same thing, that doesn't happen.
Guys like Ryan Broyles come around once in how many years? How many years has it been since that record was in place?
So it's not an excuse. It's just a fact. You are a different team when you lose production like that on either side of the ball. It just makes you different.
PAUL JENSEN: Thank you, Coach. We'll see you soon.
COACH STOOPS: Thank you.