Big Ten teleconference: Kirk Ferentz

Iowa coach discussed the Kinnick advantage, his team's turnaround and a senior send-off

Opening statement

"We felt very fortunate to get out of Minnesota with a win the other day. It was a real tough ballgame, it seems like all of our games have been that way and Saturday was no exception. Minnesota played extremely hard and played extremely well and we were just very fortunate. Kyle Schlicher did a great job for us certainly with 17 points on the day. His contributions really helped our cause. Our guys are playing hard and we have a very tough, challenging football game again this week with Wisconsin coming to town. They are a top 10 football team and a very veteran team. We are going to have a great challenge. They are an excellent team and we'll have our work cut out for us this week again."

Was there any game or play or point in the season that has really turned this year around?

"I don't know if it was any one game. Probably the one that was as much as any would have been the Arizona State game. I'm not saying it was a wake-up call but we really got taken to school that evening and basically in every form and fashion. I think ever since that game we've probably carried ourselves a little bit better. It's not that we were doing a bad job before that but I everybody involved has probably made improvement since that point."

At that time did you think that this would be a team that would be 8-2 at this point?

"I didn't know if we could make it to our next game quite frankly. It was about as thorough of a defeat as I've been involved in and, believe me, I've been involved in a few. I've got a lot of experience there. But it ranks up there in the top five. But I think at that point our only thoughts were what can we do here in the immediate future to get better and that's kind of been our approach each and every week. All you have to do is look at our statistics and you are going to tell we're hardly the Monsters of the Midway a this given point but that's not the kind of football team we are this year. We're not gaudy statistically but the credit goes to our players. They're finding a way to get the job done, week-in and week-out."

What's kind of kept them together when things were going bad?

"I think the attitude of our football team's been excellent. That's grown also. We came in, we had a very small senior class this year. It's been a concern from my vantage point because we had the luxury, at least the last two years, we've had big senior classes and two years ago we had very veteran group. Last year's group really grew as the year went on. This year, first of all, we didn't have the numbers with the seniors and I'm not sure how many guys we had of the [Robert] Gallery, [Nate] Kaeding, Fred Russell, Bob Sanders mode either. But credit this group. The seniors have really grown. I think the team's attitude has been outstanding all the way through. I've never heard anybody around our football team ever offer up an excuse or look for an excuse. Everybody's just been trying to focus on what we can do to get a little bit better and again, our statistics are hardly gaudy, or impressive, but we're finding a way to get the job done week-in and week-out. It's never been easy. Not one of the games has been easy for us."

Are there any tangible things that you can point to that really give you an advantage at Kinnick?

"I think, first of all, every time probably has a comfort level, not only with the stadium but just the entire routine of being home…Every surrounding, you get six of those versus five of the other. But certainly Kinnick Stadium is a very unique place. It's kind of like the old bandbox gyms that they used to have….The playing field is in very close proximity to the stands. Our fans have long been enthusiastic. I got my first introduction back in 1981, first game I was involved with, against Nebraska. I think our fans have always had a real strong passion. We probably benefit from not having any pro teams in our state. Our fans have just been absolutely outstanding. They've been great all year this year, home and away. Obviously it is a little bit more impacted at home."

Is there any sentimentality because this will be the last game at Kinnick under the current configuration?

"I haven't even thought about it. I think that's one of the great things about the upcoming project is that we're not really going to lose any of the ambiance, or the history, or the character that the stadium has. That's really one of the great, great things about the upcoming project. I guess my thoughts will be more towards our seniors and just the last game of the season. Those thoughts will probably be a little bit more prominent."

On seniors:

"First thing that pops to mind I guess would be just the growth of the class. It wasn't a big class and still isn't in terms of numbers but I really think that they've grown an awful lot during the course of the season collectively. In most cases your team's only as good as your seniors. We weren't real good early in the season. The fact that our team has improved I think a lot of the credit has to go to the seniors. We knew going in we didn't have a lot so we were really going to count on some of our underclassmen to give us a boost and they have. You look at guys like our front four on the defensive line, you look at guys like Pete McMahon, Sean Considine, who is playing hurt and has played hurt, George Lewis, those guys have done everything we've asked of them, guys like Warren Halloway, Tony Jackson. You can go right down the list, Aaron Mickens, they've all, in their own way, made contributions for us to help us become a better football team."

Is there something special about a fifth-year guy like a Mickens and a Halloway who stick it out…who in their senior year make great contributions for you?

"There's no question. There's no better illustration of that than a guy like Ramon Ochoa a year ago, who came in as a backup receiver and probably you could argue was our most valuable team player a year ago. There are just some great stories. Derreck Robinson I think has really emerged this year and really grown an awful lot as a player and more so as a person. Those are the stories that are always fun to see."

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