Ferentz on Game Management
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Q: When they were talking about divisions in the Big Ten did coaches have any input? What was your reaction to being in Legends
Kirk Ferentz: All of those discussions were at an administrative level and that is where that belonged, quite frankly. The announcement was in early September, and we were playing games so I didn’t even look at it. It literally sat on my assistant’s desk for a few weeks. I think they did a great job. you can’t make it all make sense. Everyone involved did a wonderful job. I never paid attention to that stuff, there are a lot of conferences that have divisions. I can think of one in particular where they didn’t put thought into it and you could say it’s top heavy or one side is a little unbalanced. I don;t want to suggest geographic. I think there is balance in our thought process. It was probably cutting edge.
Q: Another decision was choosing between Soldier field or Indianapolis. Does the Big Ten lose anything by not embracing it’s outdoor and weather identity for the title game?
Ferentz: I don’t think so. We play bowl games indoors. The Alamo Bowl is a great bowl. What it does is minimizes the opportunity for weather to be a factor. In the NFL, you earn the right to play at home. If you are a cold weather team that gets to host a game and weather becomes a factor, you could argue that is an advantage and you have earned that right. In this situation, it’s two teams that should be on equal footing. It makes sense to have a environment that will be sterile that way and Indianapolis is a fantastic city to host anything. It will be good for the fans and good for the teams
Q: Does it help from recruiting standpoint, if you go in south, they are not watching your marquee game in 20 degrees and snow?
Ferentz: That could be a factor, but when we recruit kids from the south, if you have a chance to go to the NFL you don’t have a choice where you get drafted. You may end up in San Diego or Green Bay. Being in Green Bay is a good thing now, by the way. For some players that is a factor, but for those players where it is a factor, they are not coming to Iowa anyway.
Q: Last year 4th quarters were hard for you guys. I know you examine all of this in the off season…when you are down to a two minute drill on offense, what is the percentage of the time where they work? Is it 50/50?
Ferentz: It’s not 50/50. Historically it’s less than that. It’s closer to 25 than it is to 50. I am not minimizing that. One thing you want to do is to be careful about not oversimplifying the issues. Sometimes it’s two minute drill, sometimes its two minute defense, four minute…I would also say there have been a lot of games that are prominent in my mind that we will share with our team..a lot of times its what you do in the first half and you squander opportunities and you are not ready to go. Those last two minutes you think back to those first few series where you did a poor job and you would not have been in the tough situation late had you taken care of business early. I can think of two games right now. We spent a lot of time this out of season looking at that. Clearly we have to do better from every standpoint, coaching and playing.
Q: Is there a lock solid chain of command now, after going through the Wisconsin game and the timeout situation there?
Ferentz: That was a critical mistake and we have addressed that and hopefully we are better moving forward. If we are not, we are not doing their job. We think about these things.
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Q: On defense, I think it was fourth quarter getting off field issues, and Sash brought it up time and time again, what can you do to fix that except play better?
Ferentz: One of the biggest plays of the year this year was that play before the fake punt against Wisconsin. Take that game in itself. Fake punt, then we couldn’t stop them, then we mismanaged the time out at the end. Take it back to that play before the fake punt. If it wasn’t for that play, none of the stuff that came after. It was going to be a sack or an incomplete and it was a hail mary. Sometimes that is football. So the other things become important. Any one of those things probably would have given us a much better chance to win the game. That is what makes football interesting. We can do a better job in a lot of areas.
Q: Getting off field was a big deal vs Northwestern. How much was that Persa’s ability to improvise?
Ferentz: I haven’t read a lot about that, but to me maybe with the exception of Randle-El, I don’t know how many quarterback’s we have played against that played any better than he did in that game. He is a great football player and was playing out of his mind that day. That makes it tough, too. I remember Randle-El. We were chasing him around 1999, 2000…I remember Kampman on a 3rd and 1 and they ran an option and Kampman had him by the back of his pads, and I am thinking we finally have the little **** and he flips the ball and get a first down then they scored. One of the biggest plays we have made in 12 years was Bob tackling him on a 3rd down, forcing them to punt in 2001 in our stadium.
Q: That was a huge game, if you don’t win that you don’t go to a bowl in 2001.
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Ferentz: HUGE game. Very little written about that. HUGE game. It was one of the turning points for the next ten years. That was a huge play in a huge game. We were ready to surrender at halftime of that game. That was a big moment. My point is that was a guy who was tough to defend. The guy in the 4th quarter in 2005 over there was pretty good too. Sometimes your opponent has something to do with it. In Persa’s case…go back and look at that last play when he got hurt…the execution of that play. It wasn’t like it was bad coverage. I was in New England a few years ago sitting next to Dom Capers and watching a play that Randy Moss made. The guy was all over him and Moss sticks his hand up and Capers looks at me and says ‘What do you tell the corner on that one?’ Grow five inches? Sometimes that happens.
Q: How disheartening is it for a defense where you have a team in 3rd and 8 and the quarterback runs for 9
Ferentz: It’s hard.
Q: Persa said he could tell it was getting to Iowa.
Ferentz: It’s hard. Sometimes great players make great plays. Persa did it, the quarterback from Ohio State was the only guy in the nation that could have done what he did in that instance.
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Q: You play a lot of spread teams this year. Does it cause you to examine how you approach things?
Ferentz: I am not an expert on other conferences. If you look at conferences, the Big 12 has really changed in a lot of ways. But in our league, you have teams that are spread that throw it, teams that are spread that run it. Then you have a conventional or traditional team like Wisconsin, Michigan State. Every week is a different preparation. To say you are just going to be a nickel team, that won’t be a good idea against Wisconsin. You really have to do what is best for you. One of the great challenges in our league is to play against the variety of the offenses you will see. Nebraska will be an entirely different thing. We saw them against Missouri on tape. That will be a different preparation. I am not saying its like Illinois, but that would be the closest thing we have. Their quarterback runs it well, but it’s different than playing Michigan State or Wisconsin. If you look at the teams that win consistently, you have to do what is best for you.
Q: In looking at how you build your program you can get good linemen usually. The state of Iowa and the Midwest produce good linemen, so that can be a strength for recruiting and how you build your program.
Ferentz: Barry’s thought process at Wisconsin, that was part of that. It has worked well there for a few decades. I think it’s fair to suggest.
Q: You aren’t going to get a lot of Denard Robinson’s
Ferentz: Not typically. We tried to get Scheelhaase and we couldn’t.
Q: So you are not against getting a running or mobile quarterback?
Ferentz: No. But we are going to play tight ends. I am pretty sure we never will abandon that. But I remember getting ready for Penn State in 1999, we had three senior tight ends and lost them all. On Friday we were putting in a three wide personnel group. You do what you do.