A Chuckle Here, A Chuckle There

Dec. 28, 2003

Iowa’s Updated Outback Bowl events list

Kirk Ferentz met the media prior to Monday’s practice for the 2004 Outback Bowl and, amidst all the serious discussion about the X’s and O’s of the game itself, Iowa’s head coach found time to laugh and make those in attendance chuckle as well.

“Hopefully, not off a cliff,” he laughed when asked about the “direction of his offense.”

“I don’t think we have to defend ourselves offensively. We’ve proven we can move the ball a little bit,” Ferentz said. “The most important thing on offense is to score. The most important thing on defense is to not give points up. That’s really the bottom line next to winning and losing.”

Why Iowa?

Asked about what he “sells” when visiting with prospects about being a member of the University of Iowa football program, Ferentz said the following:

Our conference is fantastic. We’re very proud of our conference. If you want to talk about blending academics and athletics, there’s no better conference than the Big Ten.

And, we’ve got a great institution. Like most of the Big Ten schools, it’s an excellent academic institution and, outside of Northwestern, we’re the smallest campus in the conference. I think there’s a feeling of quaintness and yet it’s a very vibrant town. It’s about 60,000 without students I believe. It’s just a great college town. So if you like college towns, it’s a great environment.

I grew up in Pittsburgh and coached at the University of Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh is a Steeler town and at the University of Iowa it’s a Hawkeye state. We’re the Steelers of the entire state. That’s what I learned back in 1981. To me, it’s a real fun place to coach football. I enjoyed it tremendously as an assistant and enjoy it as head coach.

And I think our players have always enjoyed playing there. They have a great love for the campus and the state. I have been amazed at how many guys who played there in the 1980s who were originally from the east coast, Texas and other part s of the country now reside there. What they found is, that if you’re going to start a family, the education system is tremendous, it’s a very wholesome lifestyle, the values are very strong in the Midwest.

You need a winter coat That’s the only bad thing I can say about it. You need a winter coat…that’s OK…that’s why they make them….smart guys come up with these coats that work great.

Yeah, it’s a great place.

Ferentz knew the question was mostly about three different field generals – each with different strengths and weaknesses – in three years and not so much about the Hawkeyes’ system.

“Obviously, we’re getting to the point where a younger guy might be in a position to take over for a few years,” Ferentz continued before taking the opportunity to congratulate his current No. 1 quarterback – Nathan Chandler – for an outstanding year.

“I know there’s been a little talk back home about Nathan not being the prettiest quarterback around, but the bottom line is that the guy has quarterbacked our team to nine wins.

“The late Otto Graham was quoted as saying, ‘You judge a quarterback by how his team finishes up at the end of the game,'” Ferentz added. “I read that quote when he passed recently and it really struck home with me. That’s really what it’s all about when you’re a quarterback..”

Talk turned to recruiting later in the discussion and it was another topic rich in humor for Iowa’s head coach.

“A lot,” chuckled Ferentz when asked about how much negative recruiting goes on.

“We always inform propects that we have electricity now. That we have indoor plumbing and blacktop and no we don’t live in igloos, and we take the livestock in on the weekend so you won’t see any during your visit,” he joked.

“Recruiting gets kind of silly at times, but that’s recruiting. Perhaps the silliest thing is what some prospects end up believing. That’s really silly, but that’s recruiting. Childish at times, but, again, that’s recruiting.”

Back to the game, talk turned again to Iowa’s opportunity to right the wrong of a year ago. Ferentz said flatly that Iowa wasn’t as ready as it should have been for last year’s FedEx Orange Bowl game with Southern Cal.

“We had our share of distractions and we didn’t have our edge,” he said. “Losing to SC was not the end of the world. How we lost it just wasn’t tasteful to us.”

Iowa’s head coach accepted the responsibility for not having his squad ready to play. He’s hopeful everyone is a year older and a year wiser.

“One thing we’ve done pretty well over the last five years, when we screw something up, we try to reflect on it and learn from our mistakes. And we better, because we’re going to have to be sharp and playing hard or it’s not going to be much fun to watch.”

Ferentz talked long about two Gators: Quarterback Chris Leak and tight end Ben Troupe. Of the former, he said the almost-a-Hawkeye “plays well beyond his years.” Of the latter, Ferentz compared Troupe favorably to another tight end familiar to fans of the Hawkeyes — Iowa’s all-American Dallas Clark.

“He can hurt you,” Iowa’s head coach said. “We haven’t faced anyone like him all year.”

A Little More…

Ferentz on whether this year’s success was a surprise: “Not really. We had a pretty good feeling starting last January. With that being said, I don’t think we anticipating the injuries we had. So to overcome some of those obstacles, I think that speaks volumes about our players’ will power and determination. Their perseverance, I think, has been a highlight of this season.”

Ferentz on the development of Fred Russell: “He really matured during that preparation. The season he had last year didn’t surprise us. Nor did this year. He’s really grown and developed. It would be great to him and for us for him to go out on a high note.”

Ferentz on Florida’s speed: “Their skill players are really fast and quick. The thing that jumps out on their offense is their tight end, (Ben) Troup. I not saying he’s the same as Dallas Clark, but he is like Dallas in that he can hurt you.”

Ferentz on his first season as Iowa’s head coach: “It wasn’t tough, it just wasn’t much fun. Losing isn’t fun. It’s not enjoyable. We came in and did the best we could every day. We weren’t worried as much about the results as what we were doing on a day-to-day basis. The one thing I’ve learned about sports is that you kind of get what you deserve. I tell our players that all the time. And, if you look at the five years, it’s kind of panned out that way.”

Today’s Outback Bowl Report

Andy Hamilton of the Iowa City Press-Citizen writes about two old friends meeting on the gridiron inside Raymond James Stadium on Jan. 1 Click here for the full story.