From the Ditch to Prosperity

Nov. 2, 2010

Ferentz Press Conference Transcript | Video interview with T. Sash/S. Prater

IOWA CITY, Iowa — There always seems to be reason for concern when you’re head football coach at the University of Iowa. A week ago it was how to regroup after a loss; today it is how to stay grounded after a win.

“You always worry about something,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday at his weekly sit-down with the media. “Right now we’re worried about prosperity. A week ago we were worried about being in the ditch. There’s always something to worry about. That’s just how it goes.”

So while Hawkeye fans throw compliments all over the state after a 31-point win against previously undefeated Michigan State, Ferentz knows the team’s next foe — the Indiana Hoosiers — will try to throw the pigskin all over the field Nov. 6 against his defense, which is tied for second in the Big Ten Conference with 13 interceptions. Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell leads the league and is fifth in the nation in passing yards per game (305.6) and the top three receivers in the Big Ten are Hoosiers: Damarlo Belcher (7.25 catches per game), Tandon Doss (5.71) and Terrance Turner (5.25).

Iowa enters the game with a record of 6-2 overall (3-1 in the Big Ten) and ranked 15th in the latest Associated Press poll. Unranked Indiana (4-4, 0-4) has lost four of its last five games after winning three in a row to start the season. Kickoff from Memorial Stadium in Bloomington is 11 a.m. (CT).

The Hawkeyes have faced five rated teams this season, including their last four games: Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Michigan State. Iowa should be well-versed in not taking the Hoosiers lightly. A year ago the Hawkeyes, riding a 12-game win streak, entered a home game against Indiana and found themselves behind 21-7 at halftime and 28-14 before exploding for 28 points in the fourth quarter of a 42-24 victory.

“You always worry about something. Right now we’re worried about prosperity. A week ago we were worried about being in the ditch. There’s always something to worry about. That’s just how it goes.”
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz

“Indiana has a high-powered offense and their quarterback is an excellent player,” Ferentz said. “They’re throwing the ball around very well again this year. All you have to do is look back to last year. We were very fortunate to get out with a win. I thought they had us on the ropes and it took a miracle play for us to get back into the game. We’ve had tough games with these guys through the years.”

The `miracle play’ Ferentz referenced was an interception and 86-yard return by Tyler Sash. That play came midway through the third period and cut Indiana’s lead to 21-14 when the Hoosiers were driving in the red zone aiming for a 28-7 edge. In 2007 the Hoosiers won 38-20 in Iowa City and in 2006 Indiana won 31-28. The last time the Hawkeyes were in Bloomington, they prevailed 45-9, on Oct. 11, 2008.

“We did OK in ’08, but we had Shonn Greene (at running back),” Ferentz said. “I don’t think he’s coming back this weekend, so we better be ready to go.”

The consecutive string of playing nationally ranked opponents has ended, but remember that adage about always having something to worry about? Three of Iowa’s final four games are away from Kinnick Stadium.

“That’s the challenge as it stands right now,” Ferentz said. “There’s going to be a road ingredient; we have three out of four on the road right now. That’s what we’re looking at.”

Iowa’s thin linebacker corps received mixed news this week. While junior outside linebacker Tyler Nielsen is expected to miss “weeks, not days,” according to Ferentz, senior Jeff Tarpinian, who saw spot duty against Michigan State, continues to improve. Freshman Christian Kirksey is expected to join fellow rookies Shane DiBona and James Morris by playing a significant role against the pass-happy Hoosiers. Ferentz said linebacker Jeremiha Hunter “has a realistic shot” to be with the team Saturday.

November is a month that sorts the contenders from the rest of the pack and since 1999, Ferentz-coached teams have compiled a record of 21-15 with victories in six of their last 10 November games.

“If you’re going to have a good team and have a good season, you have to play well in November,” Ferentz said. “That goes without saying. We’ll find out where we’re at in three and a half weeks.”

While youngsters like Morris, DiBona, Kirksey and running back Marcus Coker are improving in the heat of battle, the Hawkeye coaching staff is trying to accelerate the learning curve.

“We’re capable of getting a lot better, and we’re going to have to,” Ferentz said.

Defensive coordinator Norm Parker is also improving, but will not accompany the team to Indiana.

“I think we’re probably anywhere from five to eight days, based on what I know, before he comes home,” Ferentz said. “We’re gaining ground. It was great having him there and he was certainly enthused. I think we’re getting real close to him coming back home. The next step will be getting him in the office a couple hours a day, that type of thing, but he won’t be here Saturday.”