Starting on the Same Page

Nov. 8, 2011

Complete Coach Ferentz Press Conference Transcript (Nov. 8, 2011)

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Bring on the wishbone, spread, power I or veer. If a defense is on the same page, the offense it faces shouldn’t be the major concern, University of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz says.

Getting on the same page will be a focus for the Hawkeyes on Saturday when Big Ten Conference Legends Division-leading Michigan State (7-2 overall, 4-1 Big Ten) brings its multiple, pro-style offense into Kinnick Stadium. Spartan quarterback Kirk Cousins is third in the league, averaging 221 passing yards a game. That contrasts to the challenge a week ago with Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, who is second in the Big Ten in total offense and fifth in rushing.

“They’re very different in terms of their offensive approach,” Ferentz said Tuesday at his weekly press conference in the Hayden Fry Football Complex. “The things that make you good defensively start with everybody being on the same page and playing to the best of their ability.”

Ferentz said at times the Hawkeyes have struggled to master that unified temperament because of injuries. The latest casualty is defensive lineman Dominic Alvis, who compiled 30 tackles and 3 ½ tackles for loss before tearing an ACL during a 24-16 win against Michigan on Nov. 5.

“If we (play well as a group), we can match up, whether we’re playing an option team or a throwing team or a running team,” Ferentz said. “That’s everybody being on the same page, and it starts in practice.”

While the No. 13 Spartans are at the top of the Legends heap, Iowa looks to continue its climb up the standings. The Hawkeyes are locked in a three-way tie for second in the division at 6-3, 3-2. This is the second consecutive week that the 13th-ranked team in the nation enters Kinnick Stadium. Last week it was Michigan that came in with flashy statistics…the Wolverines left with an eight-point defeat.

It is Senior Day and the Hawkeyes will salute 18 players for a final time. Iowa is 6-0 at home this season. Kickoff is set for 11:01 a.m. (CT).

“We know that we’re undefeated in Kinnick, and we want to keep it that way,” UI quarterback James Vandenberg said. “We want to send these seniors out the right way. We know Michigan State is a good team coming in, and it’s going to be our biggest challenge so far.”

The same could be said last season when the Spartans entered town with an 8-0 record and a No. 5 national ranking. Iowa led 30-0 at halftime and coasted to a 37-6 win. Ferentz said he expects Michigan State to play hard, regardless of what happened a year ago.

“If you use that theory, 50 percent of the teams that are playing this weekend are going to be that way,” Ferentz said. “They played really hard last year. They played hard the year before, and we lost to them in 2008. I expect these guys to play hard no matter what. In every film you look at, they play hard.”

Ferentz says Cousins is a “good example of what makes college football so neat.” Not heavily recruited in high school, Cousins is now only the second three-time captain in Michigan State history, and he is the winningest quarterback in school history with 23. He is coming off one of the best performances of the season — 296 yards, two touchdowns and a 67.6 completion percentage during a win against Minnesota.

“I don’t know what (Northwestern quarterback) Dan Persa’s recruiting story was, but those are two guys that I think could play anywhere in the country for any team in the country,” Ferentz said. “And neither one of them was a five-star recruit that we all know about or read about.”

One of the quickest answers from Ferentz on the afternoon came when he was asked if he stresses to the team that a loss to Michigan State would erase any chance of a Legends Division title.

“Not at all,” Ferentz said. “A week ago it didn’t look like we were going to a bowl game to a lot of people. We’re nine days removed from not getting it done on the game field (a 22-21 loss at Minnesota on Oct. 29). We need to try to worry about a good opponent coming in here and see if we can play a good game. If we don’t play well, it will be a tough day, I know that. (Michigan State) is a really good team.”

It remains to be seen if Saturday’s game will bring a lighter work load for Iowa running back Marcus Coker. Coker leads all Big Ten players in rushing attempts (211), yards (1,101) and average per game (122.3). In the last two outings at Minnesota and at home against Michigan, Coker carried the ball 61 times for 384 yards. The rest of the Hawkeye running backs — in this case freshman De’Andre Johnson — carried the ball twice for three yards.

Ferentz planned to use freshman Mika’il McCall against the Wolverines, then changed his mind on game day.

“We’re going to try to get somebody else in the game, but sometimes I need a push, I guess,” Ferentz said. “The problem isn’t with (McCall), it was the head coach; the head coach needs a push, so I’m working on it.”