Oct. 31, 2015
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Kirk Ferentz: It was another really tough football game for our football team to be involved in, and just thrilled to get a good team victory. It was something we talked to our guys about, playing good team football. When we play well, we have to be doing that, and I think certainly the sequence at the end of the second quarter there right before half was illustrative of the way everybody working off each other, Dillon Kidd had a tremendous day punting the football all day long, but dropped it down there and the defense got a good stop. We got the tip on the punt, and the offense took it and put it in the end zone, so it was a really good sequence to end that first half.
I don’t know how good we are as a football team, but our guys are playing hard and they play together, and really proud of them to move to eight and all that. It’s a very significant accomplishment. It hasn’t been done an awful lot, and really happy for the guys that way, but that being said, we’re still halfway through the Big Ten. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. Certainly we’ll see a lot of things to correct and improve on tomorrow during the tape and then we’ll go back to work Monday morning and another tough opponent coming down the road here.
Meantime, we’re going to enjoy this; I’m happy for our players and our staff.
It was great to have Zach Johnson here, too. He did an unbelievable job with the team talking to them yesterday. I know nothing about kicking and I know nothing about golfing, and I’ll tell you what, but you recognize people that are really special and people that are winners, and Zach Johnson is every bit of that. What a great representative he is for our state of Iowa. It was a thrill to have him with us yesterday, on the sideline today, and then in the locker room here. It was just a good day all around.
Q. Another week and you probably have another list of doubters. Do you use that with the team, or are you so focused on the one game at a time thing that you don’t notice?
Kirk Ferentz: We’re not claiming anything. We’re getting ready for our next football game. Our goal the first week was to win a game, and then ever since then it’s just been to win another game, win the next game. We’re trying to keep it as simple as that. Good thing about football is no style points, and when you win, it’s beautiful, and when you lose, it’s not so good. That’s kind of how we look at the world and it’s about as simple as that.
Q. Talk about CJ today; the week off…
Kirk Ferentz: It was one more positive. We handled the week well. This team has so far been a mature team. They take what comes their way and do a good job with it, and I think our leadership, our maturity showed. They did a good job with the bye week. We got a chance to rest a lot of guys that were worn down and still moved forward as a football team. And I think they turned their sights to this opponent — beating Maryland on Monday and did a good with that. Yeah, he’s certainly better off than he was after the last game, but he’s not going to be full speed or totally healthy the rest of the season, but that’s probably true of all of our guys.
Q. They came just charging out of the bye week, three touchdowns the first half, a shutout by the defense. What does that say about your team?
Kirk Ferentz: I think they handled the bye week really well, and that speaks to the maturity of the football team but also the leadership that our older players are giving us. So that was great to see.
They were ready to go to kickoff today and played hard, and so really happy about that. That’s a goal each and every week. You always got a unique challenge. Maryland presented that with their offensive style, that running quarterback. He’s a really tough, competitive guy, and I thought the defense for the most part really responded.
Q. You mentioned no style points, but some of the college football committee members are talking about there’s an eye test and having a feel for it. Do you get to the top 10 when you think of that?
Kirk Ferentz: I don’t mean this in a disingenuous — I really don’t care. I’m not worried about the playoffs. We’re still four games from the end of the Big Ten season. We’re going to enjoy this one. We’ll worry about our next opponent starting tomorrow afternoon.
But the one thing I’ve noticed, and I really haven’t followed all the stuff that close, the new system and committees and all that, it just seems like if you win enough, good things happen, and that was true 30 years ago, and that’s all we’re looking at right now. We’re just going to try to keep winning every week we’re out there.
Q. Jordan in street clothes, your first three touchdowns by three different running backs, how encouraging was that for you?
Kirk Ferentz: It’s great, and it’s kind of been the way the season has gone. It’s emblematic of the way the team has been playing. It seems like when someone can’t go or can’t contribute someone else jumps in there and does it. A lot of good things that happened today, a lot of high points, and certainly one of the best things I saw, it looked like LeShun was back to being LeShun Daniels again, and we haven’t seen that in a while, so that was really refreshing. Hopefully we’ll get Jordan back not too far down the road. That was really good to see.
I’m proud of the way Akrum ran and protected the football. Derrick did a good job when he was in there, as well.
Q. Does this feel like progress, like yet another step forward?
Kirk Ferentz: Well, we won, so that’s the first most fundamental goal at the start of the week. Just any time you get an opportunity to play and maximize an opportunity, that’s what it’s all about, and we did a good job of that.
Second half, again, style points and all that stuff, but there will be a lot to correct off that film. Certainly the kick coverage was less than impressive. But that’ll give us something to focus on, but these guys have responded all season long and I’m confident we’ll be better next week in those areas.
Q. Desmond always seems to come up at the right place at the right time. How impressed have you been with his ability to be kind of a closer?
Kirk Ferentz: He’s not a senior, needless to say, but you think about Dillon Kidd who played a big role in today’s game and the improvement he’s made. So where I’m going on that is Desmond has done the same thing. It’s like he’s a senior because it’s the third year that he’s started now, so he kind of got thrown in there a little bit before maybe he was quite ready. And last year played well, but not like he’s playing right now, and then today and this year he’s really playing at a higher level.
If you look at all of our players, typically they play better their second, third, fourth years as players for us, and I think it’s just a real — what it tells you is he works hard and he’s really paying attention to the little things that older players understand and appreciate, and again, I’ll take it back to Zach Johnson when I talk about Zach. Zach is not an overpowering golfer. He’s the first guy to tell you that, but boy, he really appreciates the fundamentals, the little details, so the way he approaches his craft and his sport, we can draw so much from that. Somebody threw an article on my desk yesterday saying he tended to be boring. Boring is okay. He’s got the Jug, and that’s okay.
Q. Three different running backs, they all bring something different to the table. Does that allow you to maybe go an extra page or two deeper into the playbook?
Kirk Ferentz: Well, we’ll see. We’re going to need all three of them certainly, and we’ll be happy when Jordan gets back, too, but again, good to have LeShun back. He looked like LeShun, and we think he’s a really good football player.
Hopefully Akrum is on the upward path now. Seems like he is. He’s practicing really well and concentrating the way you hope, and just talking about Desmond, you know, that comes with experience, and it comes with really having your mind where it should be.
And Derrick Mitchell, again, it’s kind of a wild card, but it looks like he’s really moving along, too. It’s all good. We’ll never have too many weapons, I know that.
Q. CJ, you guys didn’t run any naked or anything like that, you just kind of played a controlled game for him.
Kirk Ferentz: Yeah, you may not see too many of those in the next month or so I’m just guessing, but we’ll see. He’s not 100 percent, won’t be, so we’ll try to be smart about what we do that way, and I’m sure they had that figured out today probably coming into the game.
But it’s like the other day in practice out here, just watching him throw the ball, in fact I read a report yesterday that was kind of interesting, called him a “game manager,” which is like one of the worst terms you can give anybody, I think, as a quarterback. But I’ll tell you what, he’s got a pretty live arm. I think he’s done a great job. He’s leading our football team, and he threw a couple really good balls out there today again.
Q. Where was that written about CJ?
Kirk Ferentz: Somewhere from the East Coast. I get a lot of stuff on my desk, so I was kind of chuckling about that. I needed a little comic relief at the end of the week. I got it. It was perfect.
Q. Who wrote it?
Kirk Ferentz: It was somebody that hasn’t watched a lot of our football; put it that way.
Q. Boone coming back, you’re at the stage now where you’re trying to get some guys back, and he seemed to be fine. He seemed to be hungry.
Kirk Ferentz: It starts with the individual player. They work so hard to have that opportunity, but one thing that I alluded to before the break, before the bye, the good news is when guys do step up and really do something good, that’s how you build depth. That’s how you build a stronger football team. I think I also said this before the bye, the one thing that made me feel a little bit better as a coach was knowing that we were 10 weeks at that time, 10, 11 weeks into the season as opposed to the start of August. So most of our guys are better players now, and that’s something you hope for.
Boone got through the game just fine physically. He was hungry to go, certainly you’re right about that, and practiced well this week. This was his first week back in pads, and so we’ll get him back. Hopefully Ike is getting pretty close, too, just like Jordan. Maybe the next week or two we’ll get them back, also.
All the experiences our guys have gone through so far, hopefully we’ll be a stronger team in November. November is when it all counts. You work hard to get to November where the games really mean something, and I compliment our team on that. They’ve done a good job of doing that, and now it’s where it gets kind of fun and gets a little sticky, but that’s good stuff, but it still gets back to we’re going to line up Monday and start talking about winning the next football game on our schedule.
Q. What does it say about your offensive line that no matter what running back you put back there, they’re successful?
Kirk Ferentz: For the most part we’re doing a good job. We’re not perfect, obviously, but they’re doing a lot of good things up there, and you can’t say anything about the line. We’ve changed the menu several times, and the guys still go out there and produce. One thing feeds off the other, and that’s a positive sign. Sometimes we’ve had times in the past where it wasn’t as good, and injuries do affect you. Those are all positives, and again, hopefully we’re building credit as we move forward.
Q. Seems like you capitalized on most of your turnovers you’ve gotten. How do you instill that, the great turnover margin?
Kirk Ferentz: Yeah, it’s a little bit like the takeaways. I’d love to tell you we have a drill for it. We coach it, but everybody coaches it, and I think, again, it just — Desmond is a great illustration or example of this. To me a lot of times takeaways are just the result of people playing a little bit better, being a little smarter in terms of being in good position, playing with good fundamentals. It’s a contact game in the run game, and then in the passes, having some anticipation, really the film work that you do, those types of things, and that’s where I’ve seen Desmond. To me that’s why he’s playing higher level different. I don’t think he’s any different as an athlete necessarily.
And then the other part about, yeah, we talk all the time about capitalizing, which — complementary football, if we do get the takeaway, then we’ve got to go try to convert it into points, preferably touchdowns like right before the half.
But yeah, if it was three points there, we would have taken that. That would have been a good momentum swing for us. That’s the bonus. Sometimes it just changes field position, but if you can get points off it, it’s a big thing certainly.