Nov. 21, 2015
University of Iowa Football Media Conference
Saturday, November 21, 2015
Iowa – 40, Purdue – 20
Kirk Ferentz: Just to start out, needless to say, we’re really thrilled and very, very proud of our players. They’ve done a great, great job all season long, and I want to credit some other people, too, just on the front end. You know, it was a cold day out there, a little bit windy and what have you. I can only imagine how cold it was through the night for the crews, the many people that worked through the night, and it was a significant number of folks that just worked nonstop to keep the field in great condition, people that help people park, concessions, all that stuff, so there were a lot of people that had to battle this. All we had to do was show up and play, so I want to express my appreciation to those folks.
And then also our fans. We pulled in whatever it was, about 8:50, 8:45 today, and things looked pretty quiet. We came out kickoff and it was great, the stadium was great, and they were great all the way through. Just wanted to say thank you to them, as well.
Again, just really proud of our football team. They worked hard, competed hard, fought hard out there. We knew this would be a tough ballgame, another tough conference game, and one thing about this team, they’ve done a great job responding to the challenges week in and week out and all season long. It’s just kind of been the nature of things, and today we certainly had more of those to face.
Got off to a great start in the ballgame, and then Purdue really grabbed momentum. They had been playing hard as a football team, and they certainly did it again today and really battled us. It was like a 20-minute period there or a 25-minute period where they had us on our heels a little bit, but our guys, again, fought back. That 90-yard drive into the wind was certainly, I think, a real big part of the game, and the defense coming up with a couple — forcing them to take field goals a couple times inside the 10 there and 4th down stops, so there were a lot of positive things.
But all in all, just really proud of the team, and you think about what’s been accomplished now, to go 7-0, I think it’s the second time in history in Kinnick. We’re 7-0 in the league, first time to be 11-0, and all those good things are just really the result of our great senior leadership. For us to have a good football team, I’ve said that many times, we need our seniors to play their best, and they’re doing that, and then also they’ve got to lead, and they’ve done a great, great job. To me they’re the players of the game, if you will. Just really, really proud of them, and very, very happy for them.
Q. You mentioned 7-0. You’ve been 10-11 at home the previous three years. Where did this 7-0 journey start?
Kirk Ferentz: January. It’s like everything we’ve done; I think that’s when this class, these 21 guys, became seniors in my mind. Maybe not chronologically, but as football players they moved to the front of the room. They were the seniors that were going to lead this team, and you know, they’ve really been committed going back to January. For the most part every step along the way has been pretty positive. Maybe a little step back here and there, but just they’ve done a great job, and then we’ve had fortunately some younger guys, too, that are acting like seniors, guys like C.J. Beathard, guys like Josey Jewell, so there’s been really great buy-in, but to me starts with those guys at the front of the room.
Q. You’ve not trailed in the fourth quarter this season, which would mean you haven’t given up a fourth-quarter lead. How have you accomplished that?
Kirk Ferentz: I don’t know. It’s funny, today we won by 20. It didn’t feel like that. In fact, we had to remind ourselves of that looking at the stat sheet. I’m not sure. We’ve just kind of been pushing away and working hard. If we do get down in the fourth quarter, I’m confident we’ll come back. That’s one thing about this group; they just keep pushing.
We may not have been behind, but we’ve been in a lot of really tight ballgames, tight situations, and the guys have fought through it.
These guys keep battling. That’s one thing that’s been pretty consistent. They play hard and respond to whatever happens to them.
Q. The trophy presentation, did you do that in private as a team thing. Was that because there’s more work on the table you didn’t want to make it seem like the be-all, end-all?
Kirk Ferentz: Yeah, it’s kind of two things. I got to thinking about that, I’ve never been involved with winning the division, so that’s a little different, just like our expansion has been historic in the Big Ten. I guess you’ve got to figure out how to respond to that a little bit better.
But the other part was, yeah, we’re not downplaying it. It’s a significant accomplishment to have an opportunity to play in Indianapolis. It’s really thrilling for all of us, and we’re really pleased about that.
But at the same time we’re six days out from playing again, and we’re playing a team that’s been sitting back all week watching us. We’ve got some ground to make up tomorrow. We’ll get to work on that in our meetings and what have you, but really proud, and it’s a real significant accomplishment, but we’ve still got to finish this season out, and that’s our goal.
Q. Beathard was able run out there.
Kirk Ferentz: Yeah, and fortunately I can’t explain it medically, but he’s been gaining ground the past month, and the last couple weeks he’s moved around pretty well and continues to get better. That gives us a little bit more arsenal, if you will, a little bit deeper arsenal, and C.J. is a guy who’s just played extremely well for us and did a good job again today. Had that one turnover; that’s very uncharacteristic, and probably stems from him maybe not practicing, plus we don’t whack him in practice. But he more than made up for that, I can assure you.
Q. You used four running backs on the opening drive. Is that how you envision it going now?
Kirk Ferentz: Yeah, you know yes and no. Not totally by design, but our two marquee guys — LeShun and Jordan — they’re a little bit more proven and what have you, although Derrick has been doing a great job in his role, more of a third-down back, and Akrum has won us over. We were a little concerned about his ball security, but to me ever since that trip to Chicago he’s really grown up a little bit, too, and that’s been great to see.
Q. When your seniors came to lift weights this summer, they found a trophy case smashed in the middle of the weight room, symbolic, of course, after not winning a trophy last year. I can’t imagine you’d be more pleased with the way your team has responded to that challenge?
Kirk Ferentz: They really have, and trophy games are important because it is, it’s all about winning and losing. They’ve responded. They’ve done it every week, whether there’s a trophy involved or not. The big thing and our goal, it’s like every year, you just want the team to line up each and every week well-prepared, and then you want them to compete as hard as they can. If you come up short, you can live with that, and we’ve had games like that.
I’ll go back to last year, 2013, that was the Wisconsin game. We prepared, we played and competed, but we weren’t good enough that day, and you can live with that. But when you can’t check those boxes off, that’s where it’s difficult, and if you’re going to win a trophy game, you’d better take care of those items. You’d better take care of each and every one of them.
Q. You took care of the ball today again — had to be awfully hard to hold onto it.
Kirk Ferentz: The conditions were tough today. They really were. I’d never admit that to the team last night or this morning. Now I can say it publicly. They were tough out there. Not as much the cold; the cold is — you’ve got to concentrate a little bit more, but the wind was really a factor today, and I think that showed up probably in the statistics. I haven’t looked at that quarter by quarter. But the two quarters, they really kind of had us going a little bit. They had the wind, and that’s why I say that 90-yard drive into the wind was really — that was significant, and it was a great job, plus we needed it right then, so good response.
But the weather was a factor today, there’s no question about that, and wind to me always the number one thing that influences a game.
Q. Where do you think you got the momentum from? Was it just the 90-yard drive, or what were the keys for you to get that back?
Kirk Ferentz: That was really big, and then there’s some other plays in there, too. Dillon did a nice job punting into the wind. That was a big — I thought a really big play certainly. But a lot of little things along the way, you know, that just make a difference certainly. But that drive at least, I think, kind of put us back where we needed to be.
Q. What was your message to the team during that trophy celebration?
Kirk Ferentz: Well, you know, be proud. I mean, everything I just mentioned a minute ago, being 11-0, 7-0 at home, you can’t do any better than that, and 7-0 in the league. Right now it’s as good as we can be. And then to secure a bid, and again I’ve never been involved in divisional stuff. I know this: No matter what it is, you’d rather win something outright, no matter what it is you’re doing.
So be very, very proud of that. They even got hats and tee shirts, all that stuff. Coaches didn’t get any, but they got them. But you know, they’ve earned that. They’ve earned that, and I want them to really enjoy that and encourage them to do it until we get together tomorrow.
We’re going to have to make up for some lost time once we get together at 12:30, but between now and then, as long as they’re smart, I want them to feel good about what they’ve done. They should. They’ve earned that.
Q. Any more enjoyable coming off the way last year ended?
Kirk Ferentz: If you’re involved in sports, if you’re involved in anything competitive — if you think every day is going to be a parade, you’re in for a tough life. You’ve got to endure some tough times, and I never thought we were off that far last year, but you know, being off that far sometimes makes a big difference.
I wouldn’t rule it a total catastrophe. We won seven ballgames. But I’ll go back to that last game in Kinnick. It just didn’t feel good.
I mentioned the Wisconsin game. It was a heck of a football game. That last game was not a heck of a game. That was hard to live with.
To avoid those kind of performances, that certainly was a goal, and it gets back to just doing things right, preparing right, competing, and then you live with the results.
Q. The last game last year, at home, it obviously seems like it really stuck in your craw. Does that play any factor as you get ready this week?
Kirk Ferentz: It wasn’t their fault. It’s like a lot of things that happen, and I’ve said that forever. One good thing about sports, it’s not like real life; pretty much you get what you deserve. If you go out there and don’t play, you’re probably going to get nailed, and it’s just as simple as that. Sometimes you get away with it if you’ve got the best players and all that stuff.
So that’s to me what sports are all about. And that wasn’t our opponent’s fault. For us to turn the ball over in that red zone, to tee up their first touchdown, not cover a punt, that’s ownership. That was really the issue there.
Q. Would you say every game from here on out is the biggest for Iowa?
Kirk Ferentz: No, it’s like picking your favorite play or your favorite moment. They’re all significant, and you know, when you do this — it’s like that “ugly win” term, there’s no such thing. When you win a game, you go home feeling pretty good because you realize how tough they are, and I just mentioned one where we played pretty good and lost.
You learn to appreciate everything. You really do. More so I’m just really proud of our guys, really proud of their effort.
Q. The trophy case in the locker room, was that you or was that —
Kirk Ferentz: I couldn’t smash anything. Maybe an egg or something. I don’t know, and I never asked, and I didn’t have anybody investigate. But I think the message was there, and again, it just wasn’t those games, it was just more so about if you’re going to win trophy, you’ve got to go earn it, and you’ve got to do things right. You’ve got to be thorough, and you know, give yourself every chance going into the game, and you’ve got to compete. That’s what the game gets down to.
Q. Earlier this week when we asked you about the trophy presentation you were very clear and you said you’re not done yet and you want it outright. You guys have been more outward with that kind of communication this year.
Kirk Ferentz: The goal back in August was to line up prepared every week, which that means you’ve got to do things right for seven days, and then when the kickoff comes, whether it’s 11:01, 2:35, 3:35, 7:12, I think that covers the gamut that we’ve had this year. Whenever they tell you you’re going to kick it off, you’ve got to be ready, no excuses, and you’ve got to go compete.
That’s been the challenge, and that’s about as simple as we’ve tried to keep it for our players, and it’s easy to talk about that. I mean, every coach in the world tries to do that. Again, the credit goes to those guys that have done it, and it starts, again, with those 21 seniors. They’re the ones who really bought in and they’ve lived it; they’ve pushed it. We haven’t been perfect by any stretch, but our record is perfect. It’s just, if we’re a little off here, somebody else jumps in there and helps respond, and that’s kind of how we’ve been playing all season long.
Q. Has this team felt any pressure?
Kirk Ferentz: The only pressure I ask our guys to feel is you go out and perform and you play for each other. You’re doing it for that reason.
To me what sports and athletics teach is giving your best, and you do it, and if you’re involved in a team sport, every guy in the room is counting on you, coaches, players. Everybody has got a responsibility. Everybody has got a job. The pressure is to not let the rest of the group down. That’s the pressure. External stuff, you live with the good and the bad, but it’s all what we have amongst each other.
Q. It’s been unusual season.
Kirk Ferentz: It’s easy to get caught up in the scoreboard. It’s easy to get caught up in whatever may be out there. But with every win, there’s more out there to get caught up with. So it’s easy, again, for a coach to talk about that, but for the players to stay focused on what really counts — I’ll share this with you, too. This is how lucky I am and the kind of day I had yesterday.
I go to an I-Club luncheon, honoring the seniors, and you’ve got Hap Peterson and Marv Cook address the audience, okay, so that’s the start. I get back here, we have a chapel, which is voluntary, okay, it’s not mandatory, it’s a voluntary chapel. Aaron Kampman presides over that, and then our honorary captain, Sean Considine. How does it get better than that? How does it get better than that? Every one of those guys really embodies all that’s good about sports.
Go back to our first honorary captain, Dave Porter. If you go right down the list, all those guys have really delivered messages about what’s important, and again, it gets back to just the — what it means to be on the team. That’s all it is. So again, the buy-in is with our players. That’s where it all goes.