Sunday Conversation With Kirk Ferentz

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — The goal of Iowa football in the month of September is to improve and that is the task in front of the Hawkeyes this week as they prepare for North Texas on Sept. 16.
Head coach Kirk Ferentz said Sunday that his team took a step forward in areas during a 44-41 overtime victory at Iowa State. But he was disappointed at the way the team tackled.
“The biggest thing is what kind of improvement can we make and that has always been our deal, especially in September,” Ferentz said during his weekly Sunday visit with “We have to try to move forward as fast as we can. There is nothing like game experience and we have good experience now with two good weeks.”
It was a great game in general. I’m sure the fans, for the most part, enjoyed it. There were a lot of ups and downs for both sides. From our standpoint, (we were) proud of our players for how they never lost their focus or got discouraged. We went through peaks and valleys and those valleys were tough, but the guys fought through it.
“When we fell behind by 10 (points), it looked like a steep hill to climb, but we did a great job coming back and getting the touchdown; we got the field goal after the turnover. To watch our team fight and compete like that down the stretch was gratifying.”
“Everything was important. James Butler made a couple runs that were impressive; one in the overtime period to put it on the 5-yard line. The blocking stands out; (Matt) VandeBerg coming in right away on a couple of those outside slants that Akrum (Wadley) ran; he came in and almost blocked two guys — he blocked the safety, the corner chased him, and Akrum got outside the corner. You see little things like that. There was another play where Ihmir (Smith-Marsette) was coming across in a deep route, the ball got thrown to a guy underneath and Ihmir turned around and became a blocker. It is probably about as good of receiver blocking I can remember in one of our football games. It is probably one of the reasons we had so many yards — those things go together a lot of times. A lot of good efforts up front: the fullbacks did a good job, it truly was a team effort on offense.”
To put drives together like we did yesterday was gratifying — it was a true team effort. Nate (Stanley) played a nice game and due to that, his first road game in a tough circumstance, it was impressive. He had a lot of good help — the running backs did a great job, the receivers did a great job, not only catching  the ball, but they did a nice job blocking which enabled us to get big plays in the running game. The line and tight ends did a good job as well. Every play in a game like that is a big play. Peter Pekar with 9-yard gain was a huge play. Every one of those plays added up to helping us be successful.”
It’s good for our football team. To me, that is good offense. A lot of that is dictated by what the defense chooses to play and what they try to take away from you. Yesterday, they threw the kitchen sink at us; they did a lot of different things to try to stop the run early and that opened stuff in the passing game. To Nate’s credit, he did a good job finding the guy who the ball should have gone to and that helped us have a successful attack.”
“A week ago it was turnovers that put us in a hole and the guys kept playing through that. Yesterday we had penalty issues and we also gave up big plays and big drives. We found ourselves down 10 points with not a lot of time left. But the team never seemed dismayed, there was no bad body language, no negativity, everybody kept focused on playing and encouraged each other. Good things took place on the field like last week. Two different games, yet the way the team approached those setbacks was impressive and gratifying.”
“It looks like Ike Boettger, unfortunately, has an Achilles issue, so we’re not optimistic there. Sean Welsh slid out to tackle at that point and that is probably how we’ll start out this week. Alaric Jackson (will be) at the other tackle and we will fill in from there. The good news is Boone Myers is gaining strength and getting back to where we thought he would be. We expect him to be playing some left guard.”
We’ll go back to work this week. I don’t know a lot about North Texas at this point, we will know more in the next 48 hours.
“The biggest challenge in my mind is how much can our team improve between now and Saturday while we’re trying to get ready and match up with an opponent. That is the task in front of us and hopefully we’ll have a good week of practice.”