Kirk Ferentz postgame transcript from the UNI game, after the 31-23 victory over the University of Northern Iowa at Kinnick Stadium today.
Kirk Ferentz opened his post game press conference with the following:
We're really excited to get the victory. I know as coaches we realized this was going to be a really hard fought, tough ballgame. UNI has an excellent football team, a lot of really good players back from a year ago, and they're extremely well coached and they played extremely hard today, so it was a really tough ballgame on both sides. We really tip our hat to them, and we're just really happy to come out with a victory. I thought our guys played hard. There are going to be some good teaching moments to learn from, but the most important thing is they played hard down the stretch, and you'd better be doing that in the fourth quarter or it's going to be a long year. That was really a positive.
Cidsports: Both teams played hard, showing positives on both sides of the field. UNI needs to clean up miscues and penalities. Iowa clearly learned some things about their team. As Coach Ferentz said, it is going to be a long season.
Q. What were some of those teaching moments?
Kirk Ferentz: Well, a couple that jump right out to me in the first half, we had the ball inside the 20, they put us down inside the 20 and we couldn't move it out either time and put our defense out there at midfield, and that's a situation we've practiced a lot. Just little things like that that can really change a game. Not making it on 4th and short there kind of swung momentum a little bit, but just some of those bigger things, and then obviously some match up stuff we're going to have to get cleaned up in the passing game.
Cidsports: UNI has a bye week, ahead of their road game at Hawaii. It should be interesting to watch how the Panthers built off this competitive opener in Iowa City. They will play the top FCS program over the past three seasons in conference play, with North Dakota State. The Bisons beat Iowa's week 3 opponent sou ndly 34-14 in Ames on Saturday.
Q. 200 receiving yards for David Johnson. Is that more him or the defense?
Kirk Ferentz: I think a combination of both. They caught us a couple of times, and I've seen them do that historically. They do a nice job, and they've done it especially since he's been there against several teams, so he's an excellent player. They have a good scheme, and then we didn't play smart enough at times, either. That's clearly something we're going to have to get addressed or we'll be playing in tough shape.
Cidsports: David Johnson may be the top combo RB Iowa will face in 2014? Ball State, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Nebraska all have top RBs, so facing Johnson was good for Iowa's preparation for upcoming games. Many see Johnson likely playing on Sundays in the near future. His receiving skills at RB certainly gives one a positive forecast.
Q. Where did this game turn in your favor?
Kirk Ferentz: Well, you know, I think probably as good a thing that happened out there, coming up with the defensive stops in that fourth quarter. Things weren't going great. We had given up some big plays, and that makes it tough to play good defense. You can't play good defense giving up big plays like that, but I thought in that fourth quarter our guys really the last three or four series -- really knuckled down and played at a higher level than they had been playing. To me we learned a lot about ourselves today. I think the effort was certainly there. I think for everybody the want to was there, but it's hard to simulate a game, and that was a real good one for us to go through.
Cidsports: It was nice to see Iowa get to 16-1 vs. UNI. The Panthers will hopefully compete well against the best in the FCS and those in the MVfC.
Q. What did Tevaun do for you? He made a couple plays for you. Was that by design or him?
Kirk Ferentz: Well, the reverse was by design. We didn't quite script out his route that he ended up taking. I've never seen one quite like that, at least in a real game. But that was a big play in the game, obviously, and then the catch he made down there. I'm eager to see it on a replay because that looked like a thing of beauty live. But if you're going to have a good team, you need guys stepping up and doing some things like that, and that certainly was a big deal, and Derrick Willies coming down with that ball and the deep ball down the middle. Things like that are going to have to happen if we're going to be any good.
Cidsports: It was nice to see Iowa get the ball to large number of different ball carriers and pass receivers. It was really good to see both Tevaun Smith and Kevonte Martin-Manly step up with big catches vs. UNI. UNI had some good wide receiver play, as well.
Q. Were you ever close to changing things up with CJ Beathard?
Kirk Ferentz: No, not at all, and if we do it, it's going to be because we've talked about it. We kept both guys alert that we might go with that situation. No. I thought Jake played a really good game.
Cidsports: Coach Mark Farley said he wasn't likely going to play two quarterbacks either in pregame. As Farley said, it is rare to go through a season with only one quarterback. At some point, the backup quarterback will get his opportunity to shine. It is then, where he should show that he should be #1.
Q. On the other side of that coin, the slot took over late in the fourth quarter.
Kirk Ferentz: Yeah, I thought the whole group up front really started playing with a little bit more juice and energy, and that's important because that's where it's tough. That's where games get decided. Fortunately for us they did that. It was great to see Jaleel Johnson get in there and be disruptive. He's a young player who hasn't played much, so if we can get six, seven, eight guys involved in that rotation that'll help us. It's always a good thing defensively when you're getting some pressure up front with the front four guys.
Cidsports: Both teams had good line play at times. Whether it be Iowa or UNI, games are often decided by the play at the line of scrimmage. Iowa showed good pressure against the opposing quarterback. The offensive line protected Jake Rudock well enough.
Q. What did you like about your linebackers?
Kirk Ferentz: You know, it was a good start for them, good first game, certainly Bo's play was an excellent play over there on the bench picking that off, and he made a nice play down in the red zone. But it was a learning experience, and we knew that coming in. It was going to be there were going to be some challenges, especially based on the opponent we're playing, and those are things we'll learn from, and we'll address those during the week and see if we can't be better next week.
Cidsports: Iowa lost three outstanding linebackers from last year. Today, the unit showed the good, the bad and the ugly. Good teaching moments both good and bad. Coming off a season ending broken leg last year, UNI linebacker Jake Farley looked good. Hopefully, UNI can develop a title contending defense conference play.
Q. There were some red flags obviously, things you didn't do as well as you wanted, yet you still get a win, whereas last year you didn't.
Kirk Ferentz: First of all, to get a win was great, and the other part about it, you talk to players, and I think they understood. I don't think anybody in our camp underestimated the challenge that was in front of us, and I don't think it was a matter of, boy, those guys came out flat, didn't look ready to play, and that wasn't the case at all. We made it hard on ourselves, again, not moving the ball out, giving up some big plays. But yeah, to play in a game where you have to compete all the way to the end, which is what the case was and then win, I'd always take the win no matter what. But to do that, that's a good thing, especially for our football team.
Cidsports: UNI had defeated Northern Illinois in the past. That was a different era for both programs. UNI defeated ISU last year. It was interesting the comparisons to NIU last year to UNI this year. The Huskies secondary was a strength, as it is for the Panthers. Iowa is 1-0.
Q. Was the rushing game a concern today? A bunch of guys with 30 yards or so.
Kirk Ferentz: Yes and no. To their credit, I'd just mention I think they're extremely well coached offensively. I thought they did some things defensively that really made us adjust a little bit and do some tweaking on the sidelines. That's a credit to them, too, which is no big surprise. They did their homework and they were ready to go. That will come around, but we're going to be fine there.
Cidsports: Coming into the season, Iowa wanted to keep the running backs fresh, especially Mark Weisman. Actually, UNI rotated David Johnson out, as well. Johnson needed more touches, but he is valuable for the rest of the season, as well. Iowa appeared deeper at RB this year.
Q. What happened during the two or three plays there Johnson got way wide open and burned you for about 200 yards there total?
Kirk Ferentz: I think it's a combination of a couple things. They've got a good scheme, and I've seem them utilize him in that way against a lot of folks, so it wasn't like we didn't know it was coming, but it's a matter of doing something. He's an excellent football player and we've got to play those better because we'll see that again for sure starting next week.
Cidsports: Last year, Wisconsin's James White was a dual threat. Iowa slowed Melvin Gordon in the run game at running back. After Johnson's effectiveness in the passing game, it will be interesting to see how the Hawkeyes defense grows in '14. You know the Hawkeyes want to control the line of scrimmage, especially the run game.
Q. How was this game different than a Big Ten opponent or a Pittsburgh on the road?
Kirk Ferentz: I'll tell you at the end of the season, I guess. But the bottom line is it was a tough game, and that's what we expected, and my guess is we've got about 11 more of them on our schedule. I don't see many easy ones. The good thing is to come out of it on the right end of it, and the most important thing from this point on is learning from it.
Cidsports: There is a reason the College Football Playoff committee doesn't begin meeting, after Week 1. In 2009, Iowa needed two blocked field goals on consecutive plays to defeat UNI. Today, Iowa needed interceptions and a strong fourth quarter.
Q. In retrospect is it better to win a game where you have to play the whole way versus beating a team 50-0? Do you learn a lot more?
Kirk Ferentz: Not during the game, I wouldn't agree with that. We haven't had too many of those recently, but it's just not the nature of college football anymore, and as you know, we're involved in an awful lot of close games. This is pretty much 60 minutes of turmoil in your stomach, and I might as well get used to it because that's usually how it feels. Particularly, again, we have a lot of guys that haven't played football or much football around here. For them to go through that and survive, that's a good thing.
Cidsports: Teams typically improve the most from Game 1 to Game 2, but last year, Iowa found the road vs. Missouri State a struggle. Maybe it was the 3-4 defense? Iowa hasn't had a blowout in the season opener, since the 2011 game over Tennessee Tech.
Q. How about Rudock's play today?
Kirk Ferentz: I thought Jake did a really good job. He was good in the spring, did an excellent job in camp... he's a really good football player. I'm thrilled he's on our team.
Cidsports: He had a nice 12 yard gain to move the sticks on third down. He was very productive in the passing game, though it was less vertical, than what fans would likely prefer. He said after the game, he has a better relationship and communication is stronger, with OC Greg Davis knowing each other better.
Q. A lot of Rudock's passes were four to six yards and then the game kind of changed on the two deep balls. Was that by design?
Kirk Ferentz: Not necessarily. You take what they give you and what have you, but the way they were playing we tried to come up with a couple ways to get it downfield a little bit better, and it was good to see us connect on a couple.
Cidsports: Ferentz is known for teams getting stronger over the course of a season. Finishing strong in the fourth game would be a good development for the methodical style Iowa often plays under Ferentz.
Q. (Inaudible) Derrick Willies (inaudible) is it good to see him though, actually get in the game? He made a terrific catch on that.
Kirk Ferentz: It is, and he's had his ups and downs, kind of like he did in the spring. He's had the same thing in camp. Again, he's a second year player, so that's just part of the deal. But for him to make a big play, that should give him confidence. He's practiced well, so it's just a matter now of just keep bringing him along.
Cidsports: Juniors Tevaun Smith and Jacob Hillyer are now in their third seasons on the field. Whether it is a running back or wide receiver, Iowa tends to be patient and selective, when possible, in bringing young players along annually. Look at Damond Powell last year, as another example.
Q. Josey Jewell, is he going to be out a while?
Kirk Ferentz: It looks like he might be. He won't be in next week, I know that, and then hopefully maybe after that. We'll see what happens. He was injured during practice Wednesday afternoon.
Cidsports: The injury report is always a concern. Iowa only lost 5 starts last year, which was behind North Texas and Penn State at 3.
Q. What impressed you most about your team today?
Kirk Ferentz: Just the resiliency, and they played it until the end. We didn't have any choice, but sometimes you don't answer, either. I think the guys amped it up there in that fourth quarter after struggling, and it wasn't much fun there for a while. They were moving it pretty good. Really pleased to see the defense anchoring there a little bit, and I thought we made good adjustments on the sideline and the coaches were communicating and talking. Those are positive steps. I thought Marshall, he had that one field goal, but otherwise he performed pretty well.
Cidsports: UNI looked like a capable FCS program. Iowa holding them to three field goals was very good. The Hawkeyes stepped up nicely in fourth quarter.
Q. Talk about what it's like to get that momentum and good feeling right out of the gate.
Kirk Ferentz: Not even close. Rick mentioned, last year it was the other way around, and those are you don't get them back. That's one thing about sports and anything you do. You don't get them back. Good to get the victory. We all knew it was going to be very hard and very difficult and challenging, and yeah, they didn't show up with anything less than their best effort.
Cidsports: Iowa had the longest drive of the season in Game 1 compared to Game 3 last year at Ames. Progress, we shall see as 2014 unfolds.
Q. How much of the game plan was to spread the carries out and have four guys with fresh legs in the fourth quarter?
Kirk Ferentz: Yeah, we were going to kind of play it by feel that way. That's probably something we'll continue to talk about and discuss how we utilize those guys. But probably the biggest difference from a year ago is LeShun Daniels I think has really improved a lot, so he's entered into the fray a little bit. Damon had a good camp, so it'll be ongoing, but we wanted to have fresh backs in the fourth quarter is a good thing.
Cidsports: Iowa maintains success against FCS programs in the modern era, but UNI shows again, it wasn't easy.
Q. They always say teams are making the most improvement between game one and game two. I don't know where you stand with that. Last year maybe it didn't come true because you started in the second game?
Kirk Ferentz: Like I said on the radio, we sure brought that axiom most of those old axioms are true, but the rest of that axiom is it's what you do with it during the week. You have to make it happen. So we've got a real good opportunity here in the next six days. I don't want the guys worrying about it this afternoon, but when we come in tomorrow we'll get on that film. Clearly we need to make strides, and that's part of the deal, though. That's what the challenge for the whole season is. We need a good week of practice certainly, and we'll be playing a tough opponent again next week.
Cidsports: Iowa has a favorable schedule, but on any given Saturday or Black Friday, anything can happen. Iowa seems to play it that way more now, then not. They often are competitive. Some say they play up or down to the competition. Jake Rudock moves to 9-5, as a starter. His season opener, as a junior finished better, than as a sophomore.
Q. Overall what do you think about the UNI quality? Do you think they could be an FBS team if the enrollment, if further attendance would allow it?
Kirk Ferentz: I don't know if I'm qualified to answer that. I just know they're an excellent football team. You look back last year, their record isn't what they were used to. They've got pretty high standards. They've played really well for a long time. They had some key injuries that I think really affected their football team, but they've been a good football team for as long as I can remember. It's no different than '09 or '12, the last couple times we've played them. It's been a knockdown, drag out fight, and today was the same. They're an excellent football team.
Cidsports: The Valley is showing they are competitive against FBS programs. North Dakota State just notched number 5 in Ames. Youngstown State gave Illinois a competitive game. UNI hasn't played as competitive lately in the Valley. If they can remain healthy, hopefully they can compete for a Valley title and the best in the FCS, as mentioned earlier.
Q. Are you satisfied with your tight ends' play?
Kirk Ferentz: For the most part, yeah. It would have been nice to come up with that one pass there to the right of our bench there, but that's a play Ray will make. He's made a lot of big plays for us, but I thought overall they did a pretty good job. There's going to be room for improvement, I'm sure, when we look at the tape.
Cidsports: I noticed a good block by George Kittle on Iowa's stretch play today. Iowa goes four deep at TE. It will be interesting to watch this unit grow in '14.
As mentioned earlier, UNI enters a bye week, after the loss. Iowa will welcome Ball State this Saturday at Kinnick. We shall see how Week 1 compares to Week 2.