Sept. 4, 2010
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The nationally ranked Iowa football team opened its 2010 seaon with a 37-7 victory over Eastern Illinois in a game that, as Kirk Ferentz noted in his postgame visit with the media, capped a big weekend on the UI campus and in the Iowa City community.
COACH FERENTZ: Certainly we are very happy with the win, and you know, give credit to Eastern Illinois to start with. I thought they really competed hard. They are very well coached. We knew that coming in, you know, watching their tapes. Bob Spoo is a tremendous person and football coach and we have a lot of respect for them and their guys played hard and played well. We wish them the best. That certainly was a positive. It was a great weekend in the fact that the Evashevski Drive Dedication yesterday and having the' 85 and '60 teams here was just outstanding and all good. And then also just want to thank our fans one more time. They have been they were clearly ready for the season and ready to go today. They were very enthusiastic out there, and as I've said, the fans have a lot of choices and don't have to come here and I tell that to our players all the time. We really appreciate the support that they give us and it's just been fantastic. On the game, I thought certainly we did a lot of good things out there. We got off to a good start and thought our guys were ready to play at kickoff and did an awful lot of good things and certainly some disappointing things, too, in that first half, not only giving up a fake punt but also letting it become a big play instead of just a first down conversion. Then turned around and gave up a big play right after that and that's something that we have to do a better job responding when something bad happens. And we gave up a sack on a corner blitz right before the half, too, which kind of threw us out of rhythm and those things stand out and a couple turnovers in the second half. Overall I think we are all pleased right now. I think we did a lot of good things. It was good that we got to play a lot of guys in the fourth quarter and that was a real positive and we came out healthy. We'll have a lot to correct tomorrow, a lot to work on, but I think it's important that the players enjoy this for a little bit here and we'll get back to work tomorrow and let's see about what we can do about trying to improve.
Q. With Stanzi going out...
COACH FERENTZ: Very fortunately turned out to be a muscle or soft tissue thing. The medical staff cleared him shortly there after. His knee was stable and Ricky wanted to go back in the ballgame. So if there had been any gray area, we would have kept him out, and he was 100%, as was the medical staff. Looked ugly from the sideline and I'm sure it looked ugly from all angles. And then Vandenberg tried to get himself knocked out there in the fourth quarter and so we could have been down two quarterbacks, and that ratio would not work too well I know for the season.
Q. Robinson had a great kick...
COACH FERENTZ: He did. I thought Adam really played well last year, and he really as much as anybody gave us a great spark today, he and Paki. Adam is just a tough guy and he runs hard. You've got to bring him down. You have to really work to bring him down, and I thought he gave us a real spark out there and helped our young offensive line, and then his running mate, Paki O'Meara, I just want to give him credit to. Phil mentioned that earlier and it's just a great play. It wasn't a called punt block, he was just forcing the punt; that's his assignment, and made a great play and obviously turned it into a big play with the return. He ran well at the end, too. He's a guy, fifth year senior and been in our program, a walk on who earned his scholarship but doesn't get a lot of notoriety, but in a lot of quiet ways really makes us a quality football team. So it was good to see something like that happen to him.
Q. Overall, great demonstrations of effort, is that the kind of thing especially in a season opener?
COACH FERENTZ: That's a positive for us. We are really happy about that. I thought our effort overall was pretty good. Kind of bogged down there in the third quarter especially, and when you turn it over a couple of times, that takes the air out of your sails; that's not a good thing. That's the effect it has. That's the thing we are looking for. I've spent most of the past week thinking about all of the things that can go wrong, and first game, just how it is going into a first game. And it did dawn on me at some point, that we have some good players, too; maybe something will go right. So fortunately more went right than wrong and that was a good thing.
Q. Ricky's performance today, seemed like he made a lot of really good decisions with the football.
COACH FERENTZ: I thought he came out sharp, had his tempo and rhythm down. And second half, he had a couple throws that are uncharacteristic of him. But he continues to make really good decisions out there for us. And it's the first game; they threw some things at us with their offense that we had not seen on film. Some things they took from other people's tape, which is what people do in the first game and they threw some stuff at us on their defensive side also. And I thought Ricky did a nice job of handling it and James did, also, when he stepped in. That was a positive, he came in in the middle of the series and kept leading the team and that was a real positive from my vantage point. I thought both guys had a pretty good feel of what was going on and got a little complex some times when they threw some things at us.
Q. Mike Meyer, four of six on his kicks today; can you talk about his performance?
COACH FERENTZ: That was really good to see and we had a lot of young guys play today and Mike, that's a prominent position for us. That was an area we were hoping we could improve coming into the season and our coverage unit was really good last year but we did not always get the hang time we were looking for. And Mike's done a nice job in practice, certainly did a great job today, particularly when he kicked down to this end, the wind end, and the other positive I saw, the first one into the wind, he let it get up there a little bit but he learned from that a little bit and came right back. His second one was a beautiful one down there. Didn't have the distance. You're not going to get it into the wind. But he kept the ball up and our guys were able to give good coverage and when the ball came down, we were there to make the tackle. That was a real positive and we are all curious to see how he would do, especially on the first one.
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, he did. Gary and I were talking just a minute ago, we had one penalty and C.J. was involved in that one, that was in too big of a hurry, we had a procedure penalty, illegal formation. And that's what young guys do, they get a little hurried and rushed; and he had his feet wet and we had a handful of guys get out there and play a little bit and that's a positive for us.
Q. The running back situation, do you have any ideas about how you will handle that?
COACH FERENTZ: We have not really talked a lot about it and for obvious reasons, we knew Jewel was not going to play today, and I can only tell you Jewel has practiced well. He's done a great job this camp and shown great effort and it's all good. We have two guys we feel can be really effective runners for us, and they are a little bit different in style. And then Paki, he's a guy that we have counted on to be a guy that helped fill out the group and he's done a good job that way. I thought he did a good job that way.
Q. How nice was it to win in convincing fashion?
COACH FERENTZ: This is not territory that we are used to. I would not mind trying to get used to it, see if we can make that adjustment. The reality is, this didn't come as easy as maybe the score indicated. When you get that blocked punt for a touchdown that always impacts a game and distorts things a little bit. And certainly it's going to start getting a little tougher next week for us. But it was good, it was good to have a chance to play younger players, that's always a positive. But we realize, too, we are going to go up a couple of steps here next week and we are going to have to be at our best.
Q. You also played the ones pretty deep into the game; any thought, especially after Ricky got hurt early, maybe pulling back a little?
COACH FERENTZ: If we had scored, not had the two turnovers, then we may have had a chance to get the second offense in a little quicker but we needed points and we needed to score and move the ball. Also I think just develop a little bit of a feel. A lot of these guys have not played much together, and game situations are different than practice. You know, we were all tired of practice I think. I know the players were. It was good to get them out there in that environment and I think they played somewhere between 55 and probably 60 reps. That's a good thing. You know, they should be fine here this week.
Q. You probably won't know till you look at the film, but did you get out of this game what you needed to get ready for Iowa State next week?
COACH FERENTZ: Only time will tell. I think it was a good start for us, a good start and we had to make some adjustments and had some things thrown at us, but, you know, the degree of difficulty is going to start moving up, that's for sure, and it will be right up there, way up there next week.
Q. On Friday, you had three guys not being able to play because of injury, and now Koeppel, what about next week?
COACH FERENTZ: We thought they might have a chance this week quite frankly. They are all progressing very well, at least as of this morning I saw them. We took them to the hotel. We didn't dress them today. And then Koeppel could have played. Josh, it is a miracle, it's a flat out miracle, and he's healed up. He still has some scrapes, but he'll get back at it tomorrow and be ready to go. For sure him, the other three guys are optimistic but have to see what the week brings. Q. Did you say miracle because you saw the video?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, I came in from a luncheon on Monday, and saw Josh, his girlfriend and mom leaving with a cooler full of ice walking out of the building. I kind of knew what happened and all that, but when I saw the video a day or two later, it is a miracle. So we are just so fortunate. We don't have a better young guy on our team. Josh is a tremendous guy and he's proven he's a pretty tough guy, too, so we are so fortunate there.
Q. Can you assess the steps Adam has taken?
COACH FERENTZ: I thought last year, he jumped in there and he just kind of played like he had been there before. He had never really Adam is an interesting guy, he never seems like he's too fazed by anything and really did a good job. I think he's probably just a little smarter player now, a little bit more experienced, and I'm eager to see the film but looked like he really did a good job of making decisions out there and he's a good pass protector. He's not at all bashful about doing that. He really quietly has developed into a pretty good football player and we are really excited about his future.
Q. Sometimes games are won and lost on special teams, how pleased were you with special teams play today?
COACH FERENTZ: Really pleased overall with the exception of the fake punt. Felt like I was standing on the sidelines in Orlando, it's about the same spot on the field, too. At least we had a different effect. But outside of that, I think our special teams really played pretty well, and that's something you worry about, too. Just the holding penalties they tend to show up, illegal blocks, holding penalties that tends to show up on special teams. I think we are pretty clean there. Certainly the other highlight was the plus 50 punt, Donahue put it down there really nicely and we had great of coverage, Micah I think made the reception on that. Those are some good things and those are things we are going to have to do well all year if we are going to have a chance to have a good football team.
Q. How important was it to get off to the fast start this season? Obviously last year was not the week one you were hoping for; but you really got started early, how important was that?
COACH FERENTZ: Last year was probably why I was thinking about all of those bad things. I was having dark thoughts all week. That was tough. And the credit goes to UNI there. So it was good to see us come out looking a little bit better prepared and more ready and what have you. But again we kind of got bogged down there a little bit. But the good news is we'll come in tomorrow having an awful lot of things to correct and our players will see a lot of things we can improve on. Like any season, any week, it's all about what can you do to move forward as a team; and that old axiom about week one to week two, its typically true. But you have to make it that way. It doesn't just happen by showing up. We'll look at the tape tomorrow and try to move forward from here.
Q. The offensive line...
COACH FERENTZ: I thought they did okay. Important thing is we didn't fall apart. One of the dark thoughts I had was just letting guys just totally run through and we had some guys penetrate but nothing too catastrophic. And then Adam covered for us on a couple of them where he made good recoveries after being hit behind the line. So there will be some situations we will have to clean up, but at least knowing from experience, that first game is usually the toughest one for young players, and it's good for them to have that under their belt and we'll have little more confidence coming out next week.
Q. When you saw Stanzi get hit what's going through your mind as that's happening?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, you know, during our talk before the game today, it's preseason talk and you can't wait to start playing, because at least now what we are doing counts instead of everybody talking about it. And we have an opportunity to have a good football team, but the bottom line is, you know, so many things can happen between now and January and injuries are a part of that. We saw how it impacted our team, and I'm not saying that's why we lost a game or a couple games, but it did have an impact on that game, certainly. And you know, looking back, you could maybe argue that it on our season. Those are things, when they do happen, you have to be able to overcome them. Today's positive, when Ricky came out, James jumped in and took us right down the field. Those are the responses we are going to need to if we are going to have a good team, because guys are going to get hurt, it's going to happen. Knock on wood, I hope it doesn't happen too often.
Q. Better quarterback situation from a year ago?
COACH FERENTZ: I felt pretty good after the Ohio State game, as well, in spite of us losing but I think James proved out there he can be a pretty good player in our conference. We have a lot I think everybody has a lot of confidence in him, as well.
Q. The different packages, looked like they tried to stretch the field and test the linebackers, how do you feel with Davis being in the middle and how they responded?
COACH FERENTZ: They studied tape during the course of the year, summer, and certainly picked some things from some of our opponents. Tried to take advantage of that, and I thought overall, our guys did a good job. They made pretty good adjustments, communications seemed to be good out there, and Bruce did some good things, certainly and Troy Johnson was in there, too. So I think we have got a good group and they have been around long enough, I think, to at least know what to do.
Q. Not sure if you mentioned it, but Paki a year ago, he was a starter at running back, fell out of that position but continues to work hard and put himself in position.
COACH FERENTZ: I did mention it, I'm happy to mention it again; that to me was one of the highlights, his effort on the punt. It was not a called block but his job was to force the punt and did a great job on that, and then picked it up and made a big play out of it, double big play. So I think it is. It's so it's good to see, because he is a guy that's done such a great job in our program and has not been able to hang on to that No. 1 job, but his attitude's never changed. He's just been about trying to help the football team and he's really done a great job very quietly on special teams. A lot of times those core special teams guys are not as notable and he's really done he's been so valuable, and if we are going to have a good team, we need guys like Paki doing the things he does. Nice for him to get some recognition for him doing a lot of the things he does on a continual basis.
Q. You were concerned about your second tight end, are those concerns alleviated a little bit?
COACH FERENTZ: It was a good start for him and C.J. got his feet wet a little bit. And Zach Derby, and it was good to see Zach make that play, I thought he made a great effort on that. Zach has very quietly improved, probably as much as anybody on our team over the last two years and that was good. Brad is like a lot of the first time starters, and I consider him a starter; we play two tight ends frequently. But this experience will really be beneficial for them.
Q. Apologize if you've been asked this, but going back to Thursday night, new contract, what was it about the timing of of that and the significance?
COACH FERENTZ: Why now? You can do it at any time but a couple days it's really how it worked out. There's a course of events and it's just how it worked out and I think all of us, our hopes were certainly to get it done before a game was played so we could keep our focus on the season. It's just there was no planned strategy there at all, and the only thing I would just say or echo from my comments, I feel extremely fortunate to be coaching here, I always have, and starting back in 1981, that was a huge thrill for me and it hasn't changed. So I'm very appreciative. Feel very honored and appreciative of the University's support of our program and our staff and it's been wonderful and we are hoping to be here a long time. Right now we are focused on the next 10 weeks, though.
Q. Being back on the practice field, how much do you focus on the Iowa State game as a rivalry game or big game in the state, or is it more just need to go out and treat it as a football game?
COACH FERENTZ: You'd be living in a vacuum if you didn't realize, and first of all, our players that have been around understand it totally and some of the guys from out of state, they will figure it out pretty quickly, probably starting 20 minutes ago, there's going to be a lot of talk about the series. And that's the beauty about playing an intrastate rival and it's also a little bit unique in that we are in separate conferences, so that adds to it even that much more. You know, it's going to be a really exciting week and we are going to take a couple of hours to worry about this one, but I know starting tomorrow and both camps, they have a couple day head start on us so they have a bit of a jump on us.
Q. Do you put emphasis on it as a rivalry game?
COACH FERENTZ: All games are important. I'll give you coach talk on that one. I remember some bus rides coming back from there, those losses tend to stick with you. And all you have to do is look at the series history here the last 10, 11 years; this thing has gone both ways. And it's like anything, it's more fun to be on top but it's not going to be easy. They are already off to a great start. They are in the second year of their program now, and so they have shown great improvement from a year ago. And they showed great improvement last year from the year before. So we know it's going to be a tough test and it doesn't matter where the game gets played; it's going to be a heck of a contest.
Q. Do you feel like the offensive line answered the bell today?
COACH FERENTZ: I think they did. We will have a lot on there to correct and straighten thought. Nothing catastrophic took place, that's good, and I think the guys feel good about what they did. They seem to be communicating well. I think they were seeing things that were happening there. And you know, it's a good start for us. So we'll work to build off of that.
Q. True freshmen, was it the plan when a couple of them went in, can you talk about that decision? Was it something you had planned to do going in?
COACH FERENTZ: We really have pretty much made a decision on all of those guys that they are going to play, the guys I mentioned on Tuesday, James Morris, Christian Kirksey, Tanner and then during the week we decided B.J. Lowery, he kept playing pretty well. That gives us a little flexibility. We played Jordan Bernstine inside at safety, so helps us bridge that gap a little bit. Jordan has been playing both during the course at camp and C.J. on the offensive side and Michael Meyer is a guy that we are going with there. So we did not know if we would get him in the game today but we pretty much made the decision that we are going to play those guys, and you know, we are in it for the long haul with those guys and we have a couple other guys that we are still treading water on and we'll see how it goes.