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Sept. 28, 2010
Joe, why has Iowa been so successful, especially lately? And are there similarities between the way you run your program and Kirk runs his?...
Well, I don't know about the similarities. I can tell you, Iowa has been a good, solid football team that's played extremely well against us. And I think Kirk's done a great job. They're recruiting well.
He's been able to keep his coaching staff together. That defensive coordinator (Norm Parker) does a great job for them. He's been with them a long time. And I think when he (Kirk Ferentz) plays Penn State there's a little bit something there because he is a Pennsylvania kid and his father in law and I were high school teammates together Gerry Hart.
But, they just do a good job. They recruit well. Their kids play hard. They're disciplined. You've got to beat them. They don't beat themselves.
Last year, we thought we had them licked and we made one or two mistakes and they took advantage of it. They blocked the punt at midfield and scored, and then they came back and intercepted a pass, took it to the 24 yard line; and the year before that, out there, they scored on a field goal on the last play of the ball game. Great job on the last drive. They're a good football team, well-coached, that's what it's all about, I suppose.
What went into your decision to move team ChimA Okoli from defensive line to offensive line (prior to the season), and what do you expect from him Saturday against those defensive ends?...
(Going to be a) Tough job against those defensive ends. They're good. Especially that one kid (Adrian Clayborn), he's about as good as any there is. He's (Okoli) going to have troubles. Everybody else in the country who has played against them has had troubles, and he hasn't had that kind of experience over there on offense. Hasn't played a lot of football in a tough game as an offensive lineman.
But we felt that he's more suited to being an offensive lineman. He's a tall, rangy kid. He's not the kind of kid that can stay low and get underneath blocks and things like that.
And we are in pretty good shape in the defensive line. We knew we were going to need some help offensively, on the line especially. And immature, not immature, but inexperienced kids (on the line). I think it made sense. And thank goodness he's there.
You just mentioned Iowa's defensive line, what impresses you most about that unit and what challenges are they going to present to your offense?...
Well, they're solid. They come off blocks. They line up properly. They read well. They tackle very well. They're just a good, solid, well-coached defensive team with some kids that are strong. They do a great job in their weight room. Big time football team. And we've got to play better than we've played all year to even stay with them.
You mentioned the punt block from last year. Did that prompt the changes in your punt formation this year and can you gauge overall through four games your special teams play?...
The latter part of your question, yeah, I think that we've done a good job. I think our specialty teams are much improved. I think there's a lot of reasons for that, obviously.
We put a lot more emphasis on it, because I felt we lost two ball games last year because we didn't do as good a job as we could have in a specialty team area. We did change the punt formation, because of the personnel, timing it takes.
Sometimes, if you've got a fast kicker, you don't worry quite as much as you do being spread out, with a new punter. We thought we could make it easier for the punter if we could put him in a spread where he didn't have to kick the ball quite as fast, put a little more pressure on the people covering.
So there were a lot of little things that went into that. You know, one's as good as the other depending on the people that are going to do it. And you guys have heard me make that statement a thousand times. But I think it's worked out for us. I think spread punters has helped us, particularly with this group of people.
Chaz Powell at least seems not to have made a big impact in the last couple of weeks. Is there any thought you could still move him back to defense and that could actually be the best spot for him?...
Not really. Hadn't really talked about it. If it makes sense, something down the road we may decide that Chaz could be more help to the team on the defensive side of the football. But I think Chaz is you know, you move kids from one side to the other and in the old days, going back 20, 25 a long time ago, it was a little easier because we didn't do as many things.
When you put a kid on offense now, you're in spreads. You're in shotgun. You're doing a lot of different things. And the timing is somewhat more intricate than it used to be that in takes a while to where they're comfortable.
I think Chaz has a chance of being an outstanding football player on either side of the football. Right now I think he's better offensively for the good of this team and I think for the long run, the good of Chaz.
Defensively, it's pretty much the same thing. You've got to make so many adjustments. You play against the shotgun. You play against empty backs, where there's nobody there. You've got to make adjustments on the line as they come out of the huddle. People are going out quick. People are changing plays. Even Temple, not just even Temple, but watch Temple. See how many times the team looked, turned to the sideline that the offensive coaches were changing the play after they took a look at what we were doing defensively. Then we tried to change after all after they had changed.
So there's a lot more cat and mouse than it used to be when we lined up from here to the wall, everybody, and one spread across the field. So it's I think Chaz is doing okay. Obviously he hasn't burst on the national scene or anything like that, but I think he's doing okay.
Is there anything you can do to improve the team's performance in the red zone?...
The team's performance? Oh, I think we can. There again, I'm reluctant to be critical of our team when the other guys are playing as well and doing as well as they have. Temple was a good red zone football team against the three teams that we had seen them against this year.
They (Temple) were a good take away team. And they were careful with the football. We got down in the red zone, we may have made, maybe one or two mistakes that would have helped us. But, yeah, obviously you can always do a little better.
And I think maybe the point you were trying to make is an adequate one or is a legitimate one, and that is, can we do it better? Maybe the play selection has to be a little better, throw a little earlier in some downs and things of that sort. But overall, I don't want to go berserk. I think we've got to be solid when we get down there.
There are six Big Ten teams ranked in the top 25. Five teams are 4 0. Is this going to be one of the tougher seasons in the conference that you've seen in a while?...
Oh, absolutely. I don't think there's any question. I thought before we started this, the season, that Ohio State and Iowa would be the toughest teams to beat for everybody in the league. I think they're both well coached. They've both got fine personnel.
And they've got a sense of how good they are. I mean, they're playing with an awful lot of poise, both teams. They don't lick themselves.
The only game that I've seen Iowa really lick themselves in the last few years would have been that game at Arizona, when they kicked the ball around. Gave up the punt (block), the kickoff return and did a couple of things that were so unlike them. And obviously they'll make the adjustments necessary, because they know how to coach they know how to coach and they know how to get kids to learn from mistakes. And I think they made a few mistakes out there.
But that's not like them. That's not like them. Most of the time you've got to beat them. I thought that both they and Ohio State would be two of the best teams in the league.
But now Wisconsin, we don't play Wisconsin. Wisconsin's a fine football team. Michigan State, too. I think the whole conference has moved up. And that's where we are. This week we've got Iowa. Iowa is right now and that's going to be a tough ball game for us. I can't worry about anything down the road.
But to answer your question, yeah, I think before the season started, I thought that Iowa would be one of the better teams in the country.
Talking about Robert Bolden, his high school coach has said that one of the things that he worried about with him starting right away as a freshman was that he would be too hard on himself and put a lot of pressure on himself. You said a couple things on Saturday that I thought maybe suggested that you had those same kind of concerns. Could you talk about Bolden a little bit in terms of his personality and his temperament and why he's able to handle all the pressure and all the attention that comes with his position?...
How long do we have? You got a three hour meeting today or what? He's a kid that's had success in things he does. He's a good athlete.
He's got a lot of ability in that particular position. He's obviously... he knows what's going on. He's a smart kid. He studies the game. In his own quiet way, he's a strong leader. So (he has) all the things that you're looking for in a quarterback, except he's got to get some more experience.
And if he gets down on himself a little bit, I think it really doesn't show that much. Once in a while he may give some indication he's a little annoyed and maybe even a little late throwing the football, something like that. But I think overall he's done anything we've asked him to do. He really has.
Were you hoping to get more playing time for the two back up quarterbacks, (Kevin) Newsome and (Matt) McGloin, in the first four weeks, and do you assume if they had to step in they could do a good job if they had to?...
Talking about the two backup quarterbacks? I'm repeating myself all the time. We went into the season saying we were going to play this thing by ear, that we had to start a guy. We felt Bolden was the guy to start out. There might be situations where we would have to think about using one or two of the other kids. And that hasn't changed. That hasn't changed.
We used Kevin in a couple of games where I thought he could do a little bit more with the run game, change of pace for us. He may play more this week than he's played. I don't know. It will depend on how the game goes, how we handle some people, how we handle some of their defensive people, and try to adjust as the game goes on.
So we may play a couple, two quarterbacks, may play three, may play one. If you had told me we were only going to play one quarterback against Temple I would have been surprised. That's all we did. We played one quarterback against Temple.
How much does it mean to the development of Rob Bolden, and how much does it do for the team when you guys were up 15 13 in the fourth quarter, you had the ball on your own four yard line, they had to get it out of there, and he hit those big two third down passes, the key to that touchdown march?...
There's an old saying there's nothing that succeeds like success. I think the fact he was able to do that should be good experience for him. It will help him in other situations. I thought it was good that we could do that. I think that is offset by the fact the question that was asked earlier: Can we improve in the red zone?
I was disappointed that we didn't do a little bit more in the red zone, but I was pleased we were able to take the football, and we didn't have great field position all day. We had some. I shouldn't say none, but we had some. And I think we moved the ball pretty good. And, again, I think there was a tendency to underestimate just how good a football team Temple is. Good football team. Big, lean, I didn't see any fat kids out there. They ran. They were good tacklers. So when we made that drive, I think that was important to some of those kids.
But there again, we were home. Now we're on the road. Now we're playing against one of the, probably one of the four, five best teams in the country out there. And a team that we're certainly not going to intimidate. They've kicked our ears in a couple of times.
Wonder if you could talk about Iowa quarterback. He's had some good success against you over the last two years...
As I said, two years ago he (Ricky Stanzi) took them down the field in the clutch. I think he's turned out to be one of the better quarterbacks in the country. Very accurate with the football. Doesn't scramble a lot, but when he scrambles he's very effective.
He doesn't give up a lot of yardage. And he's a good leader. And he's got guts. He takes a lot of chances. I like the kid. I think he's a heck of a player.
Shawney Kersey, there were some reports out there that he wasn't at practice last week but he returned yesterday. Can you give us an update on what his status is?...
You just gave it.
Was he at practice last week?...
He practiced yesterday. Some days, sometimes kids will miss a practice.
Can you talk about what you've seen from the defense the last two games, in particular the second half against Temple?...
I think they're playing better because of the fact that they've had, they're getting some experience. I think the linebackers are the guys that the down guys had played some football. There's some kids that haven't played a lot of football... the linebacker, a kid like (Michael) Mauti hasn't played a lot. And I just think it's a question of playing. I thought we were playing pretty well the first half defensively (vs. Temple). I came in and I said, "Look we have to stay after this thing and score some points."
But when coaches moan about people being inexperienced and teams being inexperienced and the lack of some leadership in different areas because of the lack of experience in key spots, you guys think whistling in the dark, no. That is a problem when you're playing teams that give you as many things as I mentioned earlier.
You go out there and the kids now - (we) never saw an empty backfield (vs. Temple). Never saw a quarterback that can do certain things. Never saw never had to make that many adjustments in a game. So until he's had exposure to it, he's a little bit reluctant. And sometimes one kid is a little bit more natural and he jumps up and moves ahead of the way you would think he could be at that stage.
But most of the time it takes a while. They've got to get comfortable. And you've got to be careful, you don't be critical of them. I was critical of the football team at halftime at Alabama because we didn't tackle. Not because we didn't line up and do things.
We were in pretty good position a couple times against Alabama. We didn't tackle well. And that was maybe because we were a little bit hesitant as to whether we could tackle, I don't know. Afraid of missing them, I don't know. But I wasn't happy with that. But other than that I think we played fairly well.
It doesn't seem your defense has started real quickly a couple times this year, going on the road now in the first Big Ten, is that something you're looking for?...
No. I think that the fact that it may appear that they have started slow or slowly is the fact that a lot of times you go in a game, you get something you hadn't really expected. We spent an awful lot of time practicing against Temple, an empty backfield, because we thought we would get that.
Didn't have one. All right.? We didn't have one. But Temple had used an empty backfield a pretty good percentage of their offense in the first three games but they didn't do it against us. But you've got to be ready for it.
So you start out expecting this and that and then all of a sudden you've got to start changing things around a little bit. And I think that's a credit to the coaching staff, that as soon as they get the feel for things, they get they start changing a couple of things around, putting an emphasis on certain things so that we can do a better job of anticipating what may happen.
But I think outside of the one ball game, I think we were pretty we've been pretty good defensively, really. Just that first half.
You talked about the secondary, taking more risks. Nick Sukay, can you talk about his performance (vs. Temple)?...
Nick has been a little bit hesitant to jump on some passes. He played the man sometimes when he should have gone after the football. And we talked about that. In fact, I talked to him before the game. I said, "Look, Temple hasn't thrown an interception the first three games." Hadn't thrown an interception.
We got a couple. I think Nick got two, didn't he? And I told him I said, "I think you can get one or two if you just believe what you see."
And as Nick does, he smiled at me, said, "Yeah, Coach"... go see the next guy. But that's, again, a question and an answer, but they're playing and we'll see what happens this weekend because this guy's playing someone asked me about the quarterback. The Iowa quarterback, he's tough. He's really tough. And they have great wideouts. I mean, they have great not good wideouts - they have great whiteouts.
Your lack of success in the last 10 meetings against Iowa, for you personally, is that frustrating when you, given the record against Iowa, for you personally is that frustrating?...
Frustrating because Iowa's beating us? Correct.
No, I think they've beaten us fair and square. I think we've had chances to win. Obviously we had a chance a couple of years ago when they beat us on the field goal at the end of the game out there.
And I think we were ahead 10 0 when we went in the fourth quarter (in 2009). I think they do these things go this way. No, that doesn't even come into what happened, except to learn from the fact that we might get this and this situation, because they've had some success doing that in a particular situation. We want to be ready for it.
But the fact that Iowa beat us the last couple of years or even I don't know, maybe they beat us three, four, I don't know. I know the last two, obviously.
I don't think that way. I don't mean to be all the time putting you guys off on being specific, but I don't think that way. We're playing Iowa whether they beat us last year or we beat them, it won't make any difference. We better play well, because this is the 2011 (2010) team. It's not the 2010 or 2009. It's the 2011 (2010) Iowa team. And they're the team we've got to play and they're the team we've got to try to beat.
This is your second night game. Does it help in terms of preparation for what the kids do all day since you've already had one of those this year and maybe them kind of feeling at ease?...
I think it probably helps a little. Not much. But it probably helps. The Alabama trip was a tough one. We had an hour and 15 minute bus ride from the hotel to the field for the game, because we had to stay in Birmingham, because you couldn't get a place in Tuscaloosa. But it will probably help. Again, when they blow the whistle and you get started, I don't know if half the time you don't know where you are.
You know who the guy is, he's the guy with the different colored jersey over there, but I don't think it never meant anything to me when I played. Whether it means something to these kids now because there's so much more hoopla that goes around than when I played when I played, we'd go down to Yale Bowl. What's the Yale Bowl? Somebody said to me, "Hey, you're going to play in the Yale Bowl." I said, "Where do you flush it?" being a smart aleck from Brooklyn.
The Iowa quarterback, you talked about him before, Stanzi, pretty turnover prone last year. Through three games only one interception this year. Have you seen a major difference from this year to last year looking at film?... No, we've got to play our game. You can't every time you get into a situation we've got to be ready to handle certain things he does well. I mentioned the fact, I think his wideouts are outstanding. And they're big kids. They lost a great back (Jewel Hampton), but the other kid (Adam Robinson) really played well for them last week.
And the quarterback is a guy that's going to carry them. I mean, offensively he'll make some plays. We're not going to stop calling he's going to make some plays. I just hope we can keep him where he's not making that many plays. So we can stay in the ball game and be a little bit more, be competitive.
But I keep saying you're talking about a really big-time football player. Big league leader and a kid who knows how to play that position and he knows how to use his personnel, and they know how to coach him. It's a tough combination.
You mentioned Okoli a little earlier, ChimA Okoli. Is that definitely his job? Are you guys working out other guys at right tackle with Lou (Eliades) being done for the year?...
There again, I don't know. I think Okoli deserves an opportunity to go in there as starting right tackle. He's certainly going to have some problems. And we can't overreact. He's playing against some I mean, this may be as good a down of guys we're going to play against. The two ends may be the best combination of... I don't know. I haven't seen everybody else we're going to play.
But our tackles are going to have their hands full with pass protection. And we're not we've got to throw the football some, because obviously we're not going to take the football and jam it down their throat. Nobody's done that.
Even the game they lost, they (Arizona) didn't they didn't take the ball and jam it down their throat. They fumbled it. Kickoff return and the whole bit. So I think the kid (Okoli) will do a good job. But I'd have to define what I think is good. You guys on Sunday may say, "well so-and-so missed a block." Yeah, he's going to miss that block. He's going to miss a block. You guys every once in a while, you ought to check your grammar, every once in a while, there's a couple of things in there I say, didn't this guy ever take English? (Laughter)
Unfortunately my wife, she's the grammar teacher. All right guys...