Every year I read these, and every year we get the same press conference after a bad loss where Iowa's offense turtled. Let's see if that holds, or if Even Newer Kirk comes to the podium this week.
Here's the important stuff from Kirk's Tuesday presser (as always, transcript courtesy of Hawkeye Sports):
- Max Cooper didn't play on Saturday due to injury. "Max will be back," Ferentz said.
- Logan Lee had been on Iowa's initial depth chart but didn't play. That was a coach's decision, but Ferentz took a minute to praise Lee at the presser. Sounds like it's not a disciplinary issue or the proverbial "union card" issue of Ferentzes Past.
- Dayvion Nixon got a well-deserved shout-out. "I thought he did a lot of good things, brought a lot of good energy and impacted the game. He’s been practicing really well. Just really happy about that."
- "Certainly every loss hurts, and every loss is significant, and especially when you’re playing a nine-game season. They become that much more significant. That’ll never change." I'm not going to do the Captain Obvious thing here -- I'm trying to be better, I swear -- but I do think that Iowa's scheduling is going to shine through this year. One of the constant lines of praise for Kirk is that Iowa is always bowl eligible. It's noteworthy to be sure; just look across the Missouri River to see how that's not a given. But Iowa also benefits from its built-in scheduling requirements, specifically that there have to be seven home games. That means two home games against woefully overmatched opponents every year (the non-overmatched opponents generally require a home-and-home, which Iowa can't offer). With those out of the way, Iowa only has to go 4-6 against the remainder of the schedule with five home games, two Big Ten West patsies (most years, some combination of Illinois, Northwestern and Nebraska) and frequently the dregs of the East (Rutgers, Maryland, sometimes Indiana or MSU). At Iowa's level, getting to six wins should be readily achievable in most years. With those three non-conference games off the schedule, a lot of the fluff is gone (even though Nebraska and Sparty are still there).
- "The big story is our ball security issues on Saturday. We had three balls on the ground, lost two of them. We were penalized a lot as a football team and a lot of those were offensive penalties, and the bottom line there is when you do that it’s hard to have any kind of momentum, any kind of rhythm offensively when you have negative yardage plays or plays that take you out of scoring position." Yes, a lot of Iowa's failure Saturday was execution, even more than usual. This isn't an instance of Kirk gameplanning for perfection and blaming the team for coming up slightly short of that. This was a bit of a trainwreck.
- The one fumble that felt particularly trainwreck-y gets a pass from Kirk: "One was a tough one. It was one of our guys coming in trying to help the ball carrier, so I’m not faulting anybody."
- Kirk was asked about the illegal substitution penalty (too many men on the field), which was essentially the only time he blew up at the officials Saturday. Basically, when the offense substitutes, the defense has an opportunity to do the same, which is what Iowa was in the process of doing at the time the flag was thrown. Basically, the referees said Iowa wasn't substituting fast enough, and allowed the snap while players were still leaving the field. Kirk was diplomatic on Tuesday -- "That’s their feeling on it, and that just tells us we have to move a little quicker if there are substitutions" -- but that's a bullshit flag.
- Ferentz praised Patty Fitz, praised Northwestern's performance against Maryland last week, and included this: "They’re a really good football team. The obvious thing if you looked at them last year, they had some trouble at the quarterback position, just never got settled there and a lot of those same faces from last year are back, so they’re a very veteran football team. You look at their linebackers, a lot of positions on the team, they have a lot of really not only veteran players but veteran players that have played a couple years, not just one year. They have good personnel." He used "really" or "very" fourteen times in about a minute in describing the Cats, and capped it with "we’ve got really a lot of work to do this week to get ready for a very tough Northwestern football team."
- Northwestern finally has a new offensive coordinator, Mike Bajakian. Fitz's new hire was the OC for Boston College in 2019, and quarterbacks coach for Jameis Winston at Tampa for the four years before that. It's clear that Kirk was doing some advanced scouting by watching Bajakian's work at BC: "It doesn’t look totally different than what [Northwestern has ]done, but it’s definitely different. It’s his personality, his beliefs are certainly apparent, and it’s a little bit interesting because when he was at BC they pretty much ran what BC had been running."
- The Cats also have a new quarterback, Indiana transfer Peyton Ramsey, and Kirk's having a hard time dealing with the feelings that transfer has caused: "I was always impressed with the way he carried himself on the field, the way he operated. It’s not like he’s got a tremendous arm or this or that, just exceptional. The guy is just a good football player. I’m not saying he’s McSorley, but McSorley the way he was, just his team always won it seemed like. He just has that knack. He’s a coach’s son so maybe it’s got a little something to do with it, he’s got a little savvy. But he’s just an impressive football player."
The Part Where Kirk Says Something That Causes Me An Immediate Aneurysm
- "I think systems don’t necessarily win or lose for you; I really believe that. It’s really more about execution and what the players do and their belief in the system." Oh, so THAT'S why we haven't scored a second-half touchdown in the last four Big Ten games. The team just doesn't believe enough in your 1998 Denver Broncos offense.
- "Voting is extremely important for everybody in our country."
- Probably the best part of the press conference: "A couple years ago I do remember voting mainly because my wife reminds me to and I remember going down I think it’s Horace Mann, I got there at whatever time the polls closed, 9:58, and I remember I’m walking to the door, I’m probably about 60 feet from the door and this sweet lady is looking at me and then she just shuts the door right in my face because I was 20 seconds late and she wouldn’t let me in. So I didn’t vote that year I’ve got to confess." As Todd Brommelkamp pointed out on Twitter, it was just another Kirk Ferentz clock management snafu.
- Anyway, this is in the context of the NCAA shutting down all athletics on Election Day to allow for voting, a concept that Kirk is maybe kinda partially totally completely in favor of: "So anyway, it is what it is. We decided to do this. I get the concept. I’m totally in support of the concept. I think we could have done it a better way, but nobody asked. So we’ll adjust. "