Kirk Ferentz took to the virtual podium again Tuesday, to discuss Iowa's upcoming football game against Illinois. The Hawkeyes are on a four-game winning streak and just dispatched of hated rival Nebraska for the sixth consecutive time. There are only two games remaining on the official schedule. Illinois is not very good. Everyone is basically happy. There's not that much to talk about.
This answer on how Iowa will handle Illinois' strict Covid protocols pretty well sums up the entire endeavor:
We’ll just try to be more efficient and do the meetings we normally do Friday in the hotel, we’ll do those here and hop in a bus, shoot over there, get in there at a decent hour, that type of thing. The meetings we have over there are just going to be in and out, yabba-dabba-doo deals, and just kind of go from there.
Live shot of Iowa going to its pregame meetings this week:
Simply out of obligation, here's what else we got Tuesday (transcript courtesy of Hawkeye Sports).
Coy Cronk may be back in the rotation on the line this week. He dressed last week, but "it was probably better for him to not have to play" is a pretty good summary of his fitness level from Kirk.
Quarterback remains locked: "Well, he’s good enough to win. That’s the No. 1 goal. That was good and he’s continuing to move forward and continuing to improve. Every game he’s got good plays and every game he’s got some I’m sure he’d like to correct or do a bit better." Ferentz said Alex Padilla is "improving significantly" but downplayed any chance of him playing more than emergency/blowout minutes with a CHOICE GORDY BOHANNON REFERENCE: "In 1981 my first year here, we did play two quarterbacks, Pete Gales and Gordy Bohannon. Played it successfully and it worked out just fine. I’ve been around it, but you know, I don’t know that that’s an optimal situation"
One of the things that happens in the press conferences every week is that someone asks a question about a player's backstory for a profile story. About halfway through, once the important questions are asked, someone will ask some general "Talk about Player X" question that wastes everyone's time for 5 minutes. Sometimes Kirk has a funny anecdote about recruiting. Rarely does it make news. But this week, someone's doing a story on Jack Campbell, which is how we learned that there's going to be a middle linebacker rotation between Campbell and Seth Benson for the foreseeable future. Reporting!
ILLINOIS (THE FOOTBALL PROGRAM)
Iowa is emphasizing ball security even more than usual this week:
"Coach Smith, historically in the NFL and in college, has a really good turnover takeaway team. Last year, I remember going into the game, they had an inordinate amount of takeaways. They are a good football team. They are opportunistic, fundamentally sound. The middle linebacker is a tremendous football player, very active. He’s all over the place, and it’s every game."
Gametime temps in the mid-30s probably won't help that, but with an unprecedented three games in December this season, that's only going to get worse.
Ferentz praised their belief in system -- "Again I go back to the system; they have a system and believe in the system, and it’s been very effective for them" -- which is the highest of high praise from a Ferentz.
No word to Ferentz on how "Champions Week" is going to work logistically, such as whether the game will be in Iowa City. "Probably the last time I’ve heard anything about that would have been, I was going to say August but it wouldn’t have been August, probably September." He's realistic: "Selfishly, if we can get these next two games in, I think that’s great, and win, lose or draw, but just a chance to compete. I’ve said that to basically anybody I’ve talked to over the last couple months."
The parallels between this team and 2008 -- giant offseason issues to overcome, new quarterback struggling with things, good running game, young and improving defense, close early-season losses -- are obvious. Kirk brought it up a month ago, after the Northwestern game. That came up again Tuesday:
Wasn’t like we were getting clobbered. We lost three very heartbreaking losses and we still felt like we had a good football team and had the potential to have a good football team. So we weren’t ready to pack it in. Back then that would have been early October, mid-October, and certainly this year after those first two games, I don’t think anybody was ready to pack it in unless they wanted to.
I think the two things that are key moving forward, first of all, took great leadership in 2008 and that team had great leadership internally. Those guys just decided they were going to get it done and they did; they drove the car. This group’s done that. They have responded in the right way.
The other difference — that’s a parallel I guess, so far. The major difference is that one is in the books. That team finished it out. They did a great job right through New Year’s Day and finished it out pretty emphatically. We are not there yet. We’ve still got two games to play and then hopefully something after that. We are on the right path. We have responded the right way but it’s going to be another tough one Saturday and we’ve got another one after that.
That 2008 team is criminally underrated, a monster of a team that just didn't have the timing right on quarterback development -- it was the last true in-season quarterback controversy of Ferentz's tenure, and basically self-created because he wouldn't let go of his established starter -- but truly turned into a juggernaut in the season's final month. This might be a shortened version of that.
Of course, that team's final loss was at Illinois, so let's wait a week before cementing the comparison, OK?
And then there's this, which got a legit double-take from me:
Q. When you’re here 22 years, you’re going to get a history question. You just completed your fourth undefeated November. The other three were ’02, ’04, ’15. Pretty special company this team is in. What does that say to you?
KIRK FERENTZ: First of all, that’s one more weird fact because, again, the season should be over. Nothing is really registering or clicking logically this year. But again, it’s what I just talked about. This team, has chosen the right path after two tough losses, they have chosen to keep pushing forward and they are enjoying it with each day a little bit more and hopefully they are just also realizing that each week it’s a challenge. We talk about that all the time. Respect what it takes to win. Especially in this conference.
That's a stat right there.
DOES KIRK STILL HAVE BLEEPS TO GIVE?
I assure you he does not:
Q. Do you feel like a true champion will be crowned in the Big Ten with the discrepancy in games played?
KIRK FERENTZ: No idea. Not to be smug, but I really don’t care quite frankly.
I mean, he's really not here for your shit:
Q. Any follow-up on clapping-gate, and do you realize you’ve become a viral sensation with your post game commentaries?
KIRK FERENTZ: Things must really be slow in the world today, whatever. I’ve certainly moved on. We turned the page. Didn’t work too hard Saturday but we turned the page Saturday and on to the next one.