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ROSE BOWL GAME: IOWA VS STANFORD

December 30, 2015

Kirk Ferentz

Pasadena, California

An Interview With:

COACH KIRK FERENTZ

THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with the second half of our head coach press conference. We're joined now by Coach Kirk Ferentz. Coach Ferentz has led the Iowa football team for 17 seasons and through 12 victories this season alone. He's led Iowa to 68 Big Ten victories and was recently named the Big Ten "Coach of the Year." Most of you also should have received a press release this morning that Coach Ferentz recently also won the Bobby Dodd trophy. So welcome Coach Ferentz, we'll get started with questions.

Q. Just curious, why do you stand and not sit at all your press conferences?
COACH FERENTZ: I guess that's what I do when I go to work on the field too. So it's just a little more comfortable being on your feet, and it's probably about as simple as that. Plus, I have a hard time getting out of a chair anymore. I'm getting old, so (smiling)...

Q. Coach, what similarities do you see between your team and the Stanford team?
COACH FERENTZ: Well, I think any similarities would be a real compliment to our football team, but I think really what you're looking at are two teams that really have competed extremely hard week-in and week-out this entire season. They're a very well-coached football team. They're very physical, and they've got good players, a lot of good players.

But the thing that really strikes me is the effort that they play with, the teamwork, the cohesiveness. And, again, I think they're very, very well-coached. I'm not saying we are, but when I look at Stanford, that's what I see.

Q. Good morning, Coach. I want to ask you the same question I asked Coach Shaw. The fact that you haven't been here in a long time and they've been here -- this is their third time in four years. When the game starts, how much will any of that make a difference?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, I think it's a big of a factor. But I think the thing we've shared with our football team, we've played in a lot of big games and for us every game this year has been extremely big. We've been in a playoff mode since week one. So as the season went on, the stakes went up a little bit, certainly our last couple games had a lot on the line, and then to play in Indianapolis, it was a great environment. It wasn't the Rose Bowl, and I get that. But, you know, I think our guys will be ready to go. They're used to competing. They're used to being in really live, active environments.

The only other thing I would equate it to, we played in the Orange Bowl in 2002. Thought we were coming to the Rose Bowl that year, and it didn't work out. We didn't handle that trip very well as a program. When we went back in '09, I think our approach was much, much better.

So as coaches and as a program I think you learn through the years, you learn through your experiences and it's just part of the deal. So hopefully we'll be prepared. But at the end of the day, as good as this is, it's such a historic bowl. I can't imagine there's a better environment in America to play college football. It's still a game. Once the game gets going, it's a game on the field. Our challenge is to play a really good football team.

Q. These seniors have never won a bowl game. What have you seen from them in this bowl prep to lead you to believe they could win this one?
COACH FERENTZ: You know, that really goes back to January. There are a lot of things that we haven't done or hadn't done, and they've been able to accomplish a lot as a class this season. So it's one more thing on the list, certainly, that I think they're cognizant of. And I think our leadership really took off somewhere during the course of the summer. We were okay in the spring. We practiced well and we had a solid football team, but I really think the story of this football team happened during the course of the summer during camp, and it's continued to evolve.

I don't think they're -- it's really pretty rare to see a good college football team that doesn't have a great senior class, and that's certainly what we've enjoyed. These guys are determined. I know they want to close out their careers on a high note. I'm sure Stanford's seniors feel the same way. So that's what's going to make it a great contest.

Q. You mentioned it is just a game, it's a Rose Bowl game. But you guys haven't been here in 25 years, so it's kind of a big game. Has there been anybody outside of the football game that's reached out to you, given you advice or said anything that's resonated with you that means something to you?
COACH FERENTZ: Not really. Again, it's just kind of a process. I've been here twice as an assistant, and that seems like 50 years ago. It wasn't quite, but it was 30 and 35. But you learn from every experience you have in life. Certainly it's just part of the deal. So I would go back to our two BCS experiences and the Orange Bowl in '09 and '02. We had a championship team in '04, played in a big bowl and beat LSU. So we've been down that road. Certainly a lot of our former players have shared things with our players during the course of the season, not this week, necessarily, but during the course of the season.

And, again, the basics are still the basics. That's one thing about sports. Whether you're playing in Augusta or the British Open or you're playing in the Rose Bowl, at some point you have to block out all the other stuff, and you've got to concentrate on what the task is. And for our guys, it doesn't change. We've played 13 ballgames this year. I think we've prepared well for 13. We've competed hard in all 13, and now the challenge for us is to do it for 14 times. And we'll have to do it to the best of our ability, because that's what it's going to take to beat this team. They're a championship football team. Just an outstanding team. There are no weaknesses that we can find.

Our challenge is to see if we can play our best game of the season.

Q. I know you lost one of your back-up tight ends the other day in practice. What is the health of your team going into this game? Is there anybody else who won't play or is on the fence?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, Jake Duzey was a tough loss, and you're not from our region, but Jake's coming back off a difficult injury that he encountered back in the spring. So it's been tough every step of the way, and it's really unfortunate he took a step back. He really, unfortunately, didn't get to play a key role for us this year. But you feel bad any time a player gets hurt and they can't compete and can't do what they want to do and love doing. Certainly when it happens to a senior, it's magnified in that regard. So that part's very difficult.

But, otherwise, I think basically our team, we've got a couple guys nicked up like anybody does during the season. I think everybody's got a chance to play tomorrow or two days from now, so we'll see how it goes. But we're optimistic we should be pretty much at full strength.

Q. Coach Shaw said that he knew his team was a Rose Bowl team in training camp. Did you know your team was a Rose Bowl team at any time during the season?
COACH FERENTZ: I've been coaching at Iowa quite some time now. This is my 17th year back and 26th overall, and I think if you look at Iowa football teams, typically it's a real process. It's something that our good teams evolve over time, and it's really paramount that we make improvement. If you look at our roster, I could go right down the list, there's an awful lot of guys on our roster that have improved dramatically since August, not to mention last April. So I can't say that I felt that way. But I would also say that the majority of my years at Iowa, I've always felt like we have an opportunity to grow into a good football team that requires leadership, that requires staying fairly healthy, which we didn't do this year, but the guys really didn't let faze them.

And we need some good stories, and we've had some of those too. So those are things typically the teams I've been around that have been successful whether in the last 17 years or back in the '80s, usually it's a developmental thing. '85 might be an exception to that. Even our 2002 team that went undefeated in the Big Ten, we probably were picked 8th or 9th in the conference that year. So that's probably more typical of us.

I think it's funny, somebody from Columbus just sent me a preseason prognostication from whatever the paper is, the Dispatch, and they had three football experts that had us either third, one had us third and the other two had us fourth in the Big Ten West.

So, yeah, I think if I had made that claim back in August, somebody might have been chasing me or locking me up a little bit on that one.

Q. With all the Iowa fans expected to pour into LA and Pasadena, I know Stanford fans will be there as well. But what do you expect this environment to be like for your team with all that support?
COACH FERENTZ: I'm guessing it will be similar to what we encountered at Indianapolis. I don't know how many fans were in the stadium, but it felt a lot like a home game. It was easy for the Iowa folks to get there being at a Midwest venue. But the Rose Bowl's a very, very special thing to everybody involved in our program, certainly our fan base as well. I do remember distinctly in 1981, Jim Zabel, legendary radio broadcaster in Des Moines, his crack was last person out of the state shut the lights out as they headed to California. So we anticipate a really enthusiastic following here. Our fans have been tremendous historically, and I think we'll probably witness that on Friday as well.

Q. When people think Iowa football, they think physicality and toughness. How do you go about developing that type of characteristic throughout your team?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, it's really not a new concept, necessarily. But it's something that we emphasize. I think every coach, no matter where they are in the country, they look at where they're at and what they think is realistic and what gives them the best chance of winning. In our case, and it's really all I know about my adult coaching career, all but nine years have been spent at Iowa, so those are just some feelings that I've developed through the years. When we came back in 1999, it's really no different than what it was when Coach Fry was there. It's always amused me a little bit. Coach Fry is known for the sunglasses, the white pants, the razzle-dazzle stuff. But if you looked at his best teams in the big games, they won with fundamentals and doing the little things right, and playing tough, hard-nosed football. That's really a tradition at Iowa. I can't speak to what happened before Coach Fry got there, but I got to experience that for nine years.

Then my background growing up, the people I grew up with in coaching, the people I've worked with in that nine-year hiatus, if you will, from the program, it just reinforced all the things that we think are important in football. So those are things that we've tried to build our foundation on, and that's kind of where we're at.

Q. Last year I asked you at the bowl game about describing your program as developmental. This year you hit, quote/unquote, hit on a lot of guys in that realm. You can go up and down the list. How does that happen? How does that sync into something like this?
COACH FERENTZ: When we go shopping, we don't get to go to the gourmet store. I guess it's one of those deals. Some schools do. They get to pick the guys that my sister could tell you are great, great football players. We're not against that by any stretch. But it just historically has not been the nature of our program. So I think it forces us to think a little bit outside the box. Look a little bit beyond maybe the obvious and try to see something in a player that we think is a redeeming quality. First guy I'm thinking about here is Bob Sanders who couldn't get on the nicest roller coaster at Disneyland because he's not tall enough, but the guy can play football. And that's why he was available to us. He's a Pennsylvania native. We were able to recruit him because he wasn't tall enough to go to other schools in our conference.

So it's just we're comfortable with that. I think I probably learned that in the '80s also. We had some outstanding linemen, but you get a guy like Mark Sindlinger, might have been six foot. A dominant wrestler, and Mark came in and started three years on three good football teams, '84, '85, '86 and captain and all that stuff. So you have to look a little deeper, I think to see some value in a player and some really good qualities.

Most people do have good qualities, so if you look deep enough, you find those things. Really, the key to the whole thing is what the players do once they get there. I think that was kind of has been and continues to be how the wrestling program at Iowa operate too. You just learn from other people that way.

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