‘That’s November football’: Kirk Ferentz recaps the Iowa Hawkeyes’ win over Minnesota

Maybe the game itself won’t win “best in show” from the average college football fan. For the most part, Iowa fans don’t and shouldn’t care about any of that.

The Hawkeyes topped Minnesota 13-10 and now improbably sit on the doorstep of a return trip to the Big Ten Championship game. There’s plenty of takeaways and grades to celebrate.

Several Hawkeyes see their stock rising and we learned a little bit more about this team coming out of Saturday. After Iowa won its eighth straight over Minnesota, Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz caught up with the media to share some of his thoughts on the Hawks’ big win.

Opening statement

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“Start out. Really happy for our guys. Really happy locker room. And that’s November football. It’s whatever it takes to get something done and it took the full 60 today for sure, but just really pleased for our guys. Pleased to get Floyd back in Iowa City with us and I just told the players, encouraged them to enjoy tonight. They certainly earned it. Hard-fought victory against a team that played extremely hard, so want them to enjoy that and then we’re back to work tomorrow. We got a short week here, so we’ve got to get back on task there, but just a lot to be pleased about.

“First of all, you know, offensively…Bill Russell’s quote about the most important stat, in fact, the only one that counts, is the final score. Don’t disagree with that, but ranked No. 2 is playing clean football. Just proud of the way the guys really protected the football today. Pretty good control of the clock and then we needed something, we came up with it at some pretty critical times. Happy about that.

“Defensively, certainly not happy about the statistics and giving up as much yardage on the ground as we did, but a lot of credit to our opponent and especially that running back. He’s a very special player and it was just a very impressive performance. Be a little easier to appreciate it if I was a spectator, but the guy’s a hell of a football player. And then to come up with a couple of takeaways there at the end was just huge. Obviously very, very, both of them were timely and really good.

“And then, the last thing is just our special teams. I thought they really did a great job and impacted the game in a really positive way for us. That’s important in any game, but, in this kind of weather, you can’t take anything for granted. Whether it’s fielding a punt and Cooper did a good job there, and obviously downing the punt there at the other end of it. Tory came up with two good punts to give our guys good field position defensively. And Drew Stevens continues to play really well as a kicker, so, yeah, just a lot of positive things there. You add it all up, it was just a really good team win for us and happy to leave town here with a victory.”

On Jack Campbell's impact on this Iowa team, the Minnesota outcome

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“To win a game like this and to have a good season, you need your best guys playing their best and Jack shows up every week and does that. It’s interesting. You got two guys opposite each other that are really exceptional football players, great college football players. I’ve never met their guy. Just watching him, you can just see the impact he has on their team. And I’m guessing a really strong leader.

“The guy’s a heck of a competitor, so just nothing but a ton of respect for him and you can say the same thing about Jack. Jack obviously we all know intimately in our program. Can’t say enough about him. Just the way he plays, his resiliency, just his positive nature. Everything about him is just first class, so, and then, comes up with big plays, which it was great to see.”

How he's seen the team stay resilient

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

“Yeah, that’s the word I’m thinking about. You know, just and again, I’ve said it before, it starts in the locker room with the guys. Guys like Jack. Not only our seniors, but the guys that have played and have some experience and understand the bigger picture. We just tried to encourage them back then that it’s a 12-week schedule, 12-game schedule. Just like today was a 60-minute game. You just keep playing, keep working and the whole thing’s all about showing up and doing your best and trying to improve and showing growth. I think our team’s done that, but it doesn’t happen without those guys being a core, the core guys really kind of driving the thing forward.”

Update on Sam LaPorta's injury

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“No, I mean, he had to come out obviously and we’ll probably know more tomorrow, next couple of days. It was enough to keep him out and he couldn’t go back. Same thing with Monte (Pottebaum). That made it tougher, because those are two of our top guys offensively. Great leaders and really good football players.”

Hawkeye tight ends Luke Lachey, Addison Ostrenga stepping up once LaPorta exited

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“Yeah, it’s two-fold there. Luke, we’ve seen and he’s done a lot of good things on the field this year. Even last year, so he’s just been a kid who’s continually grown. Just like I said a minute ago about you’re hoping guys improve and grow. And he’s done that and he’s a great young guy. So, just a really positive football player. It’s a luxury when you’ve got two guys like him and Sam.

“And then, Addison (Ostrenga), thought we knew what we’d get, but you never know until you get into (a game). This is a tough Big Ten football game in November and he went out there and really performed like he’s been doing and like he’s done in practice. A little bit of a surprise in August probably. Sometimes you get guys and you think this guy’s got a chance to be a good player. And then you get on the field and you’re like, maybe not, might take a little bit longer. And then, sometimes it’s the other way around. I’ll tell you. Everything he’s done since August has just been really positive.

“Kind of like Kaleb Johnson. It’s just like, hey, this guy really gets it, the tempo doesn’t seem to affect him and we’ve just kind of seen him (improve). You’re still a little bit anxious whenever he goes into Big Ten conference play in tough circumstances and he did a great job.”

Jack Campbell's two game-changing plays and if it's more than just athleticism

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“Oh it is, yeah. It’s just staying with it. Staying with it and easier said than done. It’s just easier said than done, because, I mean, you guys saw the game. That’s no fun out there when you can’t stop the run. Boy, you get in games like that, and it’s just, it’s painful. And nobody feels worse than the guys on the field, because they’re playing hard and doing everything they can. You think you’ve got him shut off, and then the next thing you know, he’s knifing it back for either a three-yard gain or a 13-yard gain. It really makes it hard, but the guys kept playing, they hung in there and then Jack came up with a couple big plays.”

The timeout before the game-winning Drew Stevens field goal

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“Yeah, it was an interesting sequence, and I won’t get into too great of detail. I thought we had it under control. The plan was to take it down to one second. I’m still trying to figure out why it got reviewed. I thought they were reviewing, silly me, I thought, you know, hey, maybe they’re going to give us a first down here, which would have been nice.

“And I guess they were reviewing to see if the ball, if it was a fumble or not, so, you know, I won’t get into that discussion. Same thing about the possible touchdown Jack had, but I was told the whistle blew on that one. I thought the whistle blew on the other one, too, but anyway, so everything got screwed up and we had to end up taking the timeout prematurely just because I was worried we were going to snap the ball and go.”

If they discussed this game's importance for the Big Ten West

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“I haven’t said a word about it to our team. And I know our guys know it, because it was brought up to them on Tuesday by members outside and I think everybody’s probably talking about it I’m guessing so I assume our guys know what’s going on. The message last week, none of it’s going to matter if we didn’t get to seven this week, so that was our goal. Go win our fourth game since coming out of Columbus, so that’s really where our focus was.

“Now, shapes up to be a significant game that way, but you’re always hoping to play for something in November, but you never know what it’s going to be. I’m guessing—I don’t know anything about gambling—I’m guessing if you put 10 bucks on us four weeks ago, you’d probably be okay. I’m not advocating that, but just, it probably would have been a good deal. Have a hard time finding any takers on that one, but anyway, so now it’s just, that’s the way it is. We had no control over what else was going to go on today other than what we could do, and that was our encouragement. Just let’s focus on what’s in front of us. And that’s exactly what we need to do this next five days, too.”

If it's fitting Spencer Petras will be fighting for a Big Ten West title on Senior Day despite criticism

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“I guess I’m always a silver lining guy, but, in some sick way, okay, what he’s gone through the last three years, will really benefit him for his entire life I think. I’m not sure the scrutiny has always been fair, but it doesn’t matter what I think.

“All I know is, we started out 0-2 a couple years ago and he led us to six wins, he was a big part of us winning 10 last year and here we are right now with an opportunity to do something pretty cool. I think it says a lot about him, and then, more importantly, it’s just how he’s handled it. You can only imagine. It’s been tough on him.

“You guys, not all of you have kids, but, if you’ve had kids or have kids, you can imagine. It’s a tough spotlight, but that’s part of playing quarterback, too. And he’s handled it really well and I think with tremendous class. Hopefully, he’ll step back at some point and think, hey, boy, I did a good job handling all this and kept playing. And I thought he played well today.”

Spencer Petras going interception free in the past four games and if he's playing his best football

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“For us, that’s critical. That’s where, I mean, for us, it’s critical and that’s just kind of how we’re built and how we’re wired. I think we know who we are. A lot of credit to him on that. Our protection the last four weeks—last week was not a great day, but the two previous and today—I think we showed some improvement there. That gives him a chance to set his feet and throw the football. He’s not a great runner by any stretch. He knows that and we know that and most teams we play know that, but he’s led us to victory, which is the number one criteria for a quarterback in my mind.”

Similarities between this win over Minnesota and 2004 when Chad Greenway had a late interception

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“If you hang around long enough, there are some repeating themes. There’s no question. I even go back, Dave Brown sent me a text this morning. I made mention of that we won our last game in ’82 to go to 7-4 coincidentally and then beat Tennessee in the Peach Bowl. I may have said this last week. That was as gratifying I think for most of us, players and coaches, in ’82 to win that as it was to go to the Rose Bowl.

“It was just the season you could really feel good about, because of the way the players handled things. We started out pretty poorly that year, 0-2 and it was a really ugly 0-2. There are some parallels. This team and maybe the ’04, but you find a way to win. That’s what it’s all about. Guys may come up with big plays, big efforts. That’s what it takes to win games like this. Just really proud of our guys being resilient and nobody’s really worried too much about who we are or what we look like. We’re just trying to get the job done.”

Neither team being penalized

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

“Not even close. I didn’t know until I was just told on the radio there and I guess it’s since 1986 that’s happened so that just shows you how unusual it is. It’s really, really rare, really weird, but now in retrospect, yeah, it makes sense. There weren’t any real stoppages for that. We had a couple reviews, but not the penalties. It’s great and then it’s part of playing clean football. Protecting the football and not getting dumb penalties. We had a couple. An errant snap today and then one that was missed, so those were not good obviously. Those aren’t penalties and they’re not turnovers fortunately, but still, it’s things that we have to do to clean up. It’s hard to overcome that stuff.”

On the offensive line bouncing back to protect Petras after the Wisconsin game

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“It’s just again, you stay with it. I think it started three weeks ago. Took a step back last week, but the guys went back to work. Proud of those guys, because you worry about them. You worry about, what are they thinking? Where are they at? But, a real credit to them, they practiced well this week and they went out and competed well today and we’re going to have to do the same thing again here next Friday. It’ll be the same story, but I think it’s always good to have the guys feel like they can gain a little confidence from their performance.”

The job Abdul Hodge has done with Iowa's tight ends

Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

“Well, first of all, we were really excited to have Abdul come back and join our staff. It’s kind of like we were talking about with Addison, right—you know, you think you know, but you know. With Abdul, we were pretty sure. It was just going to be a matter of time. Where I’m going on this, since he’s been with us, however many months it’s been now, even better than I thought and I had high expectations. First of all, he’s just a quality human being. And secondly, he’s a coach. Like he’s really serious about this and, boy, he’s invested and works hard.

“In some ways it’s helpful, because he’s got that defensive perspective in an offensive room. Believe it or not, there was a time where I was more defensive oriented, you know, (even) as small and slow as I was, quote unquote, my position coach. But anyway, sometimes that perspective helps you a little bit. Abdul, he’s a guy who just wants to learn. He’s got great relationships with his players, he’s respected, so it’s great. I think they’re all having fun together actually, and it’s a good group with Pottebaum and LaPorta. You’ve got two veteran guys, but it’s been a cooperative effort. It’s all good, so happy for him and great to have him on the staff.”

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