By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz spent almost 40 minutes addressing the media on Wednesday, and he started by saying he was excited to be there and he told a joke at his own expense.
The 38-year old son of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz had just listened to Iowa strength and conditioning coach Raimond Braithwaite talk about the importance of getting enough sleep and how they monitor the sleep habits of the Iowa players.
“I caught the end of the Rai, so I’m glad he didn’t have a sleep monitor on me in the third quarter of the game Saturday because it might have told the story,” Brian Ferentz said. “I might have been asleep for most of that thing.
“Obviously, glad that he didn’t monitor me there.”
Brian Ferentz was referring to the third of quarter of last Saturday’s 24-7 loss to Purdue, which ended Iowa’s six-game winning streak this season, and its 12-game winning streak dating back to last season.
Purdue only scored three points in the third quarter, but it didn’t matter because Iowa failed to score.
Iowa failed to do much of anything in the third quarter as Purdue dominated time of possession.
The fourth quarter was even worse for Iowa in some ways as quarterback Spencer Petras threw three of his four interceptions during the final 15 minutes.
But it was the performance of his offense in the third quarter that still eats at Brian Ferentz because the outcome still was in doubt and because Iowa still had a chance to shift the momentum.
Brian Ferentz was asked to explain what disappointed him the most about the Purdue game and he referred back to his joke about being asleep in the third quarter, saying it was a poor attempt at humor, something he learned from Iowa quarterback coach, Ken O’Keefe.
“Absolutely, the third (quarter). That’s why I made my poor attempt at humor,” Brian Ferentz said. “I’ve been around Ken too much.
“I thought our third quarter was really disappointing and I know our players feel the same way.”
Brian Ferentz and Braithwaite were among four members of the Iowa coaching staff that met with the media on Wednesday, the others being defensive coordinator Phil Parker and special teams coach LeVar Woods.
Iowa normally meets with the media on Tuesday during the season. But with this being a bye week, the coordinators were made available on Wednesday.
Iowa’s next game is against Wisconsin on Oct. 30 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin where Iowa hasn’t won since 2015.
“Very pleased to be sitting here at this point with six wins,” Brian Ferentz said of Iowa’s 6-1 record. “Certainly, would prefer to have seven. But I feel like we’ve made a lot of growth and a lot of strides in some areas. And there’s other areas and there’s other places that I think we still need to continue to grow.
“And quite frankly, we’re still looking for some answers. So ,the good news is we’ve got a nice little pause here to reset and work on some of the things that we feel are going to be important moving into the second phase of the year here in the next five games and get those dialed in. And really look forward to the challenge that’s going to be presented certainly with going up to Camp Randall.”
Brian Ferentz’s question-and-answer session lasted almost as long as the other three interview sessions combined.
He had a lot to say as usual, and the media had a lot to ask about his struggling offense, which is ranked last in the Big Ten in total offense.
Brian Ferentz mentioned how the offense helped the Iowa defense by responding in key moments in the victories over Maryland and Penn State. He compared Iowa to a boxer taking a standing eight count when it trailed Penn State 17-3 in the second quarter.
But the offense rose to the occasion in the second quarter by driving 75 yards for a touchdown that trimmed the deficit to 17-10 against Penn State.
Against Purdue, however, the Iowa offense failed to respond when a struggling Iowa defense desperately needed help in the third quarter.
“To me, that’s the part I look at, and I just think it ties back to who we’re going to be as a team, or as unit,” Brian Ferentz said. “Those are the situations where we need to come up with something, And we didn’t, which is disappointing and it hurts and it stinks and you invest a lot in it.
“But the reality is, unfortunately, you go out and compete long enough, some of those standing eight counts turn into ten counts. You prefer when it’s not a standing eight. I think I’d rather just get put on the canvas with one shot. I would prefer that. But if you compete long enough you’re going to take a couple of those on the chin. The key is what do you do? Are you going to learn from it? Are you going to grow? And I think that’s what we need to do as a football team right now.”
Iowa caught a huge break in the third quarter when Purdue had what officials initially ruled a touchdown erased after it was confirmed that Purdue receiver T.J. Sheffield had lost the football while reaching for the pylon.
The call was changed from a touchdown to a touchback, giving Iowa a first down at its own 20-yard line.
But to say that the offense failed to respond would be an understatement as it went three plays and out and actually lost yards during the possession.
“What we needed to do was go down and get a score and we didn’t do that,” Brian Ferentz said. “Whether you’re three-and-out or you run five plays, the reality is that points and that point in the football game are of critical importance. And we didn’t come up with any.”
Brian Ferentz also called back-to-back quarterback sneaks in the fourth quarter against Purdue, but Spencer Petras was stopped short on both plays, causing some to question Brian’s play calling.
Brian Ferentz was asked to explain his reasons for calling sneaks on both third- and fourth-down.
“If you look at the litany of calls that I’ve made in my career that I wish I had back, I don’t know if we’d have enough time,” Brian Ferentz said. “I think it was really simple. On the first one, I knew we had two downs to make about two yards, and based on recent history, I felt pretty good that we would get it on two sneaks.
“Watching the tape, and sitting there on the sideline and watching us not get it, yeah, absolutely, I wish I would called probably a different play on third down. I don’t know what I would’ve done on fourth down. But I would’ve probably thrown the ball on third down in retrospect.”
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Petras has been successful in getting a first down on sneaks several times this season. And former Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley, who preceded Petras as the starter, also had a knack for getting first downs on quarterback sneaks.
Petras, despite having led Iowa to 12 straight wins, has been lightning rod for criticism due to his modest passing statistics.
Iowa entered the Purdue ranked last in the Big Ten in total offense, averaging just 317.5 yards per game.
Brian Ferentz defended Petras when asked to assess his performance to this point.
“Well, he’s won six games and he’s lost one,” Brian Ferentz said. “I try to remind him of that because I think he’s a perfectionist. But if you do this long enough, you’re going to take a couple on the chin. And I’ve been around a lot of football, and I’ve been around a lot of competition in my life, and I’ve been around a few quarterbacks. And I’ve been around a few good ones.
“And you feel it after the game. Of course, we’re all disappointed. We didn’t win the football game. That’s the goal. But you hurt more for the players because you know what they put into this, and they’re the ones on the field competing. So to see them in the locker room and to see the hurt, and to see the disappointment, that’s tough.”
Unlike Brian Ferentz who doesn’t address the media after games, Petras had to face the glare of the media spotlight after the Purdue game and it couldn’t have been easy.
Brian Ferentz said he spoke briefly with Petras before he met with the media after the Purdue loss.
“I remember having a moment just thinking, ‘hey they pay me money to do this job and the availability is set up the way it is,” Brian Ferentz said. “I actually like talking to you guys. I don’t know if I would’ve loved talking to you after Saturday. You might not of loved talking to me, either. I get a little moody.
“But here’s a 21-year old guy that’s got to walk in there and face the hard questions about what just happened in the game. And he was the one out there laying it on the line, right. And here I am going in to take a shower and put my stuff on and go home.” So, I just told him, I grabbed him. I gave him a hug and I just told him, number one, it’s going to be alright. Okay. I’ve done this a long time. And number two, you better get used to this because of the position you play and what you do. And you’re going to be on good football teams, and you’re going to have another one of these at some point where it doesn’t go the way you want it to go.”
Brian Ferentz brings up a good point in that only Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz and select players meet with the media after games.
It would’ve been interesting to have heard Brian Ferentz speak during the Purdue postgame and to have watched him explain why the offense failed deliver.
The fact that he is Kirk Ferentz’s son makes the situation at Iowa unique and awkward at times.
Brian Ferentz has been at the center of controversy before, like the time he unleased a profanity-laced tirade at a replay official during halftime of a game at Kinnick Stadium.
Kirk Ferentz’s oldest child isn’t afraid to speak his mind, and sometimes, without a filter.
The Brian Ferentz who met with the media on Wednesday, however, was humble and more soft spoken. He made no excuses, or controversial statements, and he accepted his part of the blame.
He also said that he has to get some of the younger players more involved in the offense, including freshman receiver Keagan Johnson, who only has six catches this season, but three have gained at least 38 yards.
“We certainly have to find him more opportunities to be involved,” Brian Ferentz said of Johnson.
Iowa has two weeks to prepare for Wisconsin, which as usual has one of the best defenses in the Big Ten.
It will be a daunting task for Brian Ferentz to come up with a game plan that works against the Badgers.
But he is paid handsomely to do his job, and with that comes expectations, especially when you’re the son of the head coach.
“Very disappointing loss, disappointing performance really in all faces for us offensively,” Brian Ferentz.
“Very pleased to be sitting here at this point with six wins,” Brian Ferentz said. “Certainly, would prefer to have seven. But I feel like we’ve made a lot of growth and a lot of strides in some areas. And there’s other areas and there’s other places that I think we still need to continue to grow.
“And quite frankly, we’re still looking for some answers. So the good news is we’ve got a nice little pause here to reset and work on some of the things that we feel are going to be important moving into the second phase of the year here in the next fie games and get those dialed in. And really look forward to the challenge that’s going to be presented certainly with going up to Camp Randall.”