Hawks Talk: Thoughts on Ohio State and Penn State

HawkeyeNation.com's Rob Howe spoke with several members of the Iowa football team today, including Nathan Chandler, Eric Rothwell, Fred Russell and Robert Gallery. He has compiled their comments in this installment of 'Hawks Talk'.


Do you feel like getting settled with this offensive line will help this week?

"There's only so much you can simulate in practice. The game speed, the atmosphere, that can't be simulated. But once you've played a game, you get a better idea, just as a unit, where you're at and what you need to work on. You can kind of make it more real in your mind. "

What happened to you on that sideline play?

"Actually, I got hit in the knee earlier. Then I was running out of bounds and the chain guy lifted the chain up in the air instead of dropping it. So, I had to jump over the chain and I just landed on the concrete and just kind of aggravated it."

Will you be fine?

"Yeah. It's just a bruise."

How close were you guys to making some plays on Saturday?

"Yeah, there were some plays and there were some drives where we actually moved the ball pretty well and just kind of hurt ourselves with turnovers. Penalties weren't as big of a deal this week. But the turnovers really hurt us."

Is it tough to keep the tempo you want with all the injuries on offense?

"When I look at our offense and we've had troubles, it's been with consistency. In the games where we've performed well, we have done better as far as being consistent during drives and during the game."

Has it been hard to have go-to guys and go-to plays with the injuries?

"Maybe it's changed. It started out being Mo Brown. I feel Like Ramon Ochoa has stepped up and done a good job in that role. Even with that being said, you always have to make your reads. You don't want to stare at one receiver. We feel like we've got guys that have stepped up for us in key situations. We're going to continue to need guys stepping up for us."

Is it hard to get everybody on the same page?

"There are some guys that have been on campus for two months. It's hard for a guy like that to know as much as Robert Gallery. There is an experience and a grasp of the offense that differs there. But we have confidence that those guys are going to improve."


Eric, what happened with the snaps?

"Ah, Nate didn't get them. Whether there was confusion or a mistake on someone's part or whatever happened, it's just something that we have to find the problem and correct it and not let it creep up again."

Was noise a problem?

"It was one of the noisier places that I've played at."

Did you guys go with silent calls at all?

"Eventually, towards the end of the game when we figured out that there was just no way it was going to quiet down."

Is it hard to stay on the same page with players at different experience levels and constant changes because of injuries?

"That's one of the great things about football and having it be a team sport. You have all types of guys from different backgrounds and different ability levels and different experience levels. What you have to do to have a successful team is put all of those people together in a working order."

Does that concept go into something like snapping that would appear to be just natural?

"There are a lot of different variables that creep up on Saturday, a lot of different situations, a lot of different things. It really has to become automatic and so consistent that you don't have to worry about it. To even take the same steps on the same play, you have to practice over and over again."

How much had you worked out at center after the spring?

"I worked out a center a little bit during camp. Then we reshuffled our line and figured out who we needed to get the job done. I then moved to guard."

So, you're first snaps were during the bye week?

"No, not really. I continued taking a few snaps during the week just to stay fresh. I was always snapping whenever I had extra time."

Is the biggest deal feeling comfortable with the guy under you?

Yeah, it's kind of a strange setup because every quarterback is a little bit different. Every center is a little bit different. So, when you start mixing and matching quarterbacks and centers, your level of difficulty doubles and triples depending on how many guys you have. It's just getting used to each other and knowing what to expect."

Are there subtleties?

"Yes. There are subtleties to snapping and the center-quarterback exchange. Within that, there's a lot of room for error. You have to keep things pretty tight in order to execute that every play. People are like, ‘How can you screw that up?' It's like a kicker. How can you screw that up? It's difficult. Millimeters and inches can be the difference."


How do you feel like you're doing?

"I could do a lot better, but I'm second in the Big Ten in rushing right now. That's where I was at last year about this time. A lot of people said that I wasn't going to rush for that many yards this year."

Have the yards been tougher this year?

"It's been about the same as last year. Like I said earlier in the year, every team comes in and they want to stop the run. And with our running scheme, it's so simple. If I'm in the backfield, you know I'm going to get the ball. If you can't stop that when you know I'm getting the ball that shows that something is going good for us."

Coach said that you made some bad decisions on Saturday. What do you need to do to make better decisions?

"With me, sometimes it takes me a second to get going because I need that big hit just to get me going. I didn't really take a big hit probably until the second half. But I'll bounce back. I made some bad reads last week."

Do you need to be more of a North-South runner?

"I can't classify myself. But I know if I get hit hard early, that's what it takes for me to get going. The thing that I did wrong is that I didn't just attack them. That's what I need to do, attack them. Attack them like I did against Michigan, Arizona State and Michigan State. I need to go straight ahead and make my moves going downhill instead of side to side."

Is there something that created that on Saturday?

"A good defense. (laughter) If I played against our defense, I'd probably do the same thing. But I learn from mistakes. Like after the Iowa State game, I felt that I did a lot of dancing. Then I bounced back against Arizona State."

Isn't there a certain amount of East-West running built into the zone blocking schemes?

Yeah. There is.

Do you run into problems when you hang around waiting for that hole?

"Yeah. You run into problems, especially playing against a tough run defense. Like I said, you've got to attack. You've got to go at them. That's the problem. That's the mistake. I got carried away going side to side. A defense like that frustrates you. I let it get the best of me. I should have kept the same game plan that I had going against Michigan, just keep going at them, keep going forward, take the hit. I'm going to learn from my mistakes."


Can you talk about playing Penn State?

"It's another big game. We've got five left and this is the next one. So, this is a huge game. It's big for them. They're trying to get back on track. It's the same for us trying to get back on track after last weekend. Every game is really important from here on out."

Can you talk about their defense and what kind of problems they pose for you?

"They're a big, athletic defense. They look good in their pads."

Did did you see some good things up front when you watched the Ohio State tape?

"Yeah. There were some good things. And there were some bad things. We got them figured out and we're going to get them taken care of."

Are the troubles reoccurring or are they new things?

"There are always new things. And there seems to be things that are kind of repeating. So, we need to really concentrate on those mistakes and take care of them this week."

How hard is it to keep having injuries on the line?

"It's tough. You would like to have the same guys in there every week to get into a groove with each other. You know what the guy beside you is doing. But that stuff happens. We've just got to do what we can. You've just got to work with who's next to you and try to get on the same page. With Mike (Jones) there was more talking than there was with Eric last year because I played next to him for three years and we knew what each other was doing."

You made the decision to come back and improve yourself before going to the NFL. Do you feel like that is happening?

"Yeah. I do. I didn't only come back to work on my skills but to be a leader for this team. And I'm just trying to do what I can to help lead this offense and to be a guy that the other guys can look up to and look to when things are going bad. It's not going like obviously I wanted it to, but we're still having a good season here. We've got two losses and we've got a big game this weekend."

Do you feel like in a strange way that maybe all of the injury problems up front are helping you?

"Yeah. That's when you make more strides, when things are tough and when you've got adapt to things. If it was easy all of the time, then everybody would do it. I think everybody is growing with the experiences we're having. Personally, it's another thing to practice and another thing to see in a game to help us as a team and me as an individual in the long run."

Hawkeye Insider Top Stories