Hawks Talk: Penn State postgame

Iowa players discuss a much-needed, 26-14 victory against Penn State on Saturday in Kinnick Stadium. This week's lineup includes Nathan Chandler, Fred Russell, Bob Sanders, Chad Greenway, Abdul Hodge, Matt Melloy, David Walker, Jermire Roberts, Warren Holloway and Howard Hodges.


What is your assessment of the offensive line?

I think they played an outstanding game. I really think they worked hard this week in practice. They did a great job of just coming to play. They started fast today. I had a lot of time whenever we dropped back to pass, and they opened some big holes up for Freddie. We had to audible a lot today. That's one of the most difficult things for an offensive line to adjust to, and they did a great job with it.

What were you saying to yourself after the first couple of series when you struggled?

You know, sometimes no matter how hard you prepare for a game, stuff just doesn't go your way. That was kind of how it was for me today. I thought we had great play from the guys up front. The defense played well. I really felt like the crowd kept us in there. They stayed behind us the whole time.

Would you give it to Fred 60 times if you could?

He was chugging away for us. Especially when we get into the second half with the lead, we're going to be conservative. He does a great job of just carrying the load at that point.

Can you talk about the interception that was returned for the touchdown?

It's one of those quick-hitter plays. I'll have to look at the film to tell you what really happened. But it's one of those that I wish I could have back.

He's supposed to be blocked on that play, isn't he?

Yeah. Like I said, it's one of those plays where the offensive line has a lot of reads. Sometimes they should block guys. Sometimes, they should let them go. I'm not real sure what he did. It's one of those plays that can be a big play when guys aren't blocked. So, I'm not sure real sure what the situation was.

Was there added time put in with you and Eric this week?

Yeah. You didn't see any of that stuff did you. (laughter) It's one of those things you really work to make it kind of a second nature thing. That was our goal this week in practice. Getting another week in practice for the game I thought really helped us out a lot. Plus, being in Kinnick, where the fans like you a little bit more, it helps.

Are you disappointed in your play at all?

You know, I don't feel like I played a great game. The main thing coming out of this is that we wanted to win. We got the win and we just need to focus on that right now. We'll have all week to correct the mistakes that were made. There's a lot of stuff to work on.

What was creating the need to audible so much?

They were shifting on us, changing stuff up. But I felt like we did a good job of catching them. Our O-line did a good job of adjusting. It allowed us to get some big plays in the run game.


It seemed like you were hitting the holes hard today. Did you go in with that focus?

No. I went in with the same mentality that I go in each and every week.

Did you not feel like dancing today?

(Laughs) I did some dancing today. I did some east-west runs. I scored touchdown on an east-west run, but it got called back. Like I said, I went in with the same mentality. Last week, I sat down and talked with some of my high school coaches. They have to let me know that you're going against the defending national champions. So, I went in with confidence this week.

Did it seem like you guys were more crisp on offense this week?

Yeah. We concentrated on that this week.

Did it make a difference that you were able to get going early this week?

It was cool. I got hit hard early. So, once I get hit hard, I'm real cool. I can get in a groove.

Any thoughts of last year's Penn State comeback when it creeped back in today?

No, not really because our defense was playing great.

Do you watch your defense much when you're on the sidelines?

Sometimes I watch them. Some of the hits those guys throw, it's rough.

Does it give you guys confidence knowing how good your defense is?

That was the thing. We didn't want to put everything on the defense and special teams. We wanted to try to put some points on the board.

How are you feeling compared to this time last year?

Compared to last year, I'm feeling a lot better. Today was really the first game that I got banged up, just some bumps and bruises. I've got a few strains, but hopefully that will be taken care of.

Were you surprised not to see Jermelle get in there?

I was just in a groove with things. I guess coach felt comfortable keeping the ball in my hands so we wouldn't have no fumbles or nothing.

Are you comfortable with the heavy workload?

I had 35 carries against Penn State last year. I had 36 today.

Is there a number you're comfortable with?

I want to go for 40 and see what that feels like.


How easily were you guys able to put last week's disappointment behind you?

It was pretty easy. I was hurt. Being a senior, I really wanted to get the Big Ten rings again. And I really wanted to beat Ohio State, especially after last year. So, I was hurt, but I started thinking on Sunday that we have to start winning our games because I want to go to a bowl. I want to go to a big bowl. I know we have a good team. I just want to win out.

Did it seem like you were able to make Penn State one dimensional pretty early today?

Yeah. I felt like they gave up on the run. By us working hard, we encouraged that.

How important is the depth on this defense?

It's pretty deep. The way I see this team is one with a lot of heart. When people get thrown in there, I don't see the next man being scared. We've come through a lot of adversity. We're 6-2. We've got a lot of key guys out. We may have been able to change things around in those two games, but at the same time, I think we're doing great with the adversity that we've been through this year.

Did you guys prepare any differently not knowing which QB was going to be in there, and did it change when they brought Mills in?

I felt like I had to be a lot more cautious instead of running up the field. No. 12, he plays all kinds of positions. He has little happy feet. He was willing to run.

When Penn State started to make their run, did any thoughts from last year come back?

I did have that for a split second. I was like, "I know this is not going to overtime again." I was a little nervous. I was like, "I hope we don't go into overtime." Then, we got control of the ballgame again.


Did you feel like you were able to make them one-dimensional pretty early today?

We came out wanting to stop the run, just like every game. We did that really early. They had 40-something yards in the first half, and then kind of abandoned the run.

How did you guys prepare not knowing which quarterback you would see?

Coach said it was kind of like the first game of the season, not knowing what you'll see. We were preparing to see No. 12. He was like a running back at quarterback. So, when we seen Mills in the game, that helped us.

What were you thinking when you saw Clauss and Steen go out today after seeing Babineaux go down last week?

I thought somebody put a curse on us. I don't know. But we survive on next man in. The other guys are ready. They're preparing just like we are. They're watching film just like we are.

Do you feel like you guys won the physical battle today?

No doubt. I felt like they couldn't block our guys up front, and that is where it starts.


You were really down last week. Do you feel a lot better this week?

Yeah. Last week hurt. But, I mean, we wanted our sixth win. That was our main goal. It's sort of a relief, but we still have to let this win go and get ready for next week.

What does the Wisconsin loss tell you about the Big Ten?

It's unpredictable. You never know. You have to come ready to play week in and week out. And if not, it's so easy for a team to surprise people. You find out in the fourth quarter that you're going to lose.

Like Illinois next week, maybe, right?

Yeah. I mean, we're going to go in and prepare as best as we can. We're not going to lay down, and I don't think they're going to lay down for us.

Can you talk about becoming bowl eligible?

We're excited about that. We were looking for that sixth win. We got it today. It's sort of a relief because now we can move on and go to the seventh, eighth win and so on.

How does it feel closing out your career with four wins against Penn State?

I can't explain it. It's real exciting. A lot of people can't say that. It's a great feeling.


Do you like special teams?

Defensive players like to be on special teams because we want to be on the field as much as we can. You see guys like Chris Smith. Bob Sanders is on there. Abdul is on there. Grant Steen is on there.

Are you and Abdul making a pretty good case for being first-team, all-Big Ten?

No. Certainly not. I don't think they're going to do anything like that to a sophomore. I really don't think about it that much. I don't think he really does either. We have a lot of learning to do. We have a lot of growing to do. If that happens, that's fine.


You guys got the running game going today. Did it feel more like last year's team?

We knew that we had to come out and it was up to us, the line, to pull us through. We tried our best all week to practice hard on everything. We knew we were going to have to come in and run the ball. That's one of our goals we accomplished, but we still have a long way to go. There were a lot of missed IDs and everything, a lot of missed blocks. We still have a long way to go.

How far can this team go when it's running the ball that well?

I say we can go as far as we want to go. It's on the offensive line. We're going to put it on the offensive line to do our job. As long as we do our job, then I guess, may the best come.

Are you back to full health?


What was bothering you?

It was my knee.

Coach seemed to think you showed signs in recent weeks of being ready. What turned this week?

It was frustrating. But I knew and coach knew that as long as I kept getting proper treatment on it, we're hard every day, that it soon would come back. And it felt pretty good out there today.

Does it seem like you and Mike (Jones) are going to share the left guard position?

All I know is that we had a rotation today, and both of us did pretty well. So, we're just looking for the best in the future.

Was there a play today where you guys put your stamp on the game?

I think it was the whole second half. It was up to us. Somtimes we went three and out or five and out, but we knew if we just kept plugging away, sooner or later something was going to happen.


How about that catch on the sidelines? You really went up and got it?

Yeah, I mean, he gave me a ball that I could handle. They gave him time. He made a good throw. We just executed.

Did you have a hard time keeping your feet in on that one?

Yes. I did.

What was running through your mind on that? You haven't had a lot of opportunities?

That's just it. I wanted to make the most of it. You know, come through. Help the team out. It worked out.

How has it been getting more reps that you're getting now?

It's been good. That's the best way to describe it. I work hard. It's cool to contribute.

Have you been slowed by injuries this year?

Yeah. I'm just kind of now getting back. This is my second game of the season.

What was wrong?

I had a pulled hamstring.

Was that frustrating seeing all those receivers going down and you still being hurt?

I just kept in mind that God is in control. He'll give you your chance. You've got to work with it.

Did you know you were going to play a bigger part today?

I knew I was going to get some time.

Was that catch a confidence boost?

That was definitely a confidence boost. It always feels good to go in the game and do something that you dream about.


Did you feel the the wide receivers played well today?

Before the game, Coach Erb challenged us to step up and make plays. I think as a full unit, we did. We're looking pretty thin. But I'll tell you, everyone out there really wants to play hard and give it everything that they had.

Did you anticipate playing that much today?

I knew I was going to get a few more reps than usual, but you never know how many you're really going to get. I wasn't sure, but I was ready.

Had you guys worked on that play during the week?

No. Actually, that was a run play. But the corner wasn't out on me, so, he just threw it. I was looking at him to see if he saw it. He did. It just worked out.


Can you talk about the punt block that led to your touchdown?

It was just a play that Coach Wilson designed for Bob to come around and block the play, but he didn't make it. Greenway came around and blocked it. I was just in the right place to pick it up and run with the ball.

Was there extra focus on special teams after last week?

Yeah, there was because we didn't play like we had been playing last week. So we had to step it up to another level this week.

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