HN.com: A road win is a great win, but to do it how Iowa did it, overcoming adversity in the first half and then hanging on at a tough environment made it more special, didn't it?
CHUCK HARTLIEB: It really did. You are going against a Senior Day at Wisconsin and the awful conditions; you had the road jinx going. For them to persevere through it all has got to make that whole team feel awesome as far as what they have accomplished this season. A great finish to an awesome year and my hat is off to them.
HN.com: That is not the start that Nathan Chandler wanted, but he didn't quit, which has been the case all year and his teammates supported him. How hard is it to come back and keep your chin up after a start like Nathan had?
CHUCK HARTLIEB: I spoke to people during the week and saw some puzzled faces in return when I said that I felt that Chandler was a better quarterback than Jim Sorgi. My reason for saying that was not just because of his abilities in the pocket, but you measure a quarterback by so many different intangibles and one of the things that I thought was so special on Saturday is that it was a classic game for showing what it takes to win out of your quarterback position.
Not only did Chandler succeed, but Sorgi failed. I really think those intangibles came to the forefront on Saturday. I don't want to take anything away from Sorgi and the fact that he got hurt, but certainly, I think, his health and the way it has impacted their team this year has truly been a negative on the Wisconsin sidelines. Flip that over and look at Chandler, passing statistics aside, you look at his poise and his leadership, his physical toughness; that all came out on Saturday. Sorgi went the opposite way.
I was really impressed with the way that Nathan hung in there, but he has been doing that all year. He came up with some good plays running the ball. He probably played his worst first half of the season, but you could tell that the team did not shy away from him and they stood behind him. I thought that was a great thing and it was a great how this team won, because I think that was so typical of a Chandler led team this year.
HN.com: How hard is it as a quarterback to not go into a shell there early on after a bad start?
CHUCK HARTLIEB: I have lived through that and I think that any quarterback has. It is extremely difficult. I can tell you that the best way to bounce out of that is to get some support from those around you.
I remember throwing back to back interceptions or having a streak of not moving the ball at all for a quarter or two. You need to get that encouragement from the coaches on the sidelines and you need to get the players to come up and tell you ‘you are the man, let's just get it going'. It sounds like that is what happened on Saturday. He had great team support behind him, and I think that is what coach Ferentz has molded into the personality of this team; they continue to support Nate and because of that, I think it is easier to not go into a shell, when you have 10 guys around you that have confidence in you. If you see doubt in your teammates face, that is when you keep spiraling downward.
HN.com: What was going through your mind in the last minute of the game?
CHUCK HARTLIEB: I looked at the organization of the defense. So often, you get those four wide receiver sets and you get mass confusion from a defensive standpoint. I liked what I saw from Iowa. I saw everyone pick someone out; they kept their cool. It could have gone any direction. I thought Wisconsin had a great play call on, we went with a prevent zone, I thought that was a great call to keep everything in front of you to make the quarterback beat you and not get beat in a one on one situation. And then, the last play, they got themselves in a position to make a play and they did. That has a lot to do with great coaching and good poise from a defensive standpoint.
HN.com: Nate Keading…he is a great player…have you seen his likes before at that position?
CHUCK HARTLIEB: Isn't it interesting in how coach Ferentz, in such a small amount of time, has turned out so many impact players? All kinds of things have been said about Nate, so I am not going to reiterate them except to say that I don't think we will ever see a kicker like that at Iowa again. I don't know if you have seen one in the Big Ten in the last 10 or 20 years. He has been so poised and he is such a leader. He is a special kid.
The coaching staff deserves some credit here, too, from the standpoint of the need to create an environment in which the kids can reach their fullest potential. That is not easily done and I think the special teams coaches have created a good environment and have allowed Nate the chance to excel and they deserve some credit for that as well.
HN.com: There is a saying that steel sharpens steel…Kirk, admittedly so, was not an all conference football player on the field. When he was an assistant when you were there, did he rally his troops? Could you tell he was a leader back then? Do you think his type of leadership: the quiet calm that demands your respect, do you think that can have impact on a Nate Kaeding to make him even more mentally tough?
CHUCK HARTLIEB: I think that it reinforces what Nate is all about. I think they are a great match because they do have similar styles. Going back, I have enjoyed watching Kirk just because he has not changed his colors at all. Kirk is the type of leader that picks his spots and is extremely poised. In the eighties, all the other assistant coaches hollered and yelled and got after you twice as much as Kirk, but Kirk knew when to pick his spots and make his point. So many offensive line coaches are yellers, and Kirk would sit back there with his arm folded, his hand over his mouth and just kind of finger you over, whisper 10 words or something to you like ‘let's getter a better set, are you OK today? You are not at your best, let's pick it up.' Maybe once or twice in a week he would bark out at somebody. But that is a great way to do it because he had greater impact when he chose his spots to get on them instead of every five minutes like some coaches do. I am sure his style matches up well with Nate's.
HN.com: Any other aspects of the game from Saturday that jumped out at you?
CHUCK HARTLIEB: I thought Gallery had his toughest match up of the year. Alex Lewis is a great speed rusher and I watched him quite a bit and Gallery iced him. Robert really helped himself on Saturday. I thought the offensive line did not make any blatant mistakes. They don't get the credit when things are quiet there, but I think they are coming together well. It's hard to play on the road and we talked about poise before, I felt they played well as a group. I look forward to the bowl game on defense, because due to injuries, we have not been our best in the last three or four games. I really hope that guys like Steen, Clauss and Sanders can get themselves to 100-percent so they can be their best on January 1st and really finish their careers strong, because I really think that is a great defensive unit and they probably have not been as good as they could have been because of injuries.
HN.com: Do you feel this team will be benefit from the layoff before the bowl as opposed to last year's team that as hurt by it?
CHUCK HARTLIEB: I do think that could be the case. I do think that they need a break. It has been a tough year. When you go through a year like Iowa did in '02, momentum carries you through the tough times so easily, but when you go through it the second time around and you have been there before, it's harder to get cranked up week in and week out.
Then you get the injuries that increases the level of challenge, it has just been a more difficult year. The layoff is going to be a great benefit to this team.
Now the negative is that bowl games are about preparation. When you go into a big one like last year, you really have the mental focus and the ability to make sure that you are ready to go at game time. I think there is a real difficulty in going to multiple bowl games and getting that consistency of focus back in your team. It is a vacation, it is a fun time for the players and if they have been there a few times already, that is where complacency can really set in. We won't really know until game time. I think it is hard for teams to play two or three good bowl games in a row. That is mentally difficult and I am sure that coach Ferentz realizes that.
HN.com: Does it come down to the seniors setting the leadership tone of staying focused?
CHUCK HARTLIEB: It is odd, but I think that the seniors are difficult to judge in the bowl games. This is inevitable, but your seniors are looking at the NFL draft, they are starting to get the calls and will talk to the agents the next week, they are starting to line up workouts and I have to tell you that the NFL draft is much more important for them than the bowl game. They are not going to play anything but 110-percent in the game of course, but it is human nature to start thinking about the next phase of life and what is right around the corner. The seniors have to focus, but it is a new era for the younger leaders, the Jovon Johnson's, the Chad Greenway's, the Pete McMahon's; these guys really have to come up and say ‘hey, this is as springboard for 2004.'
HN.com: Is Kirk Ferentz the Coach of the Year in the Big Ten in your mind?
CHUCK HARTLIEB: I think all things being equal, I would say yes. I like what John L. Smith has done at Michigan State. That is a team that has improved its character and style. Tiller has one of the best coaching staffs and does a great job year in and year out. I think its those three guys before its Carr or Tressel. If it goes to Carr, I think that is a joke. That is talent, not coaching. Kirk deserves it as much as anyone because of the adversity they have faced this year and how they fought their way through it.