CH: The biggest thing that stood out to me on Saturday, and this is not a slight to Iowa State, who I thought played a wonderful game, was that coach Ferentz and his staff really have a controlled attack in mind when they face opponents. I think they look at a game plan from a risk/reward standpoint, and say ‘how much risk do we need to take on in order to win this ballgame?'
It was clear to me that they felt they had significantly better talent and they were going to take on very little risk on Saturday.
What does that equate to? They stayed in the running game as much as they could, even though McCarney and Iowa State were insistent on putting eight men in the box. On defense, Iowa could have easily been in the same defense the entire game, and if not, they played the same base, cover two zone at least 90 to 95 percent of the time.
Now, do you think we are going to do that against Michigan? Absolutely not. Do you think we will do that in a critical Big Ten game? No way. They will mix things up, bring pressure to try and confuse the quarterback. This week, I think they felt the smartest thing to do was stick with what they do best, and the added advantage of doing that is that we did not show the big opponents coming up what this team could really be all about.
I think that really stood out to me. I felt that if Iowa wanted to win by 20 points, they certainly could have, but it was a strategic decision on coach Ferentz's part and a pretty wise one, even though it got dicey at the end. Again, don't take that as a slight against Iowa State. They did what we expected they would do, and they did it well.
There is one more thing that I would like to add, if you don't mind. I have not been able to understand some Iowa State fans that have questioned Dan McCarney and his staff the last year. If you asked some of those fans in the mid 1990's if they would take five straight against Iowa, and then told them that some fans would be trying to ride Dan out of town or be disappointed in them a year later, that is frustrating. Coach McCarney put another great product on the field Saturday. I don't know if they are going to be a 5-6 team, I think they can get to four wins. But I was impressed with what Dan McCarney had on Saturday, so I want to tip my hat to them and their entire team; I felt they did a great job.
HAWKEYE NATION: Having talked about Iowa having a base game plan, how good does that make you feel about the chances for this football team down the road?
CH: I remain very optimistic about the entire season. The big word, as is every week, is improvement. You have to improve your level of execution. If they continue to get better from that standpoint, I think it could be a very big year. But that is the question mark. Their execution needs to get better. Only time will tell if that happens, but I remain very optimistic.
There is so much more that this team will be able to show offensively and defensively, we have not even scratched the surface yet.
HN: Talk about Drew Tate again this week. He faced an eight man front and or a blitz on nearly 85-percent of the plays or more. And with all of that being thrown at him, he completed nearly 66-percent of his passes and had the one INT that was tipped off the hands of his intended receiver
CH: I don't want to be the observer that is all compliments, but I look at quarterback play from a decision making standpoint and I don't know if he made a poor decision all day. Certainly he had some incompletions, but I thought he played almost a flawless game and was extremely impressed with him once again.
We have a huge quarterback on our hands here in Iowa City, and I think it's going to be an awesome three years. I wrote him a note last week and congratulated him on the opener and told him to start thinking about breaking some records, because he is going to bring down some of those records from (Chuck) Long and myself back in the 1980's. He is going to be a big time player.
What stood out this week for me was his accuracy. Those fade routes down the sidelines, a comeback to Calvin Davis across the field that was on a rope and four or five times where he hit his third receiver, and you could just see his eyes going through his progressions; we have not seen that the last two or three years and my hat is off to him, he is doing a great job.
But they have to get the cramps figured out. As much as anything, that was the challenge in the second half. He needed to be at 100-percent and he was not. When he slowed down, the entire offense slowed down and that was big.
HN: OK, let's try to change things up a bit here…if there was an area for criticism, might it be the inconsistency of the offensive line play? What did you see through an all Big Ten quarterback's perspective?
CH: 10 seconds before the snap and when Tate puts his hands under center, Nik Moser from Iowa State comes up from the deep free safety position over center, to being in run support, usually to the field side and took and outside linebacker stance. An analogy to that might be, that if you are playing man to man defense in basketball, is letting the offense come down with six players and you have five to play man to man with and you are expect to just stay in your base defense and execute. It's very difficult to do.
So for an offensive line to be judged on a day where they always had an extra man accountable, it's very hard to accomplish. The last two years, we got away with that because we have had one of the best offensive lines in the country. I think this could be one of the better lines in the Big Ten later this year, but for the last few years its been that on a national level.
So don't compare it versus the past. Where we might have been able to block eight people in the box in the last two years, most offensive lines can't do that. Coach Ferentz and coach O'Keefe don't pass every down. If this situation occurs in a big game, they will have to do more of that. I don't think you will see a defense be as aggressive as Iowa State was, with all those men in the box. I think Dan McCarney knows that Iowa was going to keep it pretty vanilla. McCarney knows that Ferentz is not going to be a home run hitter against Iowa State, and he takes advantage of that. (Michigan coach) Lloyd Carr knows that Iowa will have some home runs in their bag against them, so he won't try to get away with eight in the box nearly as much as McCarney did.
I am fine with the offensive line, and they do need to get better, but shoot, the pass protection was fine, we knocked out some runs, but they took advantage of our vanilla approach. I think they are progressing.
HN: You were not a kicker, but you did hold for Rob Houghtlin. Are you concerned with Kyle Schlicher's trajectory?
CH: That is a big area of concern. Because of the way we play offensively, we will have an opportunity every week to get two or three field goals. We have to make 90-perecnt of those. I can't pick out what he will have to do, but I am sure he will be talked with about it.
HN: Were there any other bright spots that you were able to pick up on from Saturday?
CH: I go back to my playmaker theme, guys stepping up at the wide receiver position. I will throw Scott Chandler in there. I think he can be that weapon at tight end and it's nice to see a guy like that emerge there as a possible pass catching TE all year. And then the rise of Clinton Solomon. I don't think he got the start on Saturday, but he got as many reps as anybody and looked good. He runs routes well, has great speed and showed super hands on those fade catches. I think that is a real positive to start adding some depth there. I felt that Chandler and Solomon really stood out as players to look to during the next couple of weeks.
HN: Those fade routes looked so pretty..a new wrinkle to the offense.
CH: They were very pretty and people just don't know…that is a difficult pass to execute. So many things have to be just right. I have never been a big believer in fade routes, just because of the perfection that is required, and hopefully they will add more to their one on one attack as we move on, but this week it was the fade route and boy…well thrown balls and excellent catches.
HN: Talk about what faces this team the next two weeks as they go on the road
CH: The first question will be how we handle the long plane ride and what Iowa's approach will be playing on the road with all of the young players. So regardless of their ability, it will still be what team and what players are going to show up on Saturday. Hopefully we don't have lapses and not see the team play to their full potential. If we are able to play at our full potential, I think we are in great shape. I think Arizona State can be pretty indicative of the Pac 10 in general, in that they are not the most physical conference in the world. Being physical and tough is what Iowa football is all about.
It sets up well for us and gives us a great challenge on the road. On offense, I would suggest that Iowa fans identify the Arizona State safeties and watch for how tight they might play on the line of scrimmage and don't be hard on the offensive line if they are bringing eight guys to stop the run. Hopefully we will get the running game going and Tate just keeps on with his winning ways.
HN: (Arizona State quarterback) Andrew Walter probably had one of his worst days last year against Iowa's base 4-3 cover two defense. They like to go vertical, but they didn't do that against Iowa. He has had a year to look at that tape, and Dirk Koetter is known for his ability to craft great offensive game plans. What does ASU do to beat Iowa?
CH: We talked about this last week. If there is one way to attack this defense, it's through the air. I thought Arizona State came out last year without much of a passing attack, which really surprised me. Maybe they felt they could run their base stuff against Iowa, but it was not sophisticated. I would expect them to be a little bit more complex this year. With that, (Iowa cornerbacks) Jovon Johnson and Antwan Allen are going to have their hands full, because they are going to see a lot. I think it will be a game where you see shotgun and the ball down the field 40 times.
It's playing smart in the back end, which Iowa did all last week save for one play, and two, getting in Walter's face early. I think Matt Roth probably walked off the field on Saturday a little frustrated with himself, because he really didn't have much impact against Iowa State. I have not seen the tape, but I don't know that he got double teamed a lot. Hopefully he and the rest of the defensive front four plays strong against the pass this week.
HN: Some fans felt that Roth was lucky to get out of Kinnick with his jersey still on, as they thought he was the victim of multiple holding infractions that were not called
CH: Holding happens on every snap with Matt Roth, so I am sure he is past that point. It is unbelievable how teams get away with that stuff.
Hartlieb's Iowa v Arizona State prediction
Iowa 20, Arizona State 17
Chuck Hartlieb, in his third year as HawkeyeNation.com's football expert, was a star at Iowa, earning All Big Ten and Academic All American honors during the 1987 & 1988 seasons. He and his wife have four children and reside in Clive, IA. He is a part of a wealth management team at Smith Barney specializing in financial planning and portfolio management for high net worth clients. To contact their team, CLICKING HERE