HAWKEYE NATION: Two weeks ago, you told us some things that, as of right now, look pretty profound. You threw up a caution flag with regards to Iowa now being the hunted, as well as how hard it is to get your team up for each and every game to match the intensity of your opponent. It looks like you were dead on. (link to 9/7 MMQB)
CHUCK HARTLIEB: I really think a lot of people underestimate the approach that 20 year olds have to take to play a game. So much of it is in preparation. When I mentioned that at the start of the year, I just knew this was going to be a huge issue for the Hawks, regardless of talent, regardless of injuries; the mental approach to the game is so critical.
Now after the Arizona State game, we are seeing that. I felt this was a two-fold issue. One, we are going to be circled on people's schedule throughout the season, which we have not really gone through in the past. Two years ago, we were circled as win on a lot of people's schedules, so we were able to sneak up on some people to a certain degree. Now it's the opposite.
On the other side, it's easy to drop it down one notch and say ‘we've made it, we are a top 10 team' and the emotion and desire are a little bit less. I am not saying that is the case, but I am saying that it's tougher for the Hawkeyes to prepare and be at their best on Saturday's this year because of the success of the last two years. It's just that much harder to get your team motivated.
HN: Having said that, the way in which Iowa lost the game was hard to swallow for some people, and downright shocking.
CH: You have to give credit to Arizona State. But they could easily go 6-5 or 7-4 from here on out, because again, I think this was the one game that they really had circled. They came hard and they came ready to play. On the other side, Iowa looked a little flat, and when the two collide, like you just said Jon, you are reporting on an autopsy after the game.
HN: Chuck, talk about what you saw out of Iowa's defense on Saturday. Granted, they did not get any help from their offense and were on the field a lot, but that was not what Iowa fans have grown accustomed to seeing from the Iowa D..
CH: From a philosophical, ‘How do we handle the defense this year' side of things…from the second half of last year through the Outback Bowl, we clearly became a base 4-3 defense, with very little pressure being brought on the quarterback. The coaching staff might have looked at that Florida game and felt that they went up against a team similar to Arizona State, with a strong quarterback, fast wide receivers and they were able to leave Grant Steen in the game, played very little nickel and rely on the front four for the pass rush. So you can see the logic of continuing that theme into this year.
That being said, I think it's awfully challenging on the defense to leave George Lewis in the slot and rely on your front four to pressure. I am not there at practice during the week, but I would raise the point that in a game like this, it's interesting to not see more nickel being played and or a variety of blitz packages being brought against Walter. You know going in that you have to get pressure on Walter and you could see early on that the front four was not getting it done.
But, you have had great success with the base defense, so you can see the coaches not going into panic mode and stick to what got them there.
However, you are putting pressure on your defensive backs when you don't have a nickel back in the slot and you are relying on George Lewis there to have your flat coverage and your seam coverage. They are on the 10-yard line going in and Lewis is lined up against one of those wide receivers on one of their touchdown passes and they just throw a seam route right over the top of him. That is a pretty unique coverage, and if you are going to go against a multiple wide receiver set, a lot of times you bring in an extra cornerback to line up against the slot.
Again, I don't know the whole approach, but that is a lot to ask from a linebacker. So it's not just the pressure, but also your coverage scheme and who gives you the best matchups out there.
And that leads me to the fact that they miss the leadership of Norm Parker a little bit. Not having Norm there has to make some impact. The Hawkeye fans have to remember that this is still a non-conference game, so there is no reason to throw in the towel.
HN: You played at Hawaii and at Arizona in your career. Talk about how your teams felt the next week as your prepared to play and what type of an impact playing late at night has and do the effects linger?
CH: It's a tough, tough spot to be in. Momentum can build upon itself, regardless of whether it's positive or negative. Once you get that negative momentum ‘rolling', and I think this thing started early in the year with injuries; when you have some key players going down right off the bat, and now you have to deal with this loss, this is where senior leadership is real critical.
We talked about that early in the season, too. They have to hope that these seniors are strong leaders and get this team back; don't hit the panic button. It's a hard spot to be in, and don't take it for granted that it's easy to bounce back from. Once that negative momentum gets rolling, it's tough to stop
HN: Talk about the next task at hand, traveling to play Michigan on the heels of this crushing defeat.
CH: I don't think it matters if it's Northwestern or who they play this week, you have to worry about yourself and the key things that are important to Iowa football and make sure that they come out on Saturday, it does not matter who you are playing, just turn things around.
On defense, it's back to getting pressure on the quarterback. On offense, I think that the most alarming thing is handling the pass rush. The one point I would bring up is that picking up the blitz is very critical if you are going to succeed on offense. Once a defense sees a little bit of blood, it can start gushing, which is what happened on Saturday night. They have to prove to other teams that they can pick up the blitz. That is mental just as much as physical.
I would really focus a lot of time getting the team mentally prepared to pick up the blitz. It's not just the offensive line; it's your running backs, your quarterback and being poised enough to handle the rush. I think Michigan will bring (the blitz) at least a dozen times on Saturday. If they do, can we pick it up? Heck, we might have some incompletes, we might have some drops. But you really want to see them handle the coverage and give Tate a shot.
I think Iowa has a good shot on Saturday because they have traditionally done well at Michigan, I think they have great leadership and I believe they are resilient. However, I think that Michigan has a bigger circle on this game than Arizona State did. Who wants THIS game more. I hope the Hawks come out and get the win, which might be the greatest of Coach Ferentz's career, coming off of this loss. But I think Michigan has too much, and it's tough to beat them three times in a row. I will go Michigan 20, Iowa 10.
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.