CHUCK HARTLIEB'S OPENING COMMENTS ON IOWA-MICHIGAN
I think back to the two-plus seasons of great performances and huge wins. Every once in a while you get a bump in the road, and we have had two rough weekends. But in the big picture, you know that these things happen and you have to focus on getting better and moving on.
I thought it was a little consoling that they did have flashes of strength, and I felt Michigan was the better team. But we created a lot of problems for ourselves, and with that being the case, hopefully we can fix those problems. I still remain optimistic that this is a bowl team and that they will get it turned around.
HAWKEYE NATION: How do you get an offensive line turned around that is not creating any type of running game and has yielded some lofty sack totals?
CH: Sometimes you just don't have a strong running game, and you turn into a 60-percent pass team or more. I think we have a quarterback that can handle that type of responsibility. Tony Jackson stepped up last week, Clinton Solomon is a top-notch wide receiver, Hinkel is fantastic as you saw and (Matt) Melloy should be coming back soon; so maybe they rely on the passing game. They showed a desire to do that some on Saturday.
Hopefully that will give you more opportunities in the running game. So instead of teams coming in and thinking run, run, pass, Iowa might say pass, pass, run and create more holes. I hope we transition to more of a passing team this year, I think that is the best solution. Now, I am not there day to day, but I think the capabilities are there.
Against Michigan and other Big Ten teams, there are a lot of dink and dunk type of opportunities against the zones. They went to Mickens once or twice; I would like to see them go back to the things that have worked previously, too. To think you can only run a passing play that works, once…Michigan had deep drops out of their linebackers and were playing a soft cover four zone. I think there were more opportunities underneath than what were taken advantage of.
HN: Earlier this year, you have spoken highly of Drew Tate. This week, he had another solid game and showed his toughness.
CH: Each week, it seems like we see a new attribute in Tate. His toughness came out on Saturday. His core qualities are strong; we don't need to rehash those. But I think this is the type of kid that you can put the team on his back and ride some. I thought that Michigan played our waggle-bootleg pretty well, but his feet got him out of some pressure and he kept rolling and got his opportunities outside of the pocket. He took some bad plays and turned them into good ones. He will learn to throw the ball away when something is not there, too. But on the whole, I think he is a weapon for Iowa that we need to see more of.
Yes, he had two interceptions, but I felt that Solomon tip toed out of his break on the slant (first half INT) and that might be more on Clinton than Tate. Drew threw it as if the receiver would be coming out of his break strong and Solomon tiptoed into it. The second one was a zone blitz coverage where you have a rolled corner, and again, who knows what they were thinking there, but that corner was just sitting on the out route. I would be curious if Solomon was clear on what route he was going to run or if that was the right route with the blitz on. I am not trying to make excuses for Tate, because in the end, the quarterback takes the responsibility.
HN: Talk about Clinton Solomon if you will from a former quarterback's perspective.
CH: People think that being a receiver is go run 15 yards, turn around and catch the ball. There are a lot of mental development that has to go on there. I would assume that is Clinton's only weakness. He has great routes, he has the potential to be a good route runner on a consistent basis, because he does show that, too, and I really like his size and speed. Everything is there; I think he just has to mentally develop what it takes snap to snap in the passing game. It's a quick decision game; if he does not have his head into it completely, that can cause problems. Other than that, I think he is in good shape.
HN: Last week, you talked about Iowa's linebackers lining up on Arizona State's wide outs. Then this week, Iowa got beat on that again and there were some plays where Henne just missed open players…but Iowa later mixed in some nickel packages and even blitzed out of those. Should this team play more nickel and dime?
CH: I would keep rotating multiple defensive packages into a game. Keep mixing it up, keep their quarterback off guard. Do a little bit of everything. It's so predictable for an offensive coordinator when they know that 90-percent of the time they will get the same look, so it's that much easier. I think the blitz packages with the five and six defensive backs worked well and it slowed Michigan down when we went that way.
I would love to be a reporter and ask on Tuesday the philosophy behind those two plays in the second quarter (for Michigan). Braylon Edwards was one on one with Jovon, but on first down, Michigan has four of the best receivers in the country, and if you see four receivers run onto the field, your decision might be to put five DB's in at the same time. There must be a reason why they don't want to do that, so you can't help but wonder why they stay away from that.
Boom, Edwards gets you deep and then they come back on the next possession and Edwards gets you underneath with a linebacker on him down to the one yard line in a matter of minutes, and both were in base defenses. It will be interesting to see how they move forward; will they go more nickel or will they stay out of that until they feel they have to use it?
HN: From a former player's perspective, after Iowa had its second fumble there in the third quarter, Chad Greenway was jawing with the offensive unit as they were coming off of the field, and he was not telling them to keep their heads up, I can guarantee you that. Is that a bad thing or a good thing when you see something like that?
CH: I think Greenway leads by example and no one is giving more out there than he is, so I am sure he has the respect of each and every one of his guys, so for him to actually do that, I would see as a positive. He is laying it out there and he expects everyone else to do that. And we were not sharp offensively, and he was making a statement. If it were somebody else who has different qualities, it might be a different story. But I think that it probably was received OK.
HN: You final thoughts on the Michigan game…
CH: For me, as a fan now, it's fun to sit back and see how a team reacts to something like what we have seen the last few weeks. There have been multiple mental mistakes that are all correctable. I think we can get this thing going on the right track pretty easily, but it will be interesting to see how this team overcomes that. There are a lot of mental mistakes taking place on both sides of the ball, and my guess is that we will correct most of them and get back on track this weekend.
HN: Looking ahead to this week, it's a similar situation to last year. You lose your Big Ten opener, and you have a must win situation before heading into the bye week and then having to play against Ohio State. Iowa beat Michigan at home in the second game a year ago, and went on to a 5-3 league finish. How important is this game against Michigan State?
CH: I think this is twice the must win situation than it was last year. I can't remember seeing a bigger must win out there than what Iowa faces this week. Because of the remaining schedule as well as the way they have lost the last two games. It might be a snowball that you can't stop if you lose this one. It's a critical week of practice and everyone has to lay it on the line.
It's good and well to say ‘let's get a ‘W' this week and then have a week to prepare for Ohio State.' I really think this team has the ability to get it back on track. I see them winning the next two games. I think this team has a lot of heart. They have been knocked down, but there is plenty of leadership that can turn this thing around. I see a wins in the next two games.
But I think the passing game will be key, and they need to continue to develop that. I hope we can get past the original scripted 10 plays to provide your only touchdown of the first half. What I think is really important is to have the base offense putting together long drives. You have to keep the defense off the field. After the first drive, lets hope hat we see some sustained drives. I think we will win 24-9 and the defense has to get a score. We are missing the big plays on defense this year.
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.