HAWKEYE NATION: It was not the prettiest ball game you will ever see, but I maintain that many of us will always remember Iowa's 6-4 win against Penn State very fondly, given the circumstances of the season and the week.
CHUCK HARTLIEB: I agree. Defensively, if you can ever call something a perfect game, would that not be it? I was really impressed with the type of defense we played for four quarters. Offensively, we put them in some pretty difficult spots throughout the game.
So often when you are on the road, their offense is just going to fall into one or two big plays and end up getting you, but for Iowa to not give up one of those plays the whole game (by the defense) was just outstanding. They have to feel good about themselves. Coach Parker has them playing at full tilt again and they are very aggressive.
That being said, I do not know if I have seen a more antiquated offense for a division one name school like Penn State, so I am sure they have to be a little embarrassed in what they are putting out there offensively right now.
Regardless of who you are playing, and Coach Fry used to say you could be playing Iwojima Junior College, and if you shut them out, you should feel pretty good about yourself.
Your brother was on the 1991 team that beat Ohio State 16-9 in Columbus. The week leading up to that game, there were some murders on Iowa's campus, and the game was very emotional, just like this game was. Have you ever seen such an example of raw emotion as what Kirk Ferentz showed on Saturday? He went from being a coach to a grieving son right before our eyes, and instantly.
CH: I had the benefit of seeing Coach Ferentz on a daily basis back in the 1980's, and I knew he was a strong family man. Then when he came to Iowa the second time around, I knew that regardless of the success he would have, that would always be at his core. I learned over the summer that his father was not in very good health. I am sure that it was extremely hard for Kirk to have his father pass away and not be there, and then to have it during the Penn State week almost seemed like there was a message there, and I am sure it was hard for the entire family all week.
When you can still get your players to play as hard as they did for him last week, combined with how important the past week had been to him, the emotions got to him and you saw what Coach Ferentz is all about. He is just a great, great person.
HN: Though they were not being tested by the likes of Derek Hagan or Braylon Edwards, Iowa's secondary played outstanding against Penn State..
CH: I hope that it gives our pass defense some more confidence as they get closer to the Purdue game. The corners made some great plays and Considine jumped a couple of routes; that was really impressive. Unfortunately, I have to think those guys are shaking their heads, because the routes looked like they were poorly run and there was not much complexity to what Penn State is doing. So you almost have to take it with a grain of salt in one regard, but in another way, you have to be impressed that they played a flawless game. They jumped routes well and they got the turnovers. Regardless of what is happening on the other side of the ball, that defense is really, really impressive and again, hopefully a setup for the Purdue game two weeks away.
HN: On the other side of the ball, Iowa struggled quite a bit. Drew Tate struggled on the road. He appeared to be a bit hyper, as he was throwing bullets from close range and missed a lot of his targets on the day. Did that type of performance surprise you?
CH: First of all, it's really frustrating for me to watch a game like that on TV and not have any film to look at, because it's very difficult to make any assumptions at all when you are not seeing all 22 guys on the field and not seeing what is happening in the secondary. I would preface anything I say on this subject that I really couldn't see what was happening downfield.
My sense is that this was the first game that we have played in a long time where Iowa's opponent game planned for something other than gearing up to stop the run. Every team we have played to that point has tried to stop the run and make Iowa beat them with the pass. I don't think Ohio State really tried to take Tate out of the game last week.
This was a game where I felt that Penn State said, ‘these guys are not threatening from a running standpoint, so we have to make sure that we don't give up the big plays and take away their key schemes in the passing game.'
It's a difficult adjustment to make for an offense. One, you have a defense that I felt was extremely impressive. Two, you are playing in front of 107,000, so it's difficult to get your signals and communication as strong as it needs to be, and then three, it's an offense that is still maturing. We have not been a pass-dominated offense for several years; it has evolved over the last three weeks.
Those factors lead me to believe that we did what was necessary and chalk another one up to experience. Hopefully we can continue to adjust the offense for when we go into those tough environments and against good defenses.
HN: Let's expand on Drew Tate. He has played outstanding football coming into this game, but he certainly did not have the kind of game he would have liked. What did you see from your expert perspective?
CH: A few things stood out to me that we had not seen in previous weeks with Drew, and it will be interesting to see how things play out these last four games.
One, he has to be frustrated and was probably a little shocked as to how many balls were knocked down. I think that tends to happen when your front four on defense are thinking pass more than run. I really didn't see a strong pass rush, but you saw the defensive linemen trying to find the lanes and knocking the balls down. That was a critical part of the game, because those things happened on third downs.
I don't know if it is a factor of height or not. I don't know if a 6-foot-3 guy can get them knocked down as easily as a 5-11 guy. So it will be interesting the next few weeks to see if he can find his lanes better and if the linemen for Iowa might be able to do a little better job of cutting the defensive linemen, so they don't have the ability to reach up and knock the balls down.
The other thing that was interesting was Drew's animated play. He is a very emotional player with a huge heart. But to a certain degree, I was surprised at how much emotion he was showing out there. I can't comment as to how it affects those around him, but I hope that his teammates are looking at it as positive energy and not any negative energy coming out there, because he was quite frustrated.
That comes with maturity, and he needs to look back at games like this and see where he needed to get better with the intangibles and from an execution standpoint.
HN: Looking ahead a bit to the Illinois game. They have a hard time stopping the run and Iowa might be able to do some things on the ground against them. Damien Sims did not play much last week, as Sam Brownlee and Aaron Mickens got most all of the carries. Is this a time to see if Sims can be a weapon for you, because there seemed to be some holes there last week, perhaps because of the reasons you just mentioned?
CH: I looked at the stats a little closer and saw about 20 rushes for 64 yards out of the running backs. I felt like the offensive line did create more holes than they had in previous weeks, so I was surprised by the statistics. I think there is still some room for hope in the ground game, and I liked Brownlee's effort and it would be nice to see what Sims can do.
But I don't think any of us should pass judgment on playing time at running back. Carl Jackson and Kirk Ferentz know who is going to give them the best opportunity to move the ball. They know who can pick up the blocking schemes and make the right adjustments in the passing game and who can run with the ball. If that is Sam Brownlee 90-percent of the snaps, then he is the right guy to have out there. I wouldn't try to judge or guess on personnel when you are not able to be a part of it seven days a week.
But I agree, I think there is some hope in that running game, I think the offensive line is getting better every week. Going into the Illinois game, I don't see a letdown; because on offense, there are a lot of things to work on to get better for the big games at the end of the year.
HN: Since we are talking Illinois, and you are a former teammate and a friend to Chuck Long, Illinois head coach Ron Turner is under fire and if he is replaced after this year, a name that has come up recently for that job is Long's. What do you know about that and do you think Long would be interested in that job?.
I am not very close to the situation with Chuck and Oklahoma, but my understanding is that Chuck is very comfortable in Norman and the family is really enjoying the environment down there. He is a lot like Kirk Ferentz, in that he has young kids going through school and has moved a few times already. My sense is that Chuck will be at Oklahoma for several more years. He is certainly deserving of being a candidate at a Division one school, but I would be very surprised if he got serious about any head coaching jobs for the next couple of years.
HN: As is the case with Ferentz's Iowa teams, they are getting better, on the whole, as the calendar gets closer and closer to November. How do you see things shaping up this week?
It seems that they may be nearing their peak as a team, and when you look ahead to the challenges of November, that is critical.
I think this team is riding some great emotion and momentum, and I don't see a let down at Illinois. They might have a hard time getting up for the game, just because it is Illinois, a team that is struggling. The defense plays with a lot of heart and character, so I see them continuing their steady play.
Offensively, I am sure that group will work hard this week and get both phases of the offense going for a road game. I think they probably feel that they need to take it to another level this week. I think we will come out with a strong attack and have a good game. I will go with Iowa 26, Illinois 10.
HN: Looking down the road to November, can you remember a final month of a season that has as many challenges as what faces Iowa this year?
CH: I have said for the last few weeks, someone has to tell me a bigger end of the year game than what is shaping up for Iowa this year. Obviously, there hasn't been, because Minnesota has not been in the hunt very often and we typically have played them last. To have potentially an undefeated Big Ten game in Wisconsin, that is likely to happen, and where Iowa could be in a great spot for a big bowl game, that game at Kinnick could be among the biggest in the last 20 or 30 years on Iowa's schedule, and I am getting excited at it already.