HAWKEYE NATION: As a quarterback, how tough is it to throw the ball week in and week out when so much of the offensive focus is squarely on your shoulders, the way that things are this year for Drew Tate?
CHUCK HARTLIEB: A quarterback loves to think about throwing the ball 40 or 50 times a game; it's a heck of a responsibility and a heck of a challenge, but it can be fun. But once you go through that once or twice, you quickly realize how much you miss the running game, because what comes so difficult is the defense does not have to respect the running game nearly as much. The defensive linemen are teeing off every snap, and you are seeing multiple coverage's that are just not run focused at all. It makes it so much harder to move the ball when you are relying on the pass so much.
HN: Is it akin to playing against a box and one or some other junk defense in basketball?
CH: Yeah, it's kind of like that. Like playing the box and one; we will take your scorer out and beat you with the rest. I think what we saw on Saturday, was that a great passing attack doesn't have a problem between the 20's, but it's so difficult relying on the pass inside the 20, because you are so squeezed and the defense still doesn't respect the run. It's very hard to get that ball in the end zone inside the 20. That was a struggle for us on Saturday. But a reason why Tate is so special, when we rolled and got him out of the pocket, that is a benefit that most teams don't have. We were pretty successful when he was outside the pocket, but still couldn't finish it off as well as they would have liked.
HN: Scott Chandler might not be as consistent in block and catching all of the passes just yet, but he has the makings of a pretty good weapon and he showed that on Saturday.
CH: I like him. He is a great target, has decent legs and Tate seems to be getting a comfort level with him. So much of that connection is confidence and the mental trust that a quarterback has to have with his receivers. It does seem like he has a belief in him, and Chandler is coming through for him. It would be nice to produce a consistent player at tight end; I think that is a huge factor for the success of the passing attack the next few years.
HN: We have analyzed Tate down over and over this year in this space, but I would like your comments on his immediately running to Clinton Solomon after he Solomon dropped what probably would have been a game clinching touchdown. Drew jumped on Clinton's back when he was on the ground, and we find out after the game that Tate got in his ear and told him that he has confidence in Clinton, and that he will come back to him, etc.
CH: That was a pretty awesome sight. I saw the same thing, and I was worried that he was going to be really animated to the negative, but he knew that he needed to pick up his teammate. It's just another sign of his intangibles; superior leadership.
My thought coming out of the stadium on Saturday was that if Orton doesn't play another game or two here, Tate, as a sophomore, should be first team all Big Ten in my opinion. That is not important to Drew I am sure, but no quarterback is playing as well as he is in the Big Ten right now, and then you throw Iowa's injury situation on top of that. I will be upset if they give it to Chad Henne. Henne is not even close to playing at the level where Tate is right now.
HN: You were a member of the crowd on Saturday, Iowa's 12th man. What were your impressions of their involvement?
CH: I thought the second half was awesome. It played a huge role in the game. I was shaking my head in the second quarter, because I think a lot of us had our hands under our seats, thinking '17-0, how bad is it going to be, this is another Ohio State.' I thought we were too quiet there, and sometimes I get a little annoyed. The music plays quietly, and there is not much going on to get the crowd involved from the press box, when we really should keep our fans awake and going when things are not going smoothly. We struggled on offense in the 2nd quarter, but we needed to keep the pressure up, as the 12th man, in the second quarter.
We got past that and the players got the fans back into it in the second half, and they stepped up and made it tough for Purdue to move the ball.
HN: Talk about the Iowa defense. Jonathon Babineaux won defensive player of the week honors in the Big Ten this week, and both he and Roth were impossible to defend, regardless of the holds that were not called.
CH: I agree. This defense is not getting near enough credit nationally as they should. We are not clicking on all cylinders on offense, and are relying on the defense to do so much from so many different areas. Those turnovers were huge in the fourth quarter. Babineaux an Roth, people don't understand, those two guys impact the quarterback's play so much even when they don't get to him. Whoever is at quarterback, he knows he has to get it out of there quick and that there is no leeway. You don't have the ability to go through your reads, you are rushing your throws and everything is off rythhym. When there is not a touch or sack, the mental anguish that a defensive line puts a quarterback through is significant.
HN: Iowa's game plan was to bring a ton of blitz packages in this game. Did you like how it played out?
CH: He (Norm Parker) brought the heat in his first couple of years, and I don't think he is against it, but he has a belief in what his 11 guys can do best and likes to stay in that system. You knew that Purdue was going to go deep from time to time, and you have to get in a quarterback's face if that is the case. I think Iowa mixed it up great. It was fun to see the dime and nickel packages really being run well. There were very few times where we were out of position. We really took Purdue's spread offense and minimized it to a three-yard hitch here or a little out route there. They never got into a groove in that game.
I think Kirsch is a good quarterback; he has a great arm and is an accurate thrower. I was watching the downfield play, and there were not a lot of guys open downfield. We were really fundamentally sound in the dime and nickel packages. When we blitzed, we weren't getting beat on double cuts, weren't letting guys get over the top. We rolled the dice on the long touchdown pass they had, but that will happen once or twice a game. Let them put seven up, but just don't let them get to 21 or 28 points, and we were certainly not at that point.
HN: Do you have any other comments before we look ahead to the Gophers?
CH: I have been impressed all year with Tate's ability to throw the quick slant or the skinny post. That is an unbelievably difficult pass to execute consistently. As opposed to a hitch or an out route, you have to worry about the linebacker dropping into the route; there is twice as much to see on a slant versus and out, so I was not surprised to see that we had some trouble with those this week. Eventually teams will know that when he hits his third step and gets set, it means the ball is coming out, so the linebackers are a little more in tune dropping back into that coverage, and the cornerbacks jump the route. So it was a struggle this week, and it cost us a little bit. It will be interesting to see that approach the next few games.
After trying to run some of those slants in the third quarter, we went back to the eight-yard outs and some sideline stuff, and I think that stuff is there. Those quick slants are tough to complete, and Purdue picked up on how to defend it.
HN: So now it's off to the dome where weather will not be a factor, obviously. There should be a strong contingent of Iowa fans, and this game sets up as strength vs. strength with Iowa's run defense and Minnesota's run offense, and strength vs. weakness with Iowa's passing offense against the Gopher's porous pass defense.
CH: I think the most impressive part of this Iowa team is its character and discipline. I am so impressed by Coach Ferentz and his staff in how focused they have this team. There is so much pride on the defense as a unit that I think this would be a fun game to play. You have two great running backs, you are in a hostile environment, and you are in a new situation that does not happen every day with the dome and the turf; that is a huge challenge for our defense.
But from a character standpoint, I think that we will come out ready to play. Hodge and Greenway have a great opportunity to show their strengths as run defenders. It's going to be interesting to see how that match up plays out; those two versus Barber and Maroney. Let's get it on. I think it will be a fun match up.
If I am Minnesota, I play off of that with play action. The corners will have to worry about them going over the top. The only vulnerability I see is play action this week, and us not being sound on the back end. But I think we will be fine there. If we don't give up the play action deep ball, we will be fine on defense.
We obviously have to keep them under 20-points, because there is no team that is more beat up on offense than the Hawks, and that continues. You keep going to the well for more and more of your new offensive packages and different ways of doing things. Hopefully we can get more than 20-points on the board and find a way to win.
Those injuries might make it interesting. I hope we can put two or three drives together and not put the defense in tough spots. I will go Iowa 20, Minnesota 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.