HAWKEYE NATION: You have been a part of some hum dingers up there in the dome and you know how things can go. There have been a few Minnesota nightmares in Iowa's past that really knocked them down a bowl notch or two, but in the end, the Hawkeyes inexplicably overcome a 337 to 6 disadvantage in the running game and survive a missed field goal.
CHUCK HARTLIEB: It's getting almost comical. That might not be the right word for it, but you get six yards rushing and everything is put on Drew Tate and the passing game and for the first time, you had a disappointing day for the defense.
Yet, in a tough environment on the road, another person steps up in Kyle Schlicher, in addition to some big plays along the way, and we come out on top. I think it goes back to the character of Coach Ferentz's ways. He will always develop high character teams, and it pays off in games like this.
HN: Drew Tate; he keeps playing so well so we have to keep talking about him. Andre Ware brought up the Fran Tarnkenton comparisons, as did Mark May after the game on ESPN. Talk about what you saw.
CH: One thing that came to mind, is that during the course of the game, you have to think about the mindset of the defense. You come into any game and you think, regardless of the running game, you are taught to respect the run and play the pass. After the first quarter, you had a defensive line that could tee off the ball, you have linebackers that are predominantly thinking about their drop zones and you have defensive backs that know every single snap that they have to be ready. You are not catching anybody off guard; everybody is on their toes and it's clear that they are going to have to pass.
When you have that mindset on a defense, THEN you see what Tate and the passing attack is doing, it's inredible. It's more than people can give it respect for. The mindset of opposing defenses is truly making it twice as difficult as it normally would be (to pass).
With that said, I think the offensive line is having a solid year. Sure, we can't get a running game, but we don't have the resources at running back right now and they are giving Tate decent protection.
Again, third and long, you don't put it all on Tate. That offensive line is holding together, the receivers are doing a great job of getting open. Tate is scrambling and they are finding the seams to get open, so I go back to crediting all eleven who are stepping it up and getting it done as well.
HN: We are getting close to end of the year, so it's time to start thinking about All Big Ten awards. If you look at Tate's numbers, you could make a strong case for him to be 1st team all Big Ten and be in the hunt for league MVP honors.
CH: I completely agree with you. It would be tough to top Braylon Edwards, but I would put him in the top three. When you think about those awards, they have been disappointing to me. They don't always reward the right guys. It's typically the number one team and the number one player off that team. Tate should be in line for all of that stuff, but unfortunately the sophomore label might hold him back, but he is amazing. He had another day of great decisions, a good arm and again, third and long is the time when a quarterback has to step up. If they step up and get it done 40 percent of the time and that is a great day. What was he in those situations, 60 or 70 percent? It was unreal.
HN: On the other side of the ball, Matt Roth is in line for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors. How would you have prepared to face a Matt Roth?
CH: That is a good question. You have to account for him differently. I think you chip him, then you have a tackle on him that knows how to hold; you think about having to get rid of the ball a lot quicker.
I think the biggest difference he makes is something you can't account for. That is when you are in the pocket and you have two or three yards to step into a throw and make a big passing play that is one thing. But what Roth does so well is that he caves in that pocket. When you are just about to release the ball and you have a tackle a couple of feet away from you, it can throw off the accuracy significantly. Regardless of what Roth does stat wise, the way he caves in a pocket and intimidates that side of the ball, you can't put a number to that.
HN: Is Kirk Ferentz the Coach of the Year?
CH: Who knows what the media and coaches will vote for, but now your fifth string tailback goes out and you have a true freshman running back in a difficult environment. That is regardless of the great Iowa following at Minnesota, because being in a dome and on turf is something different to account for. Iowa is probably the least healthy team in the Big Ten and the defense did not play their best and yet they played a great game.
If you go and look at the little things; the great decision making on both sides of the ball, the little things, this team showed a lot of discipline and focus and got a big ‘W'.
HN: You have friends across the country, many of them coaches…I don't know if you talk to them about the fan support at their school vs. Iowa. After the game, the team was ready to swarm off the field, but then chose to form a single file line and do a victory lap around the ring of the field, slapping five with the Iowa fans. Is that a special relationship, or do we just think it's uncommon because its us?
CH: I think that we have something that is a bit unique. It's Iowa City, and not a Madison, or an Ann Arbor or a Columbus. You don't have as much of a big city feel to our program. I think that creates more of a connection with the fans. Like Coach Fry, I am sure that Coach Ferentz talks about the importance of the Iowa Hawkeyes from an entertainment standpoint in the state of Iowa. You can't talk about that in the others states. From that, the players take that to heart and they understand they have a role in Hawkeye fans' lives that is a little bit greater than say a fan at Wisconsin who has the Packers and the Ohio fans who have the Browns and the Bengals.
In Iowa fans, you have the Hawkeyes, in our hearts, and because of that, the players feel more of a commitment to the fans and they see the respect they get from the fans on a weekly basis. I do think it's different. I think we have something special. They are great fans.
The other thing to bring out is that you can get a lot of over the top expectations like at Nebraska, yet Iowa fans are fair and have always been patient and supportive of the program. It is an unreal relationship.
HN: Iowa's defense had a tough day on Saturday for the first time in a long time.
CH: It was interesting on that side of the ball on Saturday. They had a huge challenge with Minnesota's running game. Iowa won the game, but I am sure that the defense didn't feel that great about how things went down. Now they have a great opportunity to finish strong.
It's not just on the shoulders of the defense. When the offense has some three and outs and they are throwing the ball a lot, as was the case on Saturday, that can put more challenges on the defense because the game is moving a little faster and you have time of possession issues, and you get winded. It will be interesting to see how they respond this Saturday.
HN: Were you shocked when you saw results between Michigan State and Wisconsin?
CH: I was and I wasn't. I felt that Wisconsin could be exposed, based on their schedule. You look at their team, they should have lost to Arizona early in the year, they had most of their tough games at home and they were undefeated. I am disappointed they are not coming into Kinnick undefeated and put this game in the spotlight, giving Iowa the chance to be the team that really makes a statement.
Besides the obvious, I think there are some interesting storylines in this game that will make it real interesting.
You have the Bielema factor, but you also have Darrell Wilson at Iowa who was on the staff at Wisconsin and was fired, so there might be a bit of a grudge match there. Then you have Brian White against Norm Parker.
Going into this game, before last week, the defenses were really the highlight of both teams. Both are coming off of difficult games. I felt going into last week, that Wisconsin and Iowa had two of the best defenses in the country. They still might be, but how will each react against the opposing offense in a critical game.
HN: Last month, Wisconsin was thinking about a possible national title and in the course of one day, and with just one game to go they get first mouthful of adversity, while Iowa has been eating adversity for breakfast for the last month. I wonder what the mental make up is of this Wisconsin game, and do you think they can refocus and change sights in one week.?
CH: I have a lot of respect for the Wisconsin coaches. I think they felt like there were some challenges on that team and that they were doing a great job, coaching wise. I think they are able to show up and give 100 percent.
What I think will be a challenge for them and where it could show well on Saturday is that John Stocco is not Drew Tate. They have struggled on offense for most of the season, and now, what a lot of people understood and what I am sure that Coach Ferentz and Coach O'Keefe have seen on film is that Wisconsin's linebackers are not an above average group.
Now, the difficult thing to expose there is with a running game, and we have not shown that ability to date. But we have usually found a way to get the job done. It will be another test to see if that Wisconsin defense is as good as their statistical rankings. But I do think they have a high character team, they have a lot to play for and though there could be a hangover, I think the bigger issue is that there were some weaknesses exposed in East Lansing. It comes down to how we take advantage of those this Saturday.
HN: It's back to Kinnick for Iowa with big things on the line. How do you see it playing out?
CH: The big storyline to me is our offense in the second half. Through no fault of our own, and due to the makeup of our team with injuries, our offense has really struggled to put points on the board. This time around, if we don't score 10 or more points in the second half, it will catch up to us. It will be interesting to see what the offense can do in the second half after not putting too many points on the board in the previous two games.
That, and I think the other key piece is that Bell and Starks, the two corners for Wisconsin play a lot of man to man. Iowa will see a lot of man-to-man, more disguising, more coverages than they have all year long. Bielema is sort of an Oklahoma disciple. He knows the Stoops' well, he really does a lot of different things on defense, so the passing attack will have a huge challenge ahead of them. But I think Bell and Starks are guys that maybe you can take advantage of. Michigan State did.
I am hoping for a strong second half out of the offense and I think the home streak is a huge advantage. I think the fans play a bigger role than ever before; they really have to step up for four quarters for us. They really don't know how big an impact they can have in a game like this, and this team needs that.
I will go Iowa 22, Wisconsin 16.