Q: What do we know about this team? They are not yet the ‘bullies of the Big Ten'; they don't really have an identity on offense or defense.
Chuck Hartlieb: I agree. I think a lot of it is still up in the air and thinking back, I think this team had a little bit of setback a year or so ago when Missouri dropped out of that game. I really wish we could have had one more game that was a little bit more of a test than Ball State and Northern Iowa. I was thinking on Saturday that Wisconsin was set up well coming into this year. They played a good MAC team and an average ACC team on the road and are 3-0. They and Michigan State probably had the most impressive first three games and got a lot of the kinks worked out going into the Big Ten season. It's doubtful that we have done that and we are going to have to put it together quickly this week and hope that Saturday, the team finds their identity and they are ready to go at their very best level.
Hartlieb: At first glance, it is a negative that UNI's QB had that success, but on the other hand, I would rather have it come out against UNI in a win than against Ohio State's speed in Columbus. So in all, it's a positive that it was brought out on Saturday and it is a concern. The defense does not want to allow that quarterback mobility as well as the ability to have guys open downfield. So it was good for them to see that in the pre-season and hopefully they can iron it out. It's tough during the week to replicate formations and schemes. In addition, UNI is going to come into the game with several new twists. Like any big game, we have to be able to adjust on the field with the leadership we have out there to make sure that we are in the proper coverage and everyone is aligned properly and they keep their technique, etc. It was good that UNI gave them that wake up call that, ‘hey, you are going to see some different things out there and you have to make the proper adjustments.'
Q: There was a caller to ‘Soundoff' on Saturday night that had an interesting thought, that Ohio State has to respect Iowa's running game based on the film. Iowa's passing game has been pretty simple thus far. Do you think we could see some new wrinkles against Ohio State that Iowa has not wanted to show, or is it a case of we are what we are?
Hartlieb: I think we will see some new wrinkles. I think it's similar to the Michigan opener last year. They threw some wrinkles in Ann Arbor last year and we will come out and do some things differently for the sake of making sure that we are using all of our big players properly for the big games. We will do some things differently, but probably more than anything else, we are going to have to see how those first few series go and how Ohio State plays us. Will they put 7 or 8 guys up there and make our receivers get open and put the ball in Tate's hands? I tend to believe they will come and play base defense and say that you are going to have to earn it on our turf on 10 or 12 play drives, we are not going to give up the big play. Iowa will have to be patient and grind it out and make sure that they are not hurtling themselves. Instead, just moving the chains. I think this will be a move the chains ball game.
Q: Is that a difficult gear for Tate to shift into, after having to throw caution to the wind last year and now things might be a patient game? Is that an evolution he can make?
Hartlieb: You fall right into my lap in that one. That has been my theme all year. I felt like last year, Drew was able to make big plays, especially in the last three games. He turned into such a huge playmaker. That trait follows you and it impacts how defenses prepare for you. I said at the start of the season was patience, and that it would be tougher this year. It will be tougher this year. I think the Ohio State DC is going to preach ‘keep the kid in the pocket, keep the receivers in front of you, make this kid earn it. Hit him and beat him up as much as you can.' But when they do that, they do allow opportunities one to run the ball and two, to throw underneath and nit pick at things. Allow you to hit the quick slants, the backs, the tight ends on the five yard out route. We are going to have to take that until we break them down enough to maybe create a big play. But at first, it's going to be patience, patience, patience.
Q: Is the Big 10 as deep as you can remember?
Hartlieb: It's always tricky coming into conference play across the country. It is as balanced as I have seen it. I think Minnesota and Wisconsin are threats that we did not think were on the highest of levels going into the season. It was great to have Michigan State win at Notre Dame. It will be a fun Big Ten season, which leads to more hope for the Hawkeyes, because scheduling issues with Purdue and others. I think maybe it looks like our Big Ten schedule is more advantageous than it was three weeks ago (not playing MSU and PSU).
Q: Iowa is 19-2 the last three years in October and November, but they have lost four games in September during that same run. There has to be some type of theme, but this team is not playing veteran ball yet. Does Iowa's philosophy take a little bit longer to develop that identity and become they team they are going to be?
Hartlieb: It's hard to say. My gut reaction is to say that we have one of the best coaching staffs in the country, if not the best. Our head coach has proved it the last three years. You have to trust him in this situation. From a preparation standpoint, his system works. We have been happy fans at the end of the year for four straight years. You have to trust that he has something that works. We have said year in and year out, is that you want to win in the Big Ten and the non conference games are preparation games. It has worked well in the past and I trust it will work out again. In addition to that, I think this team reflects Coach Ferentz even keel philosophy. He is a very level headed, not overly emotional head coach. I like the fact that his team reflects that at least from playing a complete season point of view, over the last three years.
Q: Some fans right now are a little nervous, not knowing what they have with this team. What would you say to them?
Hartlieb: It feels a lot like it did last year, coming off Arizona State there were a lot of fans and supporters wondering what type of team we had. I am optimistic going into this game. The biggest fact we have to rely on is how we played against them last year. We have the potential to go over there and win and start off the Big Ten 1-0. Hopefully we can just play off the confidence that we gained against them last year. We have to play a good overall special teams game, low turnovers on offense and a defense that does not give up the big play. That is obviously the equation each week, but I don't think we have to have big offensive plays to win the game. I think we have to win the time of possession game and have a defense that makes Troy Smith, Ted Ginn and those guys go 10, 12, 14 plays to earn it.