Greenway, Mattison Answer Critics

With high expectations coming into the season, a 2-2 start brought out Iowa's armchair quarterbacks. The Hawkeyes' young defensive line and senior linebacker Chad Greenway took much of the heat. They say it comes with the territory and are using the neagtive comments as motivation. And don't be surprised if they make their critics eat their words. Read what they had to say in this full-length feature from Senior Writer Rob Howe.

One look at Chad Greenway's left forearm reveals all you need to know about this tackling machine. A gash colored several shades of purple held together by random stitches festers on it. It's painful just looking at it.

"It happened in the second quarter of the Ohio State game," the senior said. "They stitched it up at halftime. Some of the stitches have popped."

Tough guys like Greenway play with pain. They also swat criticism away like a pesky fly.

"I love it," he said Tuesday outside of the Iowa Football Complex. "I know I can get better as a football player. That's something that you just have to do as an athlete every day. People are always going to have their opinions. But really what matters to players and what matters to me is what my coaches think.

"As long as I give my best effort every play, I know that I'm playing as hard as I can. That's really all I can control is what I'm doing and how hard I play and if I'm executing the game plan. It's always good to have criticism. If you can learn from the criticism and weed out what's legitimate and not, it can help you in some ways."

Greenway entered the season with as much fanfare as anyone of the Hawkeyes with the possible exception of Drew Tate. When Iowa fell to 2-2 following a loss at Ohio State two weeks ago, fans on message boards, radio call-in shows and the media heaped on a lot of the blame on Greenway.

"People are going to have things to say," Greenway said. "If we were 5-0 right now, people wouldn't be saying much. It's something that comes with losses. You're going to take some heat, especially being a senior leader. That's something to be expected. It's not really anything to worry about."

Iowa's inexperienced defensive line also has felt the wrath of the armchair quarterbacks. Some folks have given up on the unit, saying it's too small and nothing can change that this season.

"We hear it," Mattison said. "We just try to go out and get better and try to put it back in their face. It's motivation. You don't like seeing that stuff. People are saying that the D-line is this and that, which I don't know how much of it is true. You just have to keep working."

Observers expected there to be growing pains for the defense with a line of four new starters. However, actually seeing it struggle has caused some fans to forget that it takes time for the group to mature.

"If you've got one guy doing one thing and another guy doing another thing, you're on two different pages," Mattison said. "That doesn't work. If Matt (Kroul) and I are on two different pages, it's going to be a broken defense. Even if it looks like we're going different directions, we all need to be on the same page. It all goes into the team defense concept."

So, maybe when you see Greenway getting beat on pass play to a wide receiver, that's sometimes the result of a breakdown elsewhere on the defense. It takes time for a defense to learn cohesiveness and for the coaches to figure out how the parts fit together.

You remember way back in 2002, when Iowa started the season giving up passing yards by the bushel. The sky was falling, right? Well, the young corners and linemen matured and figured it out.

You could tell in the second half of Saturday's 31-7 victory against Illinois that things started to click for this defense. Blitzes became more effective, the pass rush increased its pressure and the tackling improved.

Oh, plenty of improvement areas remain. Iowa ranks 74th in the country in rushing defense (156.0 Yards per Game) after ranking in the Top 10 nationally for the last three seasons. The Hawkeyes sit 98th in the country in third down conversion defense, allowing opponent success 45.1 percent of the time.

"I know we made a step (against Illinois)," Mattison said. "I know coach talked about making a step, but that needs to be bigger. We definitely made some strides but it's definitely not where we need to be."

And the young defensive linemen avoid making excuses.

"It takes time, but then again, it's one of those things you can't lean on," Mattison said. "You can't be like, "That's OK. We're just a young defensive line." That doesn't matter. The guy across from you is not going to take it easy on you because you're a young player. If anything, he's going to go harder."

I vividly recall a warm fall day much like Tuesday back in '02. We reporters pounded safety Derek Pagel about the problems with pass defense. He smiled and said they were disappointed but beginning to figure some things out. Greenway, Mattison and Abdul Hodge gave me that same feeling on Tuesday.

Will the Hawkeyes defense compare with that of Ohio State by year's end? That's highly unlikely. However, it seems like right around this time every year, these coaches and players manage to patch together a remedy for what ails it, whether it is ‘02's pass defense or the offensive line in '03 or the running game of '04.

COACH TATE: Iowa quarterback Drew Tate has been known to lose his cool on occasion. When he has needed to get back on track, he has looked to his head coach, Kirk Ferentz.

"That's what makes him a successful coach," Tate said. "He doesn't get caught up in anything. He doesn't dwell on anything. You have to move on in this game. You can't worry about what happened. You've just got to move forward.

"I'm going to coach someday. I take a lot of things from what he does; how to handle things. I'll just see where it leads. I wouldn't mind retiring and then coaching high school back in Texas."

Retiring? That's the first I can remember of Tate alluding to an NFL career.

EXTRA POINTS: Iowa last won in West Lafayette in 1991…Ferentz said Tuesday that he would continue to work true freshman Dace Richardson into a rotation with Ben Gates at left tackle…RB Shonn Greene injured his shoulder Saturday or he would have seen more action, Ferentz said. The coach said the freshman was healthy and would see action this week…A loss by Purdue would drop it to 2-3 for the first time under head coach Joe Tiller…Purdue' starting offensive line with tight ends averages 6-5, 287. Iowa's defensive line averages 6-3, 253.


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