Q: Iowa fell into a 10-0 hole in the first quarter and a lot of people were wondering if they could come back. From the second quarter on, the defense played great and the team showed it had the heart.
Chuck Hartlieb: I agree completely. I was thinking about this today and wanted to raise up two names, and two names that we have not talked about nearly as much and need tremendous accolades for the season and the game, and those are Norm Parker and Drew Tate. With Norm, he lost an entire defensive line and he has two of the best linebackers in the country, and the secondary is not the strongest in the world, though they are capable. Norm has had a great season coordinating his team, making calls and getting them ready week in and week out.
If you would have told me three weeks ago that you basically hold Michigan to 17 in regulation, Northwestern to 14 points for 57 minutes and Wisconsin to ten points, that is just amazing. He has had a great year and I think all Hawkeye fans should recognize what he has accomplished with his defense again this year. I have heard Norm talk a few times, and he talks about one word and that is toughness. I think we ‘out toughed' Wisconsin, and they are a tough guy team. When you see our guys flying around with a lot of hustle and guts, they were really impressive from a hitting and toughness standpoint. That was the big difference.
With regards to Tate, we have been three or four plays away all year on offense. As I look at the season, I think we have a good solid set of receivers, but we certainly have had too many dropped passes, routes not run as well as they had been in previous years and yet Drew has hung in there well. He would be the first to say that he has not played a perfect season, but to me, Drew Tate had a tremendous game, showed great leadership and poise. It's no fun throwing a wet ball in a game where you know you have to get it in the air to win it. I just thought he showed great intangibles, and to me, that is what he is all about. If it wasn't for Basanez, he would have my vote for first team all Big Ten. Even comparing him to Basanez, that is a quarterback that is a product of the system. I still believe that Drew is the most talented quarterback in the league, and in the second half of the year, he is showing that.
When you take all of the intangibles, his footwork, his mental approach to the game, I am sure that Coach Ferentz or O'Keefe would say that he had three or four big audibles on the line to get us into the right running plays. He is the total package. It has not been a perfect year for him in wins and losses, but I hope he is proud of what he has done this year, because he has done a tremendous job.
Q: The Offensive Coordinator is always an easy target, especially in this Play Station age. Ken O'Keefe took his share of heat after the Michigan and Northwestern second halves where Iowa scored just three points in each game in regulation. This week, Iowa executed better and the game plan seemed spicier.
Hartlieb: It was fun to see. There are so many things that go into an offensive game plan in either half. I have not been overly concerned about play calling like others, because when you have a Norm Parker on the other side, and confidence in your defense, and you combine that with an offensive set of players that have not executed ideally, and again I would go back to saying you would shake your head and some wide receiver issues we have had. They have not played poorly, but there are three or four times in a game where we don't get it done. I don't think the last few weeks have been that bad. On Saturday, he mixed it up extremely well and I think he felt like he needed a big play to get us started and he and Drew set up that deep post to Solomon perfectly. I hope each and every Iowa fan that was concerned about play calling can also have enough to step up and look at those two touchdowns in the second half.
The first one was to Davis, the second to Majerus. You have to give a round of applause for two great calls. You had third and medium and he set up a great pick play, a well designed play to a wide open Davis where Jon Miller could have completed that pass. But that is a well designed coordinator created play. Then to follow it up on 3rd and two when everyone in the house is thinking its coming to Young, and you go for it with the flag route to Majerus, that is a tremendous call and its created during game week and takes guts to call when you could have tried to punch it and if not, take the field goal. It was an ideal second half and a lot of it had to do with O'Keefe's play calling.
Q: Iowa overcame more than just a football team on Saturday; it was Senior Day and Coach Alvarez's last game.
Hartlieb: I really see great character in this team. It has become such a trait of Coach Ferentz's groups. When you see guys coming off the field during a play, everyone hustles to the ball, such hard hitting defenses and an offense that is hustling, you just know that eventually things will come your way. In previous years, or when I have seen teams not be able to close out big games, you don't see that kind of character. I think that the heart of this team is what has gotten them through it. They just know what to do when they step on that field. It was unfortunate the way the Northwestern and Michigan games turned out.
Q: Iowa also took the crowd out of the game, a place that has a great environment.
Hartlieb: A workmanlike approach, which is Ferentz's style. I was there and I was a little concerned. I didn't see a lot of emotion on Iowa's sidelines in the first half. It think more than anything else they were focused and into the game. They just knew what it was going to take. You were worried at 10-0, but that was off of a tipped ball interception and a goofy screen that was well executed. After that it was three points the rest of the way. This team really wants to get the best bowl game possible and knew it would take a heck of an effort in Madison.
Q: You always enjoy going to a game at Camp Randall, because of the environment. How was it on Saturday.
Hartlieb: I really enjoy great college atmospheres and I like Camp Randall and some other stadiums and the effort that gets put on by the students and that has to do with the people in charge of the scoreboard. I would love to hear from our Iowa folks who make those decisions at Kinnick on how we can get more music and more activity. Anyone that was in Camp Randall on Saturday had a lot of fun and heard a different song every TV timeout. If we can do that, and let those folks in Iowa City see that, seeing that we don't need all that silence during TV timeouts. It's great for the team to have the fans stay involved all game long and you have to get that music going more. Camp Randall does that well and hopefully Kinnick can focus on doing that a little bit.
Q: Minnesota presents the usual challenge; a great rushing offense powered by one of the best offensive lines in college football. Will this be the toughest of Iowa's final three games?
Hartlieb: This will be a difficult game after two emotional games. But as far as 11 on 11 lining up against them, I would say the games are similar. The thing that worries me the most is that offensive line for Minnesota against our defensive line that is strong on the quickness aspects, but from a man on man in a running game, they have their work cut out for them. I think it goes back to us having time of possession and putting some long drives together in the first half and forcing Minnesota to get out of their rhythm and be down 14-3, 17-7 and not allow them to just run it. If we can do some well scripted plays in the first quarter, that could put a dagger in them early and hopefully gets them out of their running game where they are so strong. It goes back to Iowa's focus and our commitment to the season more so than what Minnesota will bring. I think we have to worry about ourselves and getting ourselves ready to play a game like we did at Wisconsin instead of one of those games where we look back at 8 to 10 plays and say that was not our opponent doing it to us; it was just us not executing.