Q & A with Chuck Hartlieb

In this week's chat with former Iowa great Chuck Hartlieb, we break down the Iowa-Iowa State game unit by unit. Hartlieb was impressed with the group of receivers this week, as well as the play of Drew Tate. He is also a big fan of Iowa's opening the playbook against ISU. That and much more...

Q: From a layman's point of view and not seeing the entire field, I thought that from an overall command of a game, leadership, etc, it was one of Drew Tate's three or so best games at Iowa.

Chuck Hartlieb: I would agree with you. I get worried sometimes that I pump Drew Tate up too much in this column, but after a game like that, I feel like I know a little bit about what I am talking about. How he can manage a complete game and be a great leader is a huge thing, and he did that. Being down 14-3 creates panic in anyone. All you saw him get was more confident, show his leadership ability more and make play after play after play. I thought there were some critical times where he used his feet, and we didn't see that as much last year. He made two or three nice runs, and had that scramble to the left and an overthrow to Chandler. What a great game except for the fourth quarter interception. Hopefully he is getting confident with the whole group, and Coach O'Keefe is getting more confident in him to say lets put it in Drew's hands and drive us to a huge season.

Q: Iowa had what is an aggressive game plan for them on Saturday, throwing the ball on first down, using different formations, trick plays. Was that as much fun for you as it was for me?

Hartlieb: I agree with you completely. After all these years of Coach Ferentz's football philosophy and having it work out so well, to watch these past two weeks have been surprising and more enjoyable for me. When you have a quarterback at this level, you can have this kind of a package. I have not seen any interviews from the coaches the last few weeks, but I am curious to see the message they are sending by letting Iowa focus more on the pass. Maybe it's a belief that they have to have a much more balanced attack by the time we get to our first Big Ten game. That is my read into it. Let's not be run oriented in the preseason, let's go in totally confident in our overall offensive package. Unique plays, multiple formations, gusty calls. Jon, you and I have caught flack in past years, at least I have, on my comments that we have kept things vanilla against Iowa State. If you look back, maybe you can say Hartlieb was right. We used formations this week we had never used before. That is what I am talking about. We didn't save it for the big Big Ten games. We needed those packages this week for this game, right off the bat. Hats off to the Cyclones, great game on their part, a balanced match, and it was great to come out on top.

Q: It seemed like when Iowa lined up in its base formation with one wide out on each side, two tight ends and the one running back, ISU was walking the safety down into the box, giving them eight men there. Running yards were hard to come by in the first half. In the second half, Iowa used more receivers, took the safety out of the box, and the linebacker had to move out of the box. Drew Tate after the game said that Iowa needs more spreads to run the ball. I agree with that, do you? College football seems to be changing, that if you want to run, you have to spread it out a bit to ease the number of players in the box.

Hartlieb: Great analysis on your part. I think things are going that way. There are such huge men inside the tackles that it creates an advantage to the offense when you can spread those linebackers out and get a fifth DB in the game versus putting seven or eight in the box. Other teams are doing that to us. Iowa State attempted it all day Saturday. This was the first time where I saw us try to get the running game going outside of our traditional sets. Again, hopefully it's a sign for things to come and a more diversified running game in the Big Ten season.

Q: Were you as surprised as I was to see ISU on defense play things pretty straight up, without as many blitzes as they have in recent years in this series?

Hartlieb: I don't remember a lot of blitzing in years past, but I will say that this Saturday was less. Clearly, they are probably giving you the message that they don't have all the trust in the world in their back end. I kind of saw that. That is what Coach O'Keefe probably saw, too. They have a young defensive line but also a vulnerable secondary. Coach Mac is like the rest, lets not give up the big play, lets make them put 10 plays together to score. That is what occurred. They forced us to earn every yard and our TD's were well established long drives. I don't disagree with Coach Mac, especially if he has a safety or a corner that may not be up to man to man coverage.

Q: You have talked about WR's this year, needing to create space to do better in route running. Douglas had the stat day, Brodell had a redemptive day and regained the coaches' trust in many phases; what did you see from the receivers, did they grow?

Hartlieb: They took a huge step forward. What a great day for that set of guys. There were not many drops by the receivers on the day. It was tremendous output by the entire unit, not just from making catches and plays, but blocking, no mental mistakes, execution, you saw Tate really confident in his guys and I think he can dictate how well those guys are doing. I was really happy for that group. We talked about playmakers, and someone besides Tate to step up. Now, you see guys like Douglas, Chandler and Moeaki being the difference makers in big games and that is what I wanted to see in the out of conference season.

Q: What about the play of the offensive line?

Hartlieb: I would believe that on Monday, there is talk of this week being the week where we need to elevate and get the ground game going. The holes are there from time to time, but they have not been able to put four quarters together with a strong running game. Part of that is due to the concentration on the passing game. But going into the Big Ten opener, they would really want to try to get that tailback position 125 or 150 yards a game. We really need to keep our defense off the field. We don't want to get into huge offensive showdowns. I would give the offensive line a B to date, and pass protection is an A. That running game needs to get to the next level if we want to keep this winning streak going.

Q: Iowa didn't get much pressure on Bret Meyer in the first half, and therefore the corners had a tough go. In the second half, maybe Iowa was the better conditioned team, but the Hawks were able to get more pressure on Meyer and it affected their passing game.

Hartlieb: That's right on. Early on, we mixed up our packages, put our DB's in some one on one situations and it was not working that well. From that point forward, I felt like Coach Parker said let's get back to our base defense, let's make them earn it. We didn't put a lot of stress on our corners after that, and instead relied on our front four to get pressure in the second half and it worked wonderfully from a conditioning and pressure standpoint. Those front guys did really well. Then on the back end, I think we really frustrated those receivers. Todd Blythe is a good receiver, but he doesn't want to run a whole lot of routes beside the go routes. If you can play a solid cover two against him, he really doesn't know what to do, because we frustrated him in the second half. You have to stand up for Coach McCarney here. We rolled to him with a safety over the top, so you can't go deep to him. That is an easy play for a safety to make; the odds are not in the offense's favor there.

Q: Any final thoughts on the Iowa-ISU game?

Hartlieb: Hats off to a great rivalry, and a great match up on Saturday. I hope most fans walked away feeling that is one of the highest quality games we have seen in a long time with this rivalry. Both sets of fans created a great atmosphere for the entire day. I still have to get on the press box. Crank up the music more. We have OSU coming in in two weeks and we can't have the fans on their hands in the stands (during timeouts). Get more music going out there besides ‘Start Me Up' by the Rolling Stones.

Q: What about Illinois?

Hartlieb: Hawkeye fans have wanted Coach Ferentz to get off to a strong start, and he has met his goal and the team is feeling good going into the Big Ten, but you simply say going into a week like this, let's get every facet of the game better. Be more prepared and make sure that we are hitting on all cylinders, going into the Ohio State game. I would look for the defense to concentrate on creating more turnovers, the offense to get the running game going to the next level and the special team to have an error free game and to get two or three field goals this week. Games will come down to that this year and we bounced one in on Saturday, and we are less confident there than we have been in past years, so hopefully that group can get going as well.

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