Thursday Notebook: AY OK

HN's Thursday Notebook takes a look at the perceived running game problems, interesting items from Tuesday's presser that might have slipped by you and some extra points.

As a society, we often find it difficult being satisfied. That's why it makes sense that the Iowa media focused on a few perceived cracks in the Hawkeye Football armor during the weekly press conference on Tuesday despite the team getting off to a 3-0 start and beating rival Iowa State a few days earlier.

Journalists wanted to know what was wrong with running back Albert Young and why Iowa wasn't creating more turnovers on defense.

People, it's OK. We don't have to dig and dig and dig to find out something is wrong when the team is 3-0. They're good, and no team in the country is perfect.

It doesn't mean that you should be riding the happy train and avoid asking tough questions of the team you're covering. And let's not just pin this on the media. The fans also have been griping about the running game and lack of takeaways.

Maybe a problem exists in the running game and the defense's ability to take the ball away. But it's way, way, way too early to tell.

The journalists pounded Young as to why he was slowed in the first three weeks. They asked the same thing of Coach Kirk Ferentz And they asked and asked and asked.

Young calmly explained that the opposition was stacking the box. And he explained. And he explained. It was almost painful.

Look, Montana, Syracuse and Iowa State tried to make the Hawkeyes one dimensional. They knew Albert Young led the Big Ten in rushing during conference play a year ago and that Iowa's receiver corps was unproven. Why in the heck wouldn't they apply that game plan?

Unfortunately for Iowa State, it saw what happens when you put the onus on Drew Tate to beat you. The quarterback threw for almost 300 yards and three touchdowns. And believe me, the teams scouting the Hawkeyes for the rest of the season also saw it.

Things are going to loosen up for the Iowa running game. Young will get it going in the Big Ten. Iowa's offense will be more balanced.

You just get the sense from the second half of that ISU game that the Iowa offense is on the verge of rolling. I've gotten real, real interested to see how they do this week in Champaign and next Saturday against a still untested Ohio State defense.

And stop worrying about Albert Young. He deserves some credit for some of those passing yards against the Cyclones. It was out of respect for him that Iowa was able to find Scott Chandler and Dominique Douglas to make big plays. It also allowed Tom Busch and Tony Moeaki to score touchdowns off of play action when Iowa hadn't even proven it could run yet.

"You can be Barry Sanders, but if you've got eight guys in the box, that's going to be pretty hard to run the ball," Tate said.

DID YOU HEAR IT?: Here's a look at some interesting ideas/quotes from the week in Iowa Football that you might have missed:

-Speaking of Young, did you catch what he said during his press conference about formations involving the three top running backs – Young, Damian Sims and Shonn Greene? If you didn't, listen up, because it might decrease the number of these kinds of posts on the HN message boards – "Shonn Greene needs more touches" or "Damian Sims needs more touches."

And I quote Young: "We do have something like that. We have a good idea of what we‘re doing. Coaches tell me when Damian is going in. I pretty much know when he‘s going in. We know when Shonn is going in because we have a package where you guys see, Shonn is in the backfield and I‘m in the slot. Me and Damian are never on the field at the same time. You get an idea what it‘s going to be like. It‘s just depending on how things go."

That's pretty cut and dry. AY is the No. 1 guy. He gets spelled by Sims. And Greene gets to play when Iowa sees the right defense that allows him to be at running back and Young in the slot.

Crossing Them Up: Look for Tate to try and take advantage of a young, inexperienced Illinois defense.

"We'll maybe be different at the line of scrimmage with some calls and try to get those guys off balance because it's a lot different than high school in the way that snap counts are and everything is," Tate said. "That's something we wanted to do against Iowa State because they had two freshmen on the line."

To The Point: Dace Richardson spoke his mind when asked why he didn't look harder at his home state Illinois when selecting a college:

"I just didn't like where the team was at the time," Richardson said. "I was also getting questions if the coaching staff was still going to be there. I didn't want to be in a program where they were going to lose their coaching staff and have to start all over. I didn't want to go through that transition. That was one of the main factors that I didn't go to Illinois."

Tongue Firmly Planted in Cheek, Part I: Ferentz was asked about the Oklahoma-Oregon botched call that caused the PAC-10 to suspend the officials for a game. Without missing a beat, the coach took a thinly veiled poke at the Conference USA officials that blew the on-sides kick call in the Outback Bowl.

"I didn't see the play, but I understand there was an onside kick, imagine that, an onside kick involved," the coach said. "I applaud the PAC 10 for coming out publicly and stating that an error was made. That will not help Oklahoma, the officials get a week off, but that won't help the players, coaches or fans. But I am more focused on players and coaches. I will stop right there. Let me repeat one more time, I thought it was really nice that the CONFERENCE came out and made an OFFICIAL statement that we blew that one and will do something about it. That is a good policy too (grunt.) Were there any statements last winter? I can't remember, we were recruiting so I missed that."

Tongue Firmly Planted in Cheek, Part II: Ferentz was asked about Iowa winning the last five meetings against Illinois. The coach responded by making reference to the Hawkeyes hearing about their recent record against Iowa State leading into last week's game.

"I didn't know that was a stat," Ferentz said of the record against Illinois. "I didn't know we kept statistics outside of the Iowa State game."

Extra Points: Iowa is seeking just its second 4-0 start under Ferentz. The Hawkeyes won their first four contests in 2003. They lost their next game to Michigan State, 20-10, in East Lansing…Illinois has played 16 true freshmen this season. Temple (19) is the only other DI-A team that has used more first-year players…Illinois ranks 108th in the NCAA in sacks allowed at 3.67 per game.


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