Hartlieb: A Look Back, A Look Forward

Chuck Hartlieb stood on the Iowa sidelines for the first half of the Ohio State game last week. He has been coming to Iowa games since 1983, and believes the environment he witnessed last week was the best he has ever seen. Read what he had to say about it, in addition to a quick review of the OSU game as well as a look ahead to Purdue...

Q: You were at the Iowa-Ohio State game. What was the environment like for you? Have you ever experienced anything like that?

Chuck Hartlieb: Thanks to the coaching staff, I was on the sidelines for the first half. I was really able to take it all in. I was in awe of what we created on Saturday night. I thought it was the best environment that I have been at since I have been going to games since 1983. I was proud at game time and pregame. I was standing next to Cliff King, who was a former Iowa fullback. He now works for Nike and goes to two games per weekend, college and pro. He said outside of Oregon, he didn't think anything matched it as far as crowd noise in the past few years. It was outstanding and hopefully, it doesn't all wear off in one game and we can carry that kind of support throughout the rest of the year.

Q: To the game; I came away thinking that these players are going to look back at this game in a few years and perhaps for the rest of their life, and think that maybe they let one get away on offense. Am I being too arm chair quarterbackish here?

Hartlieb: I think you are right from our pregame talk, that execution out of the chute would be critical. We also said that everyone would have to make plays. We avoided the penalty issues, but you can look back on five plays and say that we missed the boat. We missed out on plays that we should make for a Top 20 team. Have we done that consistently in any game yet? No. I think this team will rise to the occasion in the coming weeks, but we are still not in a groove at all as far as offensive execution for four quarters is concerned. Specifically, it comes down to the passing game right now. The first question, if I had a media pass, would be a philosophical decision to not run or be as committed to the run this season, which is interesting. There are reasons for it, I am just not privy to that information. Secondly, if you are going to rely on the passing game, we are misfiring. Drew was disappointed in his play, but he made plenty of good plays. That combined with six or seven dropped passes, maybe some poor route running and maybe a little bit too much pressure up the middle, goes back to our passing game that is not close enough to win the big games right now.

Q: Are they putting the ball in Drew's hands too much? Are they asking him to do too much?

Hartlieb: I would have said no at the start of the year. But take his injury into account, the inexperience of the receivers, and I would say yes. I think maybe we should be concentrating on the running game a little bit more. Again, not knowing what is going on internally with the team. But we talk about it each week; we are not at the level of wide receiver play to let Drew take this team on his back. It's difficult to sit in the pocket and one, make the right decision, but in addition when you have to worry about your receivers running the correct routes, or running them correctly, and then are they going to catch the ball? It creates a little bit of indecision in the pocket. Watch a different college game this weekend. Look at Michigan, look at any Top 20 program and count how many drops these major college receivers are having. There is game after game where you see zero drops. We are really struggling with our hands this year and hopefully that will improve in the coming weeks.

Q: Anything else you want to say about last week before we move on?

Hartlieb: I hope that it's an anomaly on the defense. For us to win games, as we talked about last week, we have to win the turnover margin. That will continue to be the case this year. We have to create turnovers on the defensive side of the ball. Have we even recovered a fumble yet this year? It's odd what is happening with the defense. I think it's a very strong unit, but the one thing that sticks out to me is that we have to create turnovers to win these type of games. Hopefully that is something that will happen against Purdue, Michigan, Wisconsin, etc, going forward.

Q: Let's talk about Purdue. In 2002, and this team is no where near where that team was, but after they had lost to Iowa State, then they beat a cupcake, then a close win at PSU, and then home to scratch and claw to beat Purdue and the rest of the way was smooth sailing. Purdue comes in here at an immensely critical time. The OSU game was big, but for all intents and purposes, this Purdue game is the biggest game of the year. Yes, it's the next game on the schedule but the season could go two ways after Saturday. This is a huge game in that regard, isn't it?

Hartlieb: I am glad you are taking it as serious as I am, because we are now playing a midlevel team, I think one that is better than Iowa State. From a competitive standpoint, I don't think you can put this team in the same bucket as our non-conference schedule. If we struggled there to a degree, then we certainly have to be concerned with this game. You worry about Iowa's let down factor, I think Purdue was just as cranked up for Notre Dame as we were for Iowa State, so that might even out. On defense, I know that my level of play has to get better to win these games. On offense, they are going to have to go out on Saturday and play better than in any other game to date to win the game. You combine that with our history with Purdue, and Joe Tiller has our number. It may not show in the wins and loss column, but we have played his teams, with better talent, to a close degree. That concerns you going into a game like this.

Q: Purdue's offense may be more complicated than OSU. OSU is not so much complicated, they just spread you and hit it quick and let the players do things. Purdue has a couple of dangerous receivers, Sheets is a fast and capable back. In some regards, is this a bigger challenge for defense than last week, especially with Marcus Wilson as your starting free safety?

Hartlieb: Purdue's offense is twice as complex as Ohio State's. Ohio State, when they spread us out, probably had a 95% success rate, especially on third down. But they only chose to do that 5-10 times on Saturday. Purdue will do that 20 to 30 times this week. We must figure out a way to stop that short passing game that they are so well known for. Iowa did an excellent job of that last year. The first thing I would say, is that Coach Parker's system works. For the last five or six years, he has shown time and time again that his base defense will hold a team to 14 to 20 points week in and week out, for the most part. But that requires the inside linebackers to play those slots extremely well. That is where our problem was with Ohio State with Gonzalez in the slot in key situations. Purdue is going to exploit that as well, and Miles and Humpal or anyone else on the slot is going to have to really take it to the Chad Greenway level of last year, to play a better pass defense. I think the scheme is sound. For those wondering why Iowa doesn't use nickel and mix it up more often; at the end of the day, it's clear to me that Norm Parker's system works well. It's just that they are going to have to go out and execute it on Saturday. They will see more balls flying around in a more sophisticated fashion than they have all year.

Q: Might this be the game that Iowa chooses to run the ball to keep Purdue off the field? Do they have to?

Hartlieb: This category of question falls into the realm of me asking Iowa fans and me sharing with you that you just don't know what is happening during a week of practice or with personnel. I hear this all the time this week, about the Hawkeye running game. I don't know, we don't really know. There are so many factors involved during a game week. I don't know what to make of the fact that we are concentrating on the passing game so much. Coach Ferentz and Coach O'Keefe want to win more than anyone. You hit the nail on the head with what I am looking for; Young, Sims and Greene are strong running backs. It will be interesting to see. You would think this is the type of game where we get the running game going.

Q: Any final thoughts heading into this weekend?

Hartlieb: I think Iowa can be playing on January 1. They are fun to watch, there is a lot of talent, but let's talk about three things. Let's see if we can get a 100-yard rusher, let's see if we can go +1 or +2 in the turnover margin, and have two drops or less. If we can do those three things, we will have a nice win.

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