Monday Morning QB with Chuck Hartlieb

If you have been a faithful reader of weekly visits with Chuck Hartlieb this year, Saturday's game played out like a lot of our visits with Chuck; dropped passes, ineffective blitzing, too many turnovers and not enough pressure on the quarterback. Hartlieb breaks down Iowa's devastating loss at Indiana in additon to looking ahead to Michigan and beyond.

Q: There really isn't any way to sugar coat things; this might be the most disappointing loss of the Kirk Ferentz era. They were not prepared, they were outhustled and I am not saying anything that they didn't say after the game. You said they had to be wary of being flat in a glorified high school stadium. What are your general thoughts on the Indiana game?.

Chuck Hartlieb: Those things are accurate. I wish that I could have said that I sensed something like that coming, but I felt like this team was right on the edge of starting a peak and finishing the season strong, but now I look back and say that maybe the worst of the fears was that Purdue just didn't show up last week and we have a team that still hasn't gotten anywhere near where it wants to be. I almost believe it's the toughest environment of the year, tougher than the Big House or any other big stadium in a way. Right in the middle of the season, you are getting the midseason blahs, and you go in and its quiet as quiet can be all during the pregame, then you run out there and its like a Division III game or a major high school game. I am not making excuses for the team, but I think that plays a role in their intensity level because you are at such highs in previous games.

Q: A redshirt freshman quarterback was allowed to get comfortable in the pocket against Iowa, and he was patient enough to take the underneath stuff, the way that you can beat Iowa's base defense. Is that how you saw it?

Chuck Hartlieb: I guess I look at it a little bit differently. I felt like there were eight to ten times during the course of the game that they brought the pressure and did not execute it whatsoever. I felt like there were some blitzes in there at the right times, and Coach Parker knew that he needed to bring pressure and not let him sit back there. Those were almost exactly he times where we gave up the biggest plays. To all the fans that get frustrated with Coach Parker playing a base defense, and a bend but don't break; playing a pass offense in front of you and forcing a 10 to 12 play drive, here is your answer. Historically for the last 20 or 30 years of Iowa football, we have not recruited strong man to man defensive backs. Adam Shada was put in some positions, the entire defense was put in man to man situations which meant we brought Miles off the corner or someone up the middle, and we failed miserably at that. To me, I thought that we were bringing a certain about of pressure and we just could not play the coverage. The problem is not Shada. When we bring heat, its not just man to man on the corners. The guy that is stunting has to make that play. They have not been getting there enough to make the plays.

Q: Offensively, even though the defnse was not great, the offense was still there to win it. The final should have been 45-31. You put together an 87 yard drive and you fumble at the nine. You have four drives that stall at the 33 yard line of Indiana or deeper, and you get zero points. There were at least six drops, including the last offensive play of the game with the team driving. Everything you have been saying they have to do to win, they did not do and they lost to Indiana.

Chuck Hartlieb: The biggest factor of every single game is turnovers. If we can just keep the ball in our hands, we win the game on Saturday. Sims can make plays, but you can't, at this level of the game, give up the ball like he did on Saturday. Offensively, we all know now what the issues are and I am not going to rehash those. One question that I keep asking myself, and there is an answer out there that I am not aware of; where is Tony Moeaki? I believe that this offensive is capable of exploiting a two-tight end scheme. You combine that with a struggling wide receiver corps, I would think that the scheme turning towards Moeaki would be an option. I sit back and am curious as to why we haven't gone down that road. I think a lot of the opportunities have been exploited. That is the one piece that I don't understand why we can't Chandler and Moeaki at the same patterns with such an inconsistent WR corps

Q: You guys were really beat up in 1988. You have been watching Iowa football since 1983; are the injuries this year approaching the point where it really affects continuity in a serious way?

Chuck Hartlieb: We talked in columns three or four years ago that we needed to thank our lucky stars because we had some unbelievably healthy years. At the same time, we heard the Michigan and Wisconsin stories where they were six to eight starters that were out and they were playing two-deep guys and now we are at that point. It might be a little bit beyond typical, but this is the norm. You lose guys and the next guy has to step up. In 1988, there were only two offensive starters that started every game. I think there were only six defensive starters. It can get worse. The history with Iowa football is that we always had a challenge with our two and three deeps, compared to the other top teams in the Big Ten. We will have to kick, scratch and claw for every win the rest of the way and live with it.

Q: How do you flush this out of your system, especially when you look at Michigan's defense in the film room this week?

Chuck Hartlieb: My big word is momentum, as you know. I just don't know. It's so difficult. A lot has to do with the injuries. If you look at your team right now, then you are finding out that three or four more guys can't go…I remember with my brothers as well as in 1988, there are some games where you are helpless. I don't want to make excuses for them, but this is a dire situation right now. We will put our best foot forward this weekend and you always have a shot with some of the players we have. But I think we have to get out of this thing alive and get on with the rest of the season.

Q: There are no bye weeks this year, and this team could certainly use one of them. Iowa has Northern Illinois after Michigan, then Northwestern. You have to look at those as must wins, before playing Wisconsin and at Minnesota. Is there the opportunity to right the ship heading into the two final games?

Chuck Hartlieb: It's a great question. I am worried about the Northern Illinois game, because of these last two games. Northern Illinois won't be easy, Northwestern is weak and we are probably and underdog against Wisconsin. I predicted 9-3, and that is a heck of a record for this team. There are plenty of chances to have a great season, but there will be a lot of things that have to get raised to another level for us to get there.

Q: Talk about what you see this week against Michigan.

Chuck Hartlieb: You have to act like you are in Coach Ferentz's shoes. There are plenty of times in history where certain players that you have never heard of have raised their game in critical situations. I will never forget in 1986, we had lost four or five defensive tackles. We had a Myron Keppy that came out of nowhere from Durant and had a double-digit tackle game at Michigan and we really went into it without a strong team and wound up losing in the last minute. There is always an opportunity for that next guy to step up. Here is a chance for the left tackle, for Trey Stross, for a fifth or sixth defensive back to really go all out and be a difference maker and have some fun. I think that we match up well against Michigan's schemes. I get frustrated as all get out on the Michigan jump ball game, and we have to watch the double cuts or the straight go route down the sideline. If we can not let them do that, and if you watched the game Saturday night against Penn State, they did their darndest to take that away. You don't do that with man to man, you do it with cover two and safeties over the top. Make them go 10 or 12 plays and you have a shot. If you can get 24 points, you have a shot. I think that we always have a shot when you have Tate in the pocket and some players around him. I hope that we play with a lot of heart and are looking for ways to elevate everyone's game.

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