Iowa Football Talk with Chuck Hartlieb

Chuck Hartlieb was at the Big House on Saturday and liked what he saw from Iowa's defense. He didn't believe the offense took any momentum out of the game, however. Hartlieb talks about those things, the toughness of Drew Tate, the challenges ahead for Iowa this week without Tate and more in this week's conversation, exclusive to HawkeyeNation.com

Q: Like in 2004 when Iowa went to Michigan and played tough after laying an egg against Arizona State, the 2006 Hawkeyes played tough after looking uninspired against Indiana the week before. That was at least good to see.

Chuck Hartlieb: We went into it not exactly the most optimistic, and I thought this was a great example of character and heart of a team that a lot of fans are really appreciative of. We saw it on Saturday, especially on the defensive side. I was at the game and was really impressed by the size and strength of Michigan. Not necessarily their quickness, just a dominant type of team. I thought that both lines held up well, certainly the offensive line struggled. All in all, this team has tremendous character, because they really came to play.

Q: Even though they lost and there are no columns for moral victories in the standings, can this team take this effort and build upon it?

Hartlieb: I think offensively they gained very little momentum and need to continue to find it. I think defensively they have a lot to build off of. What I saw against Indiana was some mixing of some defensive schemes, trying some man to man. This week was opposite. I didn't see one man to man blitz snap against Michigan. Instead they brought in their nickel or dime looks. They played cover two, man under and zone underneath. They did a good job against the spread offense of Michigan. They put on a good pass rush against Henne and really I thought for the most part, they defended Hart well until the fourth quarter.

Q: You mentioned that the offense takes doesn't take much momentum out of the Michigan game…

Hartlieb: A Hawkeye fan can look at that game a different way, and it came to fruition again on Saturday. That is, an offense is going to get 11 or 12 drives, typically, in any one game. Of those 12 drives, you want to score in at least four of them, and you can credit a decent defense to stopping you on four or five of them. But really what swings the game is the three or four other drives. You just want to have good plays and hopefully, eight to 10 play drives, you at least gain field position. But, what has been our story, and for us to win out the rest of the year, we need to stop hurting ourselves in the drives that make a difference between the winning and losing. Unfortunately right now, its still coming down to the passing game. We had three drive killing plays at Michigan by dropped passes, or an illegal formation where the wide receiver lined up incorrectly. If you want to win nine games in a season, you can't kill yourself on three or four drives out of those 12. You have to play more mistake free. When you look at these next few games; regardless of the quarterback, that will make the difference. That is what happened against Purdue, which is what needs to happen going forward; we need to be mentally and physically as sharp as possible on every drive.

Q: Can you draw any parallels from your Iowa career with regards to what Jason Manson and Jake Christensen are going through this week?

Hartlieb: It's not that hard to prepare and maximize your effort to play each week when you play quarterback. It might be if you are a backup right guard, or a backup defensive end. At quarterback, you are always on your toes because 80,000 people are watching you each snap, so I think they will be prepared. From a decision making standpoint, who is playing and who is not, the thought I would share Jon is that from my experience, and what I think is right, is that the decision comes down to looking your senior leaders in the eyes, looking at a Mike Jones or a Marcus Paschal and saying, ‘We are going to put our best player out there at each player to win this week.' If you are going to look at Mike Jones and say that Jason Manson puts us in the best chance to win, then it should be him, or vice versa. But, Mike Jones and Marcus Paschal already know that answer. They know who is executing, they know who has the relationships in the locker room, they know who is going to lead them with Tate down. Coach Ferentz, I think has to respect, not what is going to happen two years from now or next year, it's what is happening today for the best of this team for the sake of the seniors. I think that is how that decision gets made for Saturday.

Q: Carrying it forward, if you don't make the decision that way, it could have negative ramifications on the younger classes.

Hartlieb: That is exactly my point. When you stop making decisions for what is best today, then you start creating doubt amongst your team as far as where your focus lies. Stay consistent, you keep talking one game at a time. As far as this garbage about preparing for next year, that is what spring ball and double sessions are for. You live and play for today, who will win the battle for us today. You are right; you can create some awfully bad chemistry. Believe me, Kirk Ferentz and the coaches, it's not that hard of a decision. They know what is best right now and that is what they will do against Northern Illinois.

Q: If you are the defensive coordinator at NIU, you know going in that Tate will not play. How do you play against Iowa?

Hartlieb: That is a great question, but I think like against Michigan and previous opponents, they are going to play it the same way, regardless. Right now, opponents give our pass offense very little respect. They are really mixing up their packages to stop the run. As much as we need to run the ball, it's a challenge, because teams are coming in saying, ‘hey our corners alone can handle these wide receivers.' Iowa has not consistently shown anyone that they can't be left one on one. It doesn't matter if Tate or anyone is in there, which is the issue right now for this team. That will continue now and get worse. But the same story holds true; we have to try to get the running game going, but it will be challenging and there will be times when we have to throw the ball and it takes 11. We have to protect, we have to mentally run good routes, we have to catch the ball and we have to throw it in the right spots. It takes 11. We are not going to beat Northern Illinois by keeping it on the ground on Saturday, I don't think.

Q: Talk about Drew Tate's toughness. He showed it again at Michigan.

Hartlieb: People ask about who is the best quarterback ever at Iowa. I think that Drew Tate has earned the title of toughest quarterback to ever play at the University. I saw him take four or five tremendously tough shots on Saturday. He just got right back up. That, combined with the fact that I think he got us out of four or five bad plays in the pocket by his shiftiness and mobility, I thought it was one of his better games if not his best, and I continue to think that if the supporting cast around him could be a little bit stronger, we would have been having a heck of a year right now and just hopefully these wide receivers and the rest of the group can get their play up to one more level so that we can win five straight from here.


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