Q: What were your thoughts on the debut of Jake Christensen?
CHUCK HARTLIEBI thought Jake had a very solid start. I was very, very impressed with what I think is the most important part of quarterbacking and that is leadership, decision making and just poise on the field. You always worry about that piece first, and from that standpoint, I would give him an A+. he looked like a seasoned veteran out there, very much in control. The second half got testy, but he showed good poise and it bodes well for him in the future.
Q: Talk about the technical aspects of his game and what you saw.
HARTLIEBWhat a great chance to get started, because you can't judge him against a Big Ten team here, it was Northern Illinois, but he threw all passes well. I liked his footwork, I liked that he went to his second and third receivers a few different times. We still dropped four or five balls and he could have had a better day. Two things may have stood out, too. These are more a compliment to Drew; Drew is unique in his footwork in the pocket. We have talked several times that he saves us two or three sacks a game, which can sustain drives. We saw that in the second half. I don't think Jake has bad feet, but he was sacked a few times where Drew might not have been. Next, it will be interesting to watch him progress on his long ball. He has a solid arm, but I want to see more to see how much strength he has on it 20 to 30 yards down the field.
Q: Albert Young got back into the 100-yard category last week, and he showed some great pass blocking abilities as well. It's great to see him out there performing like that.
HARTLIEBI agree. I was disappointed in the second half where I thought the running game would have been the element that puts a team away, knocking them off the ball 5 to 7 at a crack, and yet, with a poor defense out there going against, we couldn't do it. It was great to see Young at full strength, and if we can get that young/Sims combo going strong with the OL for the next three games, that is critical. Because they have, as a team, focused on the passing game more than I have seen in the last five or six years, and it's not a strength of this overall team. So I do think that the running game is going to be critical if we want to win out from here.
Q: They have focused on the passing game, but they still encounter far too many dropped balls. That undercuts you.
HARTLIEBIt does. It's worse than a penalty, because it's such an obvious miscue that it drains you from a drive, but it has a mental impact on everyone when you see someone whiff on a pass. I don't know what more to say about that any more. It's tough for everyone, and that can turn around in a heartbeat and hopefully they start getting confidence with their hands and people start stepping up and making better second and third down plays.
Q: Kirk Ferentz said this week that this team is not where he thought it would be, but that he believes it can still get better each week. Do you agree?
HARTLIEBI am glad he said that. It makes perfect sense to me. I think that each facet of the game might have been better at this point, especially on offense. Defensively, we are playing to potential for the most part, but offensively we may not be. What a great table that is set for the entire team right here with three winnable games, but none of them should be taken for granted.
HARTLIEBI actually do, not on a game time standpoint, but from a preparation standpoint. At this time of the year, its natural during game week to have a lull. When you have a game like we had last year in Evanston sitting in your gut, it makes your focus that much sharper I think, from Monday to Friday. That leads you into a better state of mind for Saturday. I do think it really helps teams when you are coming off of something like this from a preparation standpoint. You don't have to worry about them not being ready, you know you have to show up and be at your best and finally, you want to make sure that you erase that memory and try to put a thumping on them. I think it will be a help this week.
Q: Even though some people might not be thrilled with the team being 6-3, what are your thoughts on the season thus far and what lies ahead, two games at home and one at Minnesota?
HARTLIEBI think that realistically, 9-3 in Iowa City as your record is nothing to be ashamed of. That is in front of them. Plus, a team like Wisconsin that you could knock off, it's all sitting ahead of them. There is plenty of motivation, there is more than the ability to get it done. It will be interesting to see if the offense can get to that level. We have to score more points than we have been. We have to start getting to that 24-30 point level if we want to win the games.