Chuck Hartlieb: It was great to see them come out with such great intensity and perform in their first home game so strong. Still, Iowa has lacked that initial preseason test, and next week doesn't look all that imposing. That would be the lone negative. Beside that, its good across the board.
NIU and Syracuse might be two of the 20 or 30 worst teams in the nation this year, so where is Iowa really at? The thing that I always like, though, is the ability to get other kids in. It's great for team morale and development, but getting looks at different bodies out there is a big deal.
Q: I want to touch on both of those things. First, go back to Iowa not getting a big test so far in the preseason. I agree with you on that front through two games, I think people need to be realistic. NIU lost to Southern Illinois, a D1-AA team, and Syracuse…their ‘pistol' offense looks like one that gets coaches fired. How ‘bad' is it to not get tested early?
Hartlieb: I think you would prefer to have one of the three games be a real stiff test. It makes you a better football team during conference play. I have to think that the coaching staff was expecting one of these three teams to give them that kind of look. Without it, you have no idea where you stand until you go into Madison. It's not a good situation, I don't think.
I don't think any Iowa fan should rush to judgment about what type of team we have. I think the Big Ten is plenty strong, and our three weakest opponents will be in the non-conference season and we go into a heck of a battle in Big Ten play.
Q: Iowa has played 20 or more freshmen this year, true and redshirt combined. You mentioned earlier that you like to see young guys get a taste; what can that do for some of these kids?
Hartlieb: It removes the doubt. I think there is always a sense of wonder, can I make the plays on Saturday? Am I going to be able to react and make the right decisions in front of everyone? Is it a safety that has to make the call for the secondary, to the center that makes a line call, to the quarterback, etc. You don't know until Saturday.
Each one of these kids, it was a big deal to say hey, I can do it. I am more comfortable, and they become more motivated. The assumption I draw from 11 true freshmen being out there is that a few classes ahead of them are a bit soft. It's a surprise to see so many out there. Hopefully, it all pays off.
Q: Syracuse came into this game determined to take away Iowa's running game and force Jake Christensen to beat them. He did that. What would you say about Jake's ability to pick up the blitzes, hit the hot reads and things of that nature.
Hartlieb: We talked about the first game being that foundation to build on, and the second game needed to be better. It really is good for that offensive passing game. If it benefits anyone, they have to be in a rhythm and get confidence and they are there.
Jake really impressed me with his footwork. I thought he moved around well in the pocket. He has to, because he is not the tallest guy in the world. He found fourth or fifth guys a few times by scrambling. That is an ability that we will need this year, because I don't think this will be one of the strongest lines in the Big ten. I was a little disappointed that we didn't get the running game going stronger, but Syracuse was taking that away. But you still hope that you could free Young or Sims up a little more.
Q: Let's look ahead to Iowa State. Some of their fans have said this offseason that the Iowa game is no longer the biggest game of the year. I think they want to build towards that, obviously, because league titles should be more important to anyone. But now they sit at 0-2, losing to UNI and the rest of their schedule is brutal. This might be their last shot at anything meaningful this year. When you look at the week Iowa just had, do you worry about them being overconfident?
Hartlieb: I think to a certain degree, you do. I think with the record that we have under Coach Ferentz in the Iowa State series over the last eight games, I think there is enough of a bitter taste in their mouths to keep them motivated, that you cannot look back. That, combined with the fact that you feel good if you can come out with three straight wins; this is a team that has not remembered a lot of success off the last year.
I am not too concerned about it, but the one concerning point and a good thing for Iowa, is that it is a hostile environment, and its loud. The Cyclones will throw a lot at us, but when its all said and done, it gives us a good chance to get that consistency and continuity going in a difficult away game.