Monday Morning QB with Chuck Hartlieb

Chuck Hartlieb is back for this week's Monday Morning Quarterback feature, and he helps us try to explain what went wrong on the field for Iowa in their stunning 15-13 loss at Iowa State this past weekend, plus a look ahead to Wisconsin.

Q: I thought that without Dan McCarney, the fire and heat and reason ISU had had so much success over Iowa was gone. But once again, and inexplicably, the Iowa players after the game were saying things like Iowa State played harder than they were, that they were more intense. How in the world can that be after so little success against Iowa State the past decade?

Chuck Hartlieb: That is a tough question to ask and to find an answer for. I was there on Saturday, and it looked for the most part that the Hawkeyes came to play. To me, it was a match up issue that you and I have talked about in the past. There are some issues that Iowa has faced the last few years and continue to see as a challenge, this past week and going forward. That is how you defense the spread offense, and if your run is taken away from you, how can you execute consistently in the passing game. I didn't sit back and say, ‘boy the Hawkeyes are flat today' or that they were not giving 100 percent. I thought I saw kids bringing great effort, focused on the game, a low amount of penalties, a lot of hitting going on and I think it was more the same couple of issues facing us from the last few years.

Q: On my message boards and on Soundoff, several fans were saying that Iowa didn't look ‘up' for the game. Do you think that some folks mistake a lack of execution for a lack of intensity?

Hartlieb: That is possible. I think that is a simple or a quick way to answer a hard question. I do think that fans maybe tend to say well, it's lack of effort or emotion, when it's other issues. I tend to say that in the first half, the offense was not able to get clicking. The defense was put in a heck of a spot many times. I thought the defense played a great first half. They lost the field position game, the time of possession game and were getting attacked in a hostile environment and to come out of there giving up just 12 points, the defense played a heck of a first half. Was it great? No. They could have played better, but they were in some tough spots and played pretty well.

Q: Ed Podolak said during the game that Jake was in a tough environment and trying to change plays at the line of scrimmage, and he wondered if that was the right strategy to have in a hostile environment for a kid making his fourth career start, three offensive linemen in their third career starts, etc. What do you make of that?

Hartlieb: I don't know about that. I think with our zone blocking scheme, we certainly have times where we can get an advantage by noticing a certain gap alignment or weakness in the defensive front seven. If Jake sees that we can go off tackle right better than off tackle left, the offensive line would rather go to a place where they have an advantage. If you are going to take it easy in Ames, are you going to do that in Happy Valley or Madison? You have to execute.

Q: One of the things that you have talked about the last few years is that Iowa's receivers have not gotten open consistently enough. Did you see some of that on Saturday?

Hartlieb: I know this group of receivers and the staff is doing their best. It's difficult to make judgments when you only see a three hour game. It's important for all of us fans to understand that; you can't sit back and make assumptions when you don't know the total picture, and I believe that. But we have an issue with our wide receiver corps from the standpoint as I watch the game, the quarterback I thought played a very acceptable game. There were not a lot of guys open downfield. There were many occasions where you might have pointed towards poor pass protection or an inability to execute by the quarterback, but the bottom line was there were not guys open downfield, and you don't want to force things. Your offense line is not going to be able to hold out for five or six seconds. It's route running, it's the schemes against certain defenses and then it's catching the ball.

I thought two plays stood out in my mind in the first half, and they were maybe our seventh best wide receiver going into the season, we had in third and long, Sandeman one-on-one on the outside, and he is our best option on a go route, and he is completely covered, and we just have to almost throw the ball away; that is an execution issue, it's a route running issue and it's a receiver ability issue. We need to get ourselves in better situations on third down than to throw a go route to someone who was our seventh best receiver when the season began back in August. I don't know what the answer is, but to me, I said ‘uh-oh' when I see us throwing to Sandeman down the sideline one on one. We did that a couple of times on Saturday in the first half.

Q: In recent years, Iowa has gotten caught with linebackers on receivers. Gene Chizik said after the game that ISU prepared for this situation this week in practice, and they they audibled into go route-lob passes nearly every time. You have to give credit to ISU for being prepared for what Iowa has continued to do. That is a tough situation to put a linebacker in.

Hartlieb: First of all, I would say that at the beginning of the game if you told me that prior to the last series, you would hold ISU to 12 points and 240 yards, I would take it. Away game in a tough place, I thought the defense played well. Coach Parker played a typical great bend but don't break defense. The second issue is this, you hear constantly from fans that you want to put pressure on the quarterback. So here is a situation where we made a decision to put pressure on the quarterback and not let him scramble to find an open guy. And the result wasn't the best, obviously. The third issue is why is the linebacker out there? I can't answer that. There has to be a clear explanation.

We are not a part of the program 24/7, so it's hard to make a judgment like that. But overall, the defense played a solid game. I am not necessarily going to point the entire performance to one play. Going forward, we have talked about the last three years that our defense against the spread offense is a critical piece of our success, and we came out on the short end and that was one of the reasons why this week.

Q: One more question about this game; the offense in the second half. There were a lot of things from this game to armchair quarterback, but the guys at least came out and showed some resolve and signs of life in the second half. What did you take away from this game with regards to how Jake led the offense in the second half?

Hartlieb: I thought Jake played a heck of a game. A young offensive line, a hostile environment and a receiving corps that is not providing him a ton of chances out there…he made the most of a challenging situation and I thought he played his best game yet. Add into that his three or four runs in tough situations, and in the most critical time a boot left on third down and you hit Cleveland perfectly on the three yard line and it was dropped, I thought he showed a lot of poise and a lot of clutch plays. That is where you start with where you build. It was true leadership and poise and the rest of the offense has to rally around him.

Another thing, we have a tough time getting open down the field, the linebackers are taking deep drops, it would be nice to get the ball to the running backs in the passing game. Check down and release those guys into the flats or curls underneath the linebackers, that would help alleviate some of the pressure on the wide receivers. I hope they see that and that I am right on this, get the ball to the backs more going forward.

Q: In 2004, Iowa goes to Arizona State and the offense had 100 yards, 46 plays and looked worse than Syracuse looked against Iowa last week. That great defense gave up over 500 yards of offense. Then they had to turn around and go into a top ranked team in their house, and it was 16-10 Michigan with under three minutes to go in the third quarter and Iowa had the ball. Of course, the five turnovers killed them that day but they played tough. It's a little bit of a similar situation this week going to Madison, where you have a nationally ranked team and no one expecting anything from Iowa….A) its an opportunity B) do they have it in them to give a solid performance?

Hartlieb: Again, I think it's a lot about match ups and past success against certain teams. I think in general, Coach Ferentz's group has played well against the Badgers and not necessarily well against the Cyclones. That alone gives me hope that we will go in and play well. I think Coach O'Keefe has had Wisconsin's number over the years, our offense has executed well against these guys for a number of years. It goes back again to how we can defend three and four wide receiver sets. And then, can we execute that passing game at another level, because these guys have a very solid cornerback crew. We have to run crisper routes and pass protect just a little bit better in order to give Jake some time and put 20 to 30 points on the board.

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