Monday Morning Quarterback: Chuck Hartlieb

Chuck Hartlieb had to chuckle to himself a few times on Saturday night while watch the Iowa-Wisconsin game; clearly, the Hawkeyes had circled this game on their schedule and the non-conference games did not have the same game plan approach. But Hartlieb liked what he saw from Iowa in their 17-13 loss.

Q: Let's start with the offensive game plan. I was hopeful we would see some tweaks and I think we did. I don't know what you were expecting, but what did you think of the plan?

Chuck Hartlieb: It was great to see some innovation and some unique schemes throughout the game. I kind of sat back and chuckled, because I felt like this year the Iowa State game would have gotten a lot of their focus. Anyone in their right mind looks at both games and sees what we did offensively Saturday night was clearly the most important and where the focus was for the season, not for the non conference schedule. Because we had three or four formations we hadn't used before, different routes, differences in the running game. Obviously they were pointing towards this one, and that is what we have talked about. It's about Big Ten conference play, and I really enjoyed a lot of what they brought on Saturday night.

Q: You are not at practices and don't know what goes on every day, but in watching Jake through these first four games, what sort of schemes would you have him in based on what you have seen out of him, if that is a fair question.

Hartlieb: That is tough, because you don't see what takes place in practice. It's two guys on that question, not just one. Jake might be capable of 10 to 20 different schemes and throws, but if the rest of the guys don't execute it, there is nothing Jake can do. I think he is a little bit hamstrung by the personnel out there and might be more so now with injuries. I like him rolling out; he sets up and sees the field well. I don't think the guy has a lot of limitations. He has impressed me with his velocity and accuracy.

Sure, there are always three to five passes you want back, but I think he is attacking and doing everything we want. More interesting to me was the overall receiver personnel played a decent game. They still have to work on getting open and proper route running, but they caught the ball well generally. We spread it around, new faces popped up. That gives me optimism for the rest of the year.

Q: There is an old phrase that goes along the lines of there is no better place to go deep than when you are inside your own five yard line. Iowa dropped back to pass there when they were on their one, and Jake broke the play after penetration and gained 16 yards. What are your thoughts on that sort of attacking philosophy, as I think you hooked up with Quinn Early for a 90+ yard passing play back in your day?

Hartlieb: I chuckled and said, ‘OK, it must be the Big Ten opener' because you were seeing the opposite of predictability. I loved the call. An offense takes huge amounts of confidence away from a play like that, when your coordinator trusts you in that position, on the road and up against the students, and you go for it. What a great call. I think that those are the plays and types of play calling that can really feed off of each other if we continue to take it to another level each and every game.

Q: On defense, there were a lot of looks from Iowa in this game. I saw some some nickel personnel, some 4-3, some 3-4, some 3-4 with Mitch King spying on Tyler Donovan. What were your thoughts on the defensive game plan?

Hartlieb: I was saying ‘wow' the whole game. I have a lot of respect for the Wisconsin offensive scheme. It's very complex. It's pretty public knowledge that Paul Crist, the offensive coordinator there was courted heavily by the Dallas Cowboys in the off-season. This is a staff and offense that is very sound and well coached. And for us to go into the Big Ten opener, and this is a critical opener for Wisconsin as much as it is for Iowa, I thought it was a heck of a defensive performance.

Again, I chuckled because for the last three or four years, we have talked about preparation and putting in different attacks on both sides of the ball in different games, and when do you make those decisions and when you don't. It was such a night and day defensive attack versus the week prior, and I sat back and could not believe what I was watching seven days away from Ames. Hats off to them, it's about the Big Ten season, and nothing was clearer than after that game. From everything; downfield coverage, to run defense, we didn't sacrifice one thing and just concentrate on another. It was a great defensive performance.

Q: So look at this from an overall perspective. In 1987, you guys lost to Tennessee in the kickoff classic, and that was probably hard coming back from that and you beat Arizona by one point. Look at it from a former player's perspective; some of these guys gave more effort than they thought they could give and now they have to get back up off the mat. How hard is that to do, and can you take away positives from a loss?

Hartlieb: I think you can. I think it was a huge stepping stone, because you have a lot of young players. You put them in as tough a situation as you could with a night game against a team who some believe will be the Big Ten champ. I think they, Michigan and Ohio State are in the same bucket. Now they know they can play with anyone. They know what they have to do to execute in a tough situation. I think deep down, they really have to feel good about themselves.

I don't think that it's about being 2-2. It's saying that we have proven ourselves a bit here, we have to get better in all areas, but for the most part, we can have a great season still. That was the situation in 1987. We lost to Tennessee in the non-conference, and we lost to Michigan State in the Big Ten opener, and we had a great Big Ten season the rest of the way. I think there is great optimist within that team right now. Indiana, I cannot tell you how important this game is for the rest of the season.

Q: I want to get back to that Indiana point, but I want to ask you about the young kids on this team. Can they rebound quicker mentally from something like this, since they don't know any better?

Hartlieb: Yeah. They are creating their own identity. It's not the Tate's and the fifth year seniors in the last two or three years. This is a team with a lot of new blood in it. They can go out and believe that they are the difference makers or playmakers that are going to be the next generation of Hawkeye to lead us to nine or ten win seasons. These last two freshmen classes can really feel good that it doesn't matter what happened last year, this is going to be our team and something we set the tone on for the rest of the year. I sat back in the second half thinking that if this offense can get a little better every week, it could be a great two year run here. Hopefully they keep moving forward here the rest of the season.

Q: Kellen Lewis, Indiana's QB showed patience last year against Iowa as a redshirt freshman. Iowa sat back in their base defense and really didn't put heat on him. Based on the success Iowa had this past week against Donovan, a guy that hurt Iowa last year with his legs and Iowa spied Donovan, how much of that game plan can carry over this week?

Hartlieb: I would think quite a bit. I can never figure them out from week to week. I don't want to pretend to say that just watching on Saturday's that during the week, not watching film, no fan should feel like they can make any assumption on what the true right way is. Coach Parker has consistently had great defensive years for many years. He is going to what is right for the personnel that they have, with the team that they are facing.

I do think that this gets back to the scary side of teams that attack us. That is, that spread offense, Kellen Lewis is one level better than Tyler Donovan from a playmaking standpoint, and they have a solid set of receivers, but they make you play more in space than a team like Wisconsin or Michigan. So it's back to that match up issue, and we clearly have to face that battle of the true spread offense. And this defense, keep them under 300 yards, getting two or three turnovers and keeping them at a maximum of 14 to 17 points on the board

Q: Are there any final thoughts you would like to add about the rest of the Big Ten schedule based on what we have seen through the first four games of this season?

Hartlieb: I look at the season a couple of ways. The Hawks want to win out of course. They are capable. Breaks have to go their way, but they could win out. But split the games up here. You put Indiana, Northwestern, Minnesota and Illinois in one group. We have to win those four games. That to me, you don't want to give any of those programs any glimpse of hope as far as them overtaking us as a first tier program in the Big Ten. We have to go 4-0 there.

Then you look at Michigan State, Penn State and Purdue, two of those on the road. Here is a set of three, that if we go two out of three, I think that is a great year from this point on. If you can go six out of seven, it can happen. But Indiana is not one of the big three games going forward, but I hope we can bring the same preparation, emotion and playmaking in this game, because we need to make sure that last year was a complete fluke and run the table against those four bottom programs.

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