Monday Morning QB with Chuck Hartlieb

Like many Iowa fans, Chuck Hartlieb was pleased with the offensive 'baby steps' we all saw on Saturday. Sure, 10 points isn't going to get it done on most college football Saturday's, but it was good enough last week. And it was a good place to start. Hartlieb talks about that starting point, as well as Iowa's next opponent in this week's 'MMQB' interview...

Q: Let's start with the offensive line. Brian Bulaga and Dan Doering did a very good job at the guard positions, and it gave Jake more time, and the running game had more holes this week against a run defense that has been salty this season.

Chuck Hartlieb: The key is the running game; that lets you win the time of possession game which then lets your defense stay on the field and gives you a greater chance for a win. It all started with the offensive line. It was great to see multiple players get it done and I felt good for all of the kids out there.

Q: I don't know that there were any dropped passes.

Hartlieb: Well, maybe one or two. I thought Jake could have been helped out a little bit, but for the most part you were right. If there were drops, they were partial poor throws or drops. All in all, the receivers made some good plays and the passing game looked strong. Now the question is will the real Hawkeye team please stand up.

Q: Kirk said that was Jake's best game. What did you think of what you saw?

Hartlieb: It's hard without watching the film. But the way I look at it is, if a quarterback has 60 plays, you could have three to four mental or physical mistakes and call it a good game. I get the sense in previous weeks that number might have been 7 to 10 that you could put on him, be it not handling pressure in the pocket, poorly thrown balls, missing open receivers. As I watched on Saturday, I was thinking the same thing. You don't have to have huge yardage to have a great game. He managed the game well, he made a minimal amount of mistakes and he handled himself better with pressure in the pocket. He was flushed sideways and did well, then he hit the holes hard and gained some yards. I thought he had an excellent game and I felt good for him. People were coming down on him, but I think he will have a great chance to be a high-quality three-year starter at Iowa.

Q: When you look at what the offense did in first half, they had four possessions and all of them went across midfield, but Iowa scored just three points. There were some baby steps. They were 6 of 10 on third downs in the first half, and those situations were more manageable as far as distance was concerned. They were down inside the Illinois 35 three times. They controlled the clock 19 minutes to 11 minutes. You want more points, but managing third downs and fewer negative plays is what we saw on Saturday.

Hartlieb: The offense may have been 10 to 20 percent there in the first four or five games, and now they might be 50 or 60 percent there. It was huge to be able to put 8 to 10 play drives together multiple times. They had not done that previously. They are at least half way there. But you have to get 20 to 30 points on the board, and it's a ‘W' with 10 points. That still has to be corrected and it's a major issue. They are getting closer, but now they have to work on how to finish things off. It goes back to the central theme, and that is a lack of playmakers. Playmakers get you that 40 yard touchdown, they get open in the secondary, they are going to break a run and go 30 yards. We have not had that in the offense. Some playmaker somewhere has got to come up with something to give us that big touchdown. If we have to go 15 plays to get in the redzone and then run more plays, that is hard to put those together into touchdowns. It was a huge step, and we can capitalize on it and move forward from here. We need stability and consistency on the offensive line.

Q: You have mentioned several times that you don't mind the bend don't break defensive approach that Norm Parker uses. It works better when you are converting more third downs, and the defense was only on the field for 25 plays in the first half. You don't see a lot of option, and this was a good running team in Illinois.

Hartlieb: In general, three things crossed my mind at the end of the game; Hawkeye fans, Norm Parker and Jake Christensen. I felt those were the three groups that got us the ‘W'. With Norm, I have said consistently that we have not, in 30 years of Iowa football, had shut down corners or tremendous secondary play that can play man to man on a consistent basis. That is what you need to have blitz packages. Why that is, I don't know. If you don't have shut down corners, I don't want to bring 10 or 20 snaps of pressure. Maybe four or five. I think our system fits our people perfectly. Does it mean we will win every game?> No. But usually we are in a position to win. A classic example this week, in that we did move the ball some, but for the most part it was a well thought out game plan with excellent execution, and players in the right spots to make the plays they needed to hold them to six points.

Q: You mentioned Parker, Jake and the Iowa fans bringing the victory; what do you mean with regards to the Iowa fans?

Hartlieb: I thought it was amazing. I watched it on TV, but I really got a sense for the fact that the fans were extremely supportive at the start of the game, they were with them regardless if they were an undefeated team or a 2-4 team. It looked like it have the juice of a team that had won six or seven in a row and a team that was in the hunt for a Big Ten title. They were with that team the whole way. I thought it was exemplary of the type of fan base that we have as Iowa Hawkeyes. Then, throughout the game, I really think that it felt to the players and the coaching staff, that they had won a championship or had something huge even though it was their first Big Ten win. The fans were outstanding and we should all feel fortunate to have that kind of a group behind us.

Q: Let's look ahead to the Purdue attack.

Hartlieb: Unfortunately, two issues arise when you look back at the Illinois game. How much of a trap game was it for them, did we catch the strengths of that team, or were they worn out after two tough games. Secondly, going against the Purdue attack, were we fortunate to go up against a team that was ranked but had a below average passing game. We really exposed Illinois' imperfections with the passing game. Unfortunately, our wins so far are against teams that do not have a balanced attack. Now, I think this team, especially the defense, is looking for huge success against a balanced, spread offensive attack. We couldn't get it done against Iowa State or Indiana. This team is really going to have to challenge itself to take what they accomplished on Saturday and handle the ball going in the air 30 to 40 times, maybe the best set of wide receivers they will see this year and try to hold them to under 17 points. It is a tough situation, but to say that the ‘W' on Saturday was a reflection of our pass defense would be wrong.

Q: Purdue is coming off of back to back games against Ohio State and Michigan where it has basically had it's swagger taken away. It has averaged 282 yards of offense in those game, well below its average heading into that two game stretch. It was 23-0 late in the game against Ohio State, and 48-7 late in the game against Michigan before the subs went in for both teams. Against Michigan, they ran for 39 yards and against Ohio State, they ran for four yards. Does that play into things?

Hartlieb: Yes, but you go into a season and you know that you have two games where you will be an underdog, but three or four other games that are must win and you are backed into a corner. If I am coach Tiller, this is the make or break point of the season. A quality Iowa team that always gives them fits. I think you are going to see Purdue come out much stronger at home than Illinois did on the road after their two tough games.

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