Iowa/Purdue: 6 Questions with the HN Staff

Each week, the HN Staff sits down to take a look at the match-up. Read what Jon Miller, Brian Finley, and Rob Howe had to say about this week's game against Purdue, rushing the field, Joe Tiller, and more in this free update item.

Q. How do you expect things to go with the offensive line this week in terms of playing time?

Rob: Kirk Ferentz is as loyal as they come. I have a feeling that if Bulaga had been healthy earlier, he would have gotten the types of reps he saw against Illinois earlier in the year. I also don't think Doering has been at full strength. That said, Meade and Vandervelde stuck their noses in there and gutted it out maybe before they were ready. I would expect Meade and Vandervelde to get the starts, but I think we'll see a rotation at both guard positions going forward. We've seen it done in the past with Sobieski and Lightfoot, Jones and Walker, and Gates and Richardson. It can work and certainly did against the Illini. Bulaga looks like a beast and Doering also pushed defenders back.
Jon: I think that all four of the guards we saw last week will get time. Basically, whomever plays the best in practice this week will get the most time, in addition to the flow of the game. I agree with Rob that I expect to see Meade and Vandervelde start, because it's a road game. But who starts does not matter as much as who executes during the course of the game. Kirk Ferentz said during his Wednesday night radio show that Kyle Calloway had his best game of the year against Illinois. That is a good sign, too.
Brian: I think, as has happened at almost every other position in recent weeks, we'll continue to see rotation. The positive performance of Doering and Bulaga is encouraging, but I think Kirk will continue to be cautious. Those getting their first playing time are always brought along slowly, if possible. Don't expect to see them out there for the majority, but they'll be seeing more than a bit of spot time.

Q. How will Iowa defend the Purdue spread, meaning what alignment will be used?

Jon: Iowa is a bit soft in the back middle, with inexperienced safeties. Bret Greenwood had a big pick last week, but he is a young player and play to play consistency is the biggest challenge for every young player. I agree that we could see nickel and dime personnel this week, but again, you are talking about inexperience here. The 3-4 look might be the first look we see, but that has a couple of linebackers on receivers. This will be the most talented receiver corps that Iowa faces all year. Pressure on Curtis Painter is a must, because Purdue has five turnovers in the last two weeks.
Rob: Ah, the million dollar question. The Hawkeyes have done a good job the last two years against the Boilermakers' attack, but I have to think Purdue is pumped for revenge after last year's debacle in Iowa City. Iowa jumped out to a solid lead and pinned its ears back. Parker also employed a lot of nickel and dime packages, which I would expect to see again. I also wouldn't be surprised to see some 3-4 fronts. Iowa DBs and LBs played as close to the line last year as I can ever remember them doing. They knocked the Boiler receivers off routes, but they'll see that coming this time. Purdue has had some things available to it the last two years and hasn't executed. This Iowa defense will be tested a lot more. Look for the Boilers to come out with the same type of intensity that Iowa showed against Illinois.
Brian: Humpal has brought his game to the next level in recent weeks, while the safeties have shown some signs of weakness. The 3-4 seems to be the obvious choice, then, as Humpal has really elevated his play, and Coleman and Gattas are both more than adequate in the middle. I wouldn't be surprised to see a dime alignment, with Bernstine and Fletcher coming in, but not nearly as much as the 3-4.

Q. Who is your pick to click?

Rob: Smart money probably would be put on Humpal the way he's going, but I think Purdue does a better job accounting for him this week than did Illinois. I'll go with A.J. Edds. His second choice when selecting a college was Purdue and he wants to show the home state fans what they're missing out on. He's a mentally strong competitor that won't let the moment take away from his game.
Jon: I will stick with the same position I went with last week; Albert Young. He is just running so hard, and although I expect Purdue to be much more savvy and sophisticated with its schemes than Illinois was, I think this offensive line is getting some traction which will translate to Albert getting more yards and a lot of carries. Iowa needs this so very badly on Saturday, to move the chains and keep the defense off of the field.
Brian: James Cleveland. I think Jake will need to pass the ball efficiently to win this game. I think Cleveland will make a few timely catches, along with a savvy touchdown. He's had plays and spots, but I think he puts it together for 60 minutes this weekend.

Q: Iowa's fans rushed the field after beating Illinois on Saturday. Some fans like it, some fans don't. What do you think of it?

Jon: There for a while the Iowa fans were rushing the field at halftime. Well, at least it seemed like it. I think that someone is going to get hurt, there will be an altercation between a fan and an opposing player or coach. That is just waiting to happen, as it's happened at other stadiums in the country. Because when you rush the field, your team has won and the opposition has lost, and they are not in a great mood to begin with. That being said, on Saturday, the emotion was genuine, it wasn't worn out, and occasionally, I don't mind seeing it. I am not trying to be an old fuddy duddy here. I just don't want to see someone get hurt, and for Iowa to make the national headlines in that way.
Rob: I really don't feel strongly about this other than to say that as I get older it gets more difficult to dodge the college students rushing past me as I head to the locker room. I thought it was fine on Saturday and didn't think anything of it when it was happening. I did think that it got to be a bit much when it was happening quite often from 2002-2005, but I think it's better than what we saw against Indiana, which was fans leaving at the end of the third quarter.
Brian: I have no problem with it. I think it's a part of the college football experience for a big win. Iowa's fans and players had been waiting and hoping for something, anything positive to happen. When it finally did, there was no doubt they'd be on the field. Add to that being a nationally team and a border rival, it just adds more credibility. If the fans rush after Western Michigan, then we've got something to talk about.

Q: Two years ago, many people saw the Purdue game as a very important win for the team, almost an emotional turn in the middle of the season. Do you feel like this game can do the same?

Jon: If Iowa were to win this weekend, on the road, in any fashion, anything would be possible for the rest of this year. It would give them confidence against Michigan State at home. It would give them confidence against another spread team in Northwestern in two weeks. In that regard, it would be a much bigger win than last week's, especially if the offense had a breakout game. And I think if Iowa has any shot on Saturday, the offense has to score at least 20 points. For Iowa, this year, that is a breakout game.
Rob: I definitely think this is an important game because of what has transpired in the first seven weeks. Iowa is in a hole in terms of making the postseason and the margin for error is small. However, the Hawkeyes can lose this game and still be OK with the remaining schedule. The key is taking another step forward even if it be in defeat. You can't have another offensive effort like the one we saw at Penn State and the defense has to take away the big play. Not to roll out an overused phrase from the ISU week, but this game means for Purdue, who is licking its wounds after being pounded the last two weeks.
Brian: I think Rob is right on here. Even though Iowa lost to Wisconsin, the feeling after the game was generally positive. The same can't be said for Penn State. If this team can perform consistently throughout the game, give a good effort,a nd make some steps forward, they definitely have a chance to win. Purdue isn't known for their mental toughness, particularly when it comes to losing streaks (2004, anyone?) I wouldn't be surprised if a confident Iowa team made a real run at winning this game.

Q: Coach Tiller will, pretty regularly, single out a player who isn't having a great time of things. This week has shown us that Kirk is the exact opposite. Who's got the right idea?

Jon: I think we have an example much closer to home to point to, as for how that plays here in Iowa. Steve Alford had many shortcomings, but his biggest was singling out players, or throwing them under the bus, in press conferences. That is a lack of respect, and a lack of communication. Those things don't go over so well, and they don't play well in this state. I like how Kirk handles things in most every area.
Rob: I don't think it's clearly black and white but probably falls somewhere in the middle. I do think that Kirk is much more diplomatic when he says a particular player isn't performing well. Cowboy Joe can be pretty harsh, especially with his quarterbacks. A coach can motivate a guy by maybe giving him a little shot in the media, but it can't be overdone. And I'm sure Ferentz lets players know in practice if they're not doing what he wants them to do. If I had to lean one way, I'd say that's probably the best way to handle it.
Brian: I honestly can't remember a time where Kirk has singled out a player for a negative. I can remember, on more than one occasion, Kirk dogging the media for singling out a player. I would be interested if there has even been a Register-esque interview with a former Purdue player who wasn't too appreciative of that. That might be the only way to know for sure whether it's a positive or negative thing for his guys.


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