Monday Morning QB with Chuck Hartlieb

Chuck Hartlieb made a rare prediction one week ago; he felt Iowa would beat Michigan State. The Hawks did just that, and now they turn their sights towards Northwestern. Hartlieb takes a look at that game, in addition to providing his insight on last week's win against the Spartans in this week's edition of Monday Morning Quarterback...

Q: Coach Ferentz got into the officials before halftime. A part of me wonders if that wasn't like a coach taking a technical foul in basketball to get the crowd worked up as well as his players, as I was fearful of the fan reaction going into half time. He changed the emotion there. Can the players feed off of that, too?

Chuck Hartlieb: I had some people around me at the game that were saying it was silly for him to argue that at the end of the half. He was playing the classic head coach mental game, not only with his team and fans, but the refs. He clearly called out a bad one on the west side, and I think he got every call he could have in the second half. First and foremost, he got in the refs heads because every break went our way in the second half. Secondarily, everyone saw that the coach wasn't given up, the players had to get a clean slate coming out at halftime.

Q: The first half was ugly; there is no getting around it. Then to come out in the second half and do what they did against the same team that was whooping them. How do you explain that?

Hartlieb: The thing that we haven't emphasized enough, and if we think we have a Top 25 program, we should be able to go two or three deep. This team has been hammered by injuries and even our second and third teamers are out. The first half was some guys that haven't been out there a lot. And it was ugly.

But I cut them some slack here because of the injuries. We have talked in the past, that a 90% Iowa effort verses a 60% Michigan State effort makes a difference. I really think that Iowa came out and played with a lot of emotion, played at full capacity in the second half. We caught MSU off guard as well. I think they came out in the second half and thought the game was in the bag. I felt like they played conservatively in the third quarter. I didn't see near as much emotion on the Michigan State side as I did in the first half.

I don't want to slight the win, but it is about effort and intensity. You have to congratulate the coaching staff because they bounced back from an ugly half and still got your kids to play at 100%. The other thing is our theme from week to week is to commit to the running game. I think effort one, and running game two. We were balanced in the first half and our passing game is just not effective enough to really rely on. In the second half, I think we really committed to the running game and they were beaten down. Albert Young is our best player and that is the way to go. I still hope for the day where of our first 10 plays, we run it eight times. We have not done that yet this year.

Q: The passing game, you were there and got a chance to survey the field from that perspective as opposed to watching it on TV. Jake has been sacked more times than any quarterback in America this year, and he still looks like the consistency in his mechanics from pass to pass is an area that he needs to work on. Jake was able to step up and make a big strike on 2nd and 20 in that first overtime. You can say a lot of things about the passing game this year, but he seems resilient at least.

Hartlieb: Very much so, very tough, a great leader and has a lot of the intangibles that you would want in your quarterback for the next three years. In addition, he knows he can win a tight game and bring his team back from two touchdowns down. I would much rather have him miss seven or eight guys in the first half which I think he may have done and close out the game late and be strong. I think that says something about him, as far as being able to get the bad plays out of his system and keep his head up and believe that at some point you are going to make the plays. He came through and that was just an unreal situation in overtime, where we were second and 20 and for him to sit in the pocket and hit Chaney at the five, that was the biggest play of the game. It was well executed by everyone.

With Jake, it's mechanics, footwork and accuracy. That first half looked like it could have been the season opener. He struggled from an accuracy standpoint. The good thing that Coach O'Keefe has to feel is that he has guys open. Are they wide open? No. But there are places to put the ball on the numbers and complete a few more passes in the first half. That means the receivers and tight end are getting on the same page, it means the offensive line is giving him a little more time. Now the missing piece in the first half was the quarterback's accuracy.

Q: You talked a few weeks back about young kids getting a chance to play in games, after the Syracuse game and that fourth quarter and how important that is for the future of the program. In the second half of this game, Iowa had a defensive line rotation because it was another first half where your opponent had over 40 plays for the second straight week. We caught a glimpse of the future of the defense in the second half when you had so many freshmen in, the safeties playing better, Fletcher at cornerback. It was interesting to see those faces getting quite an exposure in a close game that they can take forward.

Hartlieb: I couldn't agree more. I walked out of the stadium thinking that I don't know if it's a 10 win season type of talent, but they got a lot of kids getting a ton of experience that if you can at least win your home games and three or four on the road, you will be going into next year with a lot of optimism that you should get back on track for a seven to nine win season. That is possible because of what you said. There are eight to ten kids getting playing time and playing effectively. Are they playing like a senior from snap to snap, no. But they showed some signs of potential out there. The neat thing I think is that it's happening in all phase of the game. Secondary, offensive line to special teams, there is a lot of youth on this team. It would be nice to close out with four in a row.

Q: Northwestern is up next, and they run a spread offense. Iowa has had its hands full with offenses like that over the last two years. How do you look at this one?

Hartlieb: The words that come to my mind are playing in space. That is where we struggle. It's not that we can't handle certain aspects of the spread, it's just that all aspects are difficult. I saw AJ Edds against Purdue playing well against the guy in the slot. I thought our corner coverage has gotten better against the spread. There are holes and weaknesses. Our safeties have had some difficulty handling floods at times, which means two or three guys in their zone. Linebackers in space with crossing patters and backs coming out of the backfield have provided challenges. After the last few years of us shutting down spreads, you have to go into this game a little pessimistic.

However, I do think that it's something that we can hold them down to 24 to 30 points and on the other hand then, Northwestern's defense is as weak as we can go against. If we can commit to the running game, keep Northwestern's offense off the field and put up 28 to 31 points, which we have the potential to do, I think that would be the key. I think it's us keeping our defense off the field as much as possible, and keeping them away from the big plays and hopefully they only get 24 and on our side, us running for over 200 yards as a team and winning the time of possession game and scoring 28 to 35 points. That is going to be the critical piece. At first you think defense, but I actually would say, let's go to the offense and commit to the running game and see if we can win a shootout.

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