Monday Morning Quarterback with Jared Clauss

Former Iowa football player Jared Clauss was in Iowa City when the Kirk Ferentz era began, so he knows what it's like to start 4-17 and then play in three straight bowl games. Clauss talks about some of the things that this year's Iowa team might be dealing with after a 3-2 start with two close losses....

Q: Is there ever a good time for a team to go on the road? Kinnick is an advantage, but after a couple of losses in a row, are there good things with regards to playing on the road?

Jared Clauss: Sometimes you need a balance. Personally, a road trip would refocus me a little bit. When you are at home, you are in the routine of school, practice, study and sleep. Sometimes those road trips, for me, it was always a chance to clear my head on the plane, on the bus. It allowed me to refocus. Some guys on the team might benefit from something like that. I always played better on the road, college and pro and I don't know why. But I would guess maybe some guys need to clear their heads and forget about these past two weeks. It's tough when you are in that routine of a workout at 7am, go to class, practice for three or four hours, go home and study and sleep and repeat. Maybe it could be good. I always loved going out onto the opposing field and hearing the fans yell at me. I loved being in the visiting locker room and soaking up the posters on their wall. I loved hearing the other team's band playing their songs, that stuff just jacked me up. And I bet that there are some guys on this team that are like that, too.

Q: In 2001, you started 3-0 and then had back to back losses to start Big Ten play against Purdue and Michigan State. You lost four of your next five during that time, and three of those four came by six or fewer points. I am drawing parallels to the close losses these past two weeks, and shooting yourself in the foot feeling you should be 5-0…How hard is it to get refocused for the next game and not let the frustration be cumulative?

Clauss: I don't think it's hard at all. Anyone that has played sports at a high level knows that if you are going to be disappointed by a game, very few guys want to crawl into a shell and not get back out there and redeem themselves. That is true at any level, but it increases the higher the level. I know guys are competing. If Northwestern would have lost, those guys would have wanted to get back out there the next week. At this level you want to do your best and correct mistakes. I am interested to see how they respond. Two games in a row with tough losses, we will see if they can clear their heads and bounce back.

Q: Does keeping things together during adversity come more so from the coaches or from leadership on the team, meaning the players? What has a bigger impact on the players; their peers or their coaches?

Clauss: It varies from person to person. Some guys are very secluded in how they deal with teammates. Some guys need teammates to slap them in the head before the game and get them jacked up. Everyone has a different personality. It's unique to each player. For me, at times I needed Coach Aiken to sit me down and say ‘that is not what we need out of you, you can do better.' At times, it was Gallery, Sanders, Kaeding and Clark coming in at halftime and yelling at everyone to get you going. You never know what is going to happen and how you will respond. But I think the key is balance. If it's the coaches every time, at some point in time, some guys might tune out to that. If it's one guy that is always yelling, at some point in time you will tune out. It has to be different guys stepping up and encouraging each other and staying positive and pointing out the good things. That is tough to do after a loss, near impossible. But as we talked about, the offensive line is doing well, Shonn is running the ball, the defense is doing what it wants to do and special teams are better. We have played five games. We have to worry about the ones that we have left to play. That is what they have to worry about right now.

Q: From a defensive standpoint, there were some Soundoff callers and some fans on the message boards that were laying some blame in this game at the feet of the defense. How frustrating is it being on that side of the ball, and you get a three and out or a six plays and out, and then turn right around to have to go back out there because of a turnover?

Clauss: I like to play the game. I think I mentioned this before, that Coach Parker always stressed that it doesn't matter where the fire is, when a fireman is called he responds to put it out. I know it was tough on those guys, because they were playing the defense they needed to play, they were holding them, they were giving up the under routes like they have done for nine years now with this philosophy. Some people grumble about that stuff, but that is the way that Iowa plays defense. Good quarterbacks at the college level are few and far between. To make a quarterback take what you give him, 10, 12, 14 play drives, that has been successful for Iowa. It might not be that exciting for the fans, but in the end, holding the other team to fewer points is what wins games. That might sound like the company line, but that is how Iowa plays defense. To put blame on their shoulders doesn't make sense to me. It was a game of turnovers. They committed too many and they lost the game. It just happens, there is no finger pointing here. It was too many turnovers as a team. If you want to play the blame game, you don't have to look any further than right there.

Q: One of the positives things that I have seen this year, and I don't think there is any doubt about it, is that this offensive line is playing a lot better. That is what makes the last two weeks all the more painful. Northwestern was run blitzing, putting seven or eight in the box to stop the run and Iowa was basically doing what it wanted to do on offense. To me, that is encouraging going forward.

Clauss: Absolutely. It's night and day from last year. The credit to them is that we are not talking about new guys, its guys that played last year. Guys that were upset about what happened last year and have made a positive step forward and are doing a lot better. Improvement and a steady running game, pass blocking is there, Rick was putting the ball where he needed to put it. It just came down to a frustrating game of turnovers. Coach Ferentz stresses the turnover margin a ton. Teams like we had in 2002, 2003, I don't know the exact stats, but I know compared to the years before that, we improved in our turnover margin. It's tough to win….Ohio State would have trouble winning when they commit five turnovers. That is the way it is, and that is what happened.

Jared Clauss is now a Financial Adviser with UBS Financial in West Des Moines, Iowa, back in the city where he starred for West Des Moines Valley as a prep football player. He played for Iowa (1999-2003) as well as the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League

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