Jared Clauss: I think that is what it was; an attitude thing. They made some adjustments, but it was hard to tell for sure being at the game. I thought the attitude was better. Some of the pass rush games were working better in the second half. It didn't hurt that Penn State dropped some balls there. I think guys had a feel for things. They ran the quarterback draw in the first half and had some success, and they ran it in the second half and they were a little better against it. Penn State was running the deep comebacks and stretching the zone, and Iowa did a better job in the second half. I don't know if it was night and day game changing game plan, but I think they came out more fired up.
Q: Were you shocked when you saw Iowa's defense on the field for nearly 24 minutes and for 47 plays in the first half?
Clauss: Penn State's coaching staff has played against Iowa's staff for a long time and they know what Iowa's defense will give them. They had the talent and the experience to take what they were giving them and drive down the field. It's very unusual that teams have both the patience and the talent to do that. I think that was a big part of Iowa being on the field a lot in the first half. It's a dangerous combination of an opposing staff knowing what you do, just like everyone does. But once they get into a game, they get greedy and try to go up top and throw interceptions against this defense. They don't execute. They are not as patient, and I think Penn Stat was patient in the first half. We all know they have great talent, so that is a dangerous combination.
Q: On the heels of that, Penn State was only ahead 13-6 at the break. Do you think that was frustrating for Penn State? They were patient in the first half, they executed near flawlessly and only had a six point lead when they flat dominated statistically? Then in the second half, the script was flipped. It was amazing to see.
Clauss: That is a great question. I don't think their game plan changed a great deal. You always want to win the second half. What Penn State did well going back to their patience, I also thought their offensive line did as good a job as Iowa has done all year on the offensive line, in staying on the blocks. Penn State's interior line was hanging on Iowa's defensive line for a long time. Iowa's defensive line has been able to get some pads on those running backs when they come through the hole. Penn State was tenacious on the offensive line in that first half. I didn't see a big game plan change by Iowa, I just saw more attitude. The running was tough sledding up the middle. It is the darndest thing; a total reversal in yardage, but to Iowa's credit, just like they have been doing all year, they had the fireman mentality. 10 of Penn State's points came on two drives inside the 30. There was no finger pointing, they went out and got the job done.
Q: Is it possible that Penn State's offensive linemen were fatigued in the second half, because they were on the field for so long? I know I sound like I am grasping here, I am just at a loss for words based on what I saw in the tale of two halves. I was a bit surprised Iowa's defensive line had that much energy at the end.
Clauss: I think that is tough to say as a fan. Unless it was terribly hot, I never remember being gassed in the fourth quarter. I think those guys are in great shape. I think it was a matter of attitude. In terms of blitzing, I think Iowa realized Penn State was trying to move the pocket, and Iowa tried to keep him contained. As a pass rush, if you are not going to rush more than four and the pocket is moving, your rush is minimal. You are going to decrease your odds of success, and Penn State knew that. Iowa adjusted and brought pressure, and it curtailed that a little bit. I think it was a matter of the energy level was amped up in the second half. It gave me goose bumps to see the defense pump up the crowd on those drives. It was a great sight to see. I think they wanted it more and they got it.
Q: So you didn't have any concerns that the Iowa front seven would be tired in that second half?
Clauss: Not in a game like that. Not in a game like that. A night game, in cooler weather, national television; I don't see that being a factor. I can only speak from personal experience. The heat is what got to me. I don't see that being a huge factor. That is how Iowa's defense is; they are used to having teams put some long drives on them because they are not a home run defense; it's bend but don't break. They are used to playing a lot of snaps. The credit to them is they usually get off the field pretty quick on other times. But it's not far fetched to see 10 play drives, because that is the focus of their defense.
Q: In the fourth quarter of the last two games, Rick Stanzi has rallied his team to game tying and game winning drives. He has room to improve, such as in the pre-snap reads and staring down receivers, but he is young. How impressed have you been with his ability to mentally flush the turnovers he has committed and still come back in the fourth quarter like nothing had happened?
Clauss: Very impressed. After the Illinois game, I said his mechanics would get better. He will stop staring down receivers. You can't coach the attitude, willingness and desire to win. Drew Tate, Brad Banks, Kyle McCann had a lot of that. Those guys wanted the ball in their hands at the end of the game. I think Rick has that. To be able to brush off mistakes is huge for a quarterback. He made a bad throw in the third quarter into quadruple coverage. He blocked it out and moved on. That is huge for a sophomore quarterback to do. You can't practice or coach that. My hat is off to him. I heard Coach Ferentz talk about it after the game. It was just a great job. Outside of that one throw, I thought he was on for most of the game. It was great to see the Hawks win a huge game at home, because we needed it. We had been so close, and I think it can turn the corner on maturity for these last two games. We need both of these games very badly.
Q: You just mentioned something about gaining in maturity in a one game setting. Have you seen games like this, this late in the year, make a difference for guys in that department?
Clauss: In terms of this season, this will have an impact on the guys for next year that are getting some playing time right now. The Big Ten is competitive, and they will realize what it takes to win. I think it will pay dividends in terms of immediate confidence, but that experience going forward for next year. This kind of a game is just huge.
Q: What was it like for you being a fan in a tight game like this, as opposed to being on the field? Also, what is it like for a defense when the game is out of your hands in a spot like that?
Clauss: You want to be out on the field, but as a defensive player, you know your time to shine is when you are out there. They took care of business; they got the turnover and gave the offense enough time to put together a drive. That is all you can hope for. I have heard basketball players say they can't believe we only play one side of the ball. But you rely on your teammates. It's a great team sport. I am sure those guys were as excited as I was to see big third down conversions. It was just a perfect late game drive; good clock management by Iowa, putting the ball in the right distance for Murray to make it. As for me, I wasn't nervous as much as I thought I would be. Murray looked confident on the sidelines. I was watching them both warm up. There were not a lot of guys coming over to pat them on the head. They looked ready to go.
Here are some additional observations from Clauss:
On Penn State's Quarterback Lead Play: If that is run right, that is extremely hard for a defense to start. They motioned the quarterback out, and it worked bigger, early. I think Iowa did a great job of slowing that down, because it's extremely tough to stop when you put a wide receiver or running back in there with a direct snap.
On Penn State's adjusting to Iowa's defense in the first half: Penn State did a great job of moving the pocket. On that first drive, Penn State got smacked in the mouth and they were staying in the pocket, and Iowa forced a fumble. They came back in shotgun and moved the pocket, which nullifies a basic pass rush unless you blitz off the edge. That was a good job by Penn State.
On Penn State's weakness in the game: Penn State looked fresh, sharp, disciplined, but one thing in the bye week that might have hurt them was the dropped passes. It looked like a veteran team dropped way too many passes.
On Mitch King: Late in the game, he could have been selfish. Defensive tackles tell the ends what pass rush games they are going to run. Mitch could have called games to free him, or that were geared towards freeing him. I saw him unselfishly sacrifice himself on a four man rush game. He basically held up the guard so Binns could come inside on a loop and a twist. That was a very senior move to understand that even though he might be the best one out there, the offensive guard is going to be so focused on him because of what he has done, that it might free up Binns and it did for good pressure.
On the Iowa Defense: Allowing 23 points and less than 300 yards for a team that was averaging over 40 and 460 a game coming into the contest, that is incredible. It speaks volumes that once again the Iowa defense could come up like this. We saw zone blitzes, some spread blitzes where you have guys coming up the middle, there was a corner blitz…they stuck with their bread and butter and when it came to crunch time, that's what they did. But they mixed some other looks in. When you think about it, if a team is not expecting a blitz, it makes your blitz efficiency better because they are not looking for it. I thought Iowa did a great job of timing on their blitzes, and frustrating Penn State's offense.
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
MMQB Sponsored by Universitees; for all of your Iowa Hawkeyes Apparel, visit http://www.universitees.com/