MMQB: Arkansas State

October 6, 2009

Written by Jon Miller

Q: Kirk Ferentz was asked last week if he believed in trap games and he said there was probably something to that. You have been a player before, do you buy into that? Was it tough to get up for some games after huge wins with more huge games down the line?

Jared Clauss: I don’t recall that we ever played out of conference after we started Big Ten play. When you come to Iowa, your goal is to win the Big Ten title. That is what you shoot for. You would like to think that you are always up for every game, but sometimes the emotion is not there. I think it was more a case of Arkansas State putting together a pretty good game plan. Like against Nebraska, they gave up points early and then they were resilient. It is a good football team, they have a good quarterback that was throwing darts all day long. I think it was more of us making some mistakes and not capitalizing where we should have.

Q: One of the Iowa offensive linemen said after the game that they expected Arkansas State’s defensive linemen to try and penetrate more, but they were hanging back which affected the cutback lanes. Did you see that? What did it look like to you?

Clauss: I didn’t notice that, but I thought Arkansas State did a really good job of shedding blockers. They had a defensive end and a defensive tackle that could play ball. I am not saying they will be the best we will see this year, but they were good players. I thought our offensive line was leaning a little bit and a few times, Arkansas State shed us quickly. They had a defensive line with some talent, there is no question about that. That was another good test and another good way to gain experience and that defensive end could play. I wish we would have broken a few more runs, but that was not to be.

Q: Some people will say that Arkansas State can’t be as talented up front as Penn State, and Iowa ran more effectively against Penn State.

Clauss: That type of thinking is why a UNI can come in and play ball with Iowa, why Michigan losses at home to Appalachian State…this is not the old days. There are only so many scholarships, but football in America is very popular and there is a lot of talent out there. Some of the best players I played with in the pros were not from the mainstream conferences. Many were, but there were a lot of players you might consider to be a second tier program. Talent it talent, and it’s everywhere. Penn State and Ohio State do have talent, but top to bottom that does not mean they are going to have all of the talented players. That defensive end was athletic, big and physical. I thought their tackle next to him was also a very good player.

Q: How much mileage can the Iowa coaching staff get out of a game like this, a close win coming off a huge win and getting back into Big Ten play? Do you think it can serve them well?

Clauss: I think if anything, I will look at it as a positive. They played a good Penn State team in front of a hostile crowd, they played well and well enough to win, and they were dominant on defense. Maybe this game was what they needed to bring them down to earth to realize if you don’t show up every week, it doesn’t matter if its Ohio State or the low end of your schedule; talent is talent and anybody can beat anyone at this level on any given day. The top tiered programs are the ones that are able to recruit players that don’t care about what the helmet says across from them. They care about being as good as they can be on every single down. When you get those kids on your team, leading your team, others follow and that is when you get a special season.

I think back to 2002, 2003 and 2004, we had some players like that. The Gallery’s, the Clark’s, the Sanders’, the Considine’s, the Babineaux’s; they don’t care who they are playing. They don’t care if they are supposed to be better than the person across from them. They just care about doing exactly what they should be doing each play. Maybe this will be a game that reminds them to get back to that. I know they have that in them. But again, going back to what I said early on, I don’t know that it was Iowa thinking they were better, but we just didn’t capitalize on some breaks. When you have talent in college football across the board, teams can beat you on any given day.

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Here are more thoughts from Clauss. Each paragraph represents a different observation:

“I like the fact they are working that reverse game a lot. You saw a little wrinkle with McNutt throwing the pass off the reverse, they know Chaney is explosive and that is why he has back on kicks. Getting the ball in his hands, it’s tougher for him to jump up and catch a pass downfield because of his size, so getting the ball to him in space is a good game plan and will serve us well all year. If we show that play, that slows their defensive end when we run a regular zone play with the wide receiver fake reverse motion off of that. That will hold him for a split second and can get you more yards on a regular up the middle cutback out of the zone.”

“On the first drive, you had two zone runs, a reverse off of that look, a deep ball and a comeback. I like how they came out in this game, they were successful on the first two drives and there was a great play mix. “

“By staying traditional on offense, our offense has almost become the unique look in college football. A decade ago, it was the spread that was unique, and teams had to adjust to that. Now since everyone is spread crazy, we no have become the unique look in a way. You still have Ohio State, and a other teams that still run a pro-style, but when a team is not used to seeing a lead blocking fullback or a tight end on the line of scrimmage or play action off of a run heavy team, that is a different look they have to prepare for. “

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“I think Hunter has been playing well lately. He has been running through holes a lot, instead of flowing over the backside of the line of scrimmage. He ran through a lot the last two games to make tackles. That is great to see him step up. He was attacking lead blocks well, too. He recognized motion well. You saw a lot of their wide receivers motion out of the backfield back into it. One time they hit a good run and we adjusted and it didn’t work. Iowa did a great job of communicating from the other side of the field on those motions and getting the defensive line on the right page. “

“I thought Arkansas State was position blocking early in the game, meaning they were not trying to drive guys off the ball. They were getting a butt in the hole basically and trying to wall guys off. Iowa did what they do, we knocked them back and it was tough sledding for them to run in there.”

“When they go empty, meaning no running backs in the backfield, people know we are going to run a four man defensive line game. Offensive lines look for that, but something that will play well and did in this game, is when they expected a game, we hit them with a surprise one on one straight up rush, and I saw a few times in this game and against Penn State, if they are sitting back looking for the guy coming around on the twist, and someone comes right at them off the ball, that is a great compliment to a great four-man game.”

“I like that we showed the stretch play early. We need to show we can threaten the edge against a defense with the run and that will pay dividends down the road. They mixed it up on third and long this week, we had gone run the last few weeks and this week we threw a deep ball.”

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“I thought Stanzi looked like he was willing to run more. Perhaps his decision at Penn State gave him some confidence. He looked to run last year, and I had not seen much of that this year. That is always a good thing to have that as a threat.”

“Iowa was playing ‘Over D’ as opposed to their normal ‘under’. That is a call by the linebacker to shift their strength and where the line sets up. Their tight end had a big game, and I don’t know if we saw something in the preparation, but we were doing a little more over, and it’s tougher to get a jam on the tight end on the line of scrimmage. Iowa likes to do that, to not give him a free release in his pass routes. “

“We have to show the ability to rush power from the defensive end as well as threaten the inside. If a tackle knows you are going to try to speed rush to the outside all of the time, it’s not hard to block him. But if he knows there is a threat of a quick inside move or a bull rush, it changes the entire dynamic of the game. Last week we saw Binns with some good power rushes, this week we saw Clayborn with a great inside move to get some pressure. “

“When the opponent goes empty, we run games and that is a great way to slow down screens, because you get the line running laterally and you can see receivers trying to duck out more easily. We do that because it inhibits their ability to run those things, and Klug saw one of those this week and made a great play.”

“I think this type of game can bring us back down to earth and realize we need to show up each week. I am sure they will feed off the crowd at home against Michigan this week. It just seems like if we can iron out some of the turnover issues on offense, we know we will get a few on defense, they are ball hawking and want it, I think things will be fine as long as we get these guys back healthy and threaten a little more on offense. I think things are looking up.”

Jared Clauss played for the Iowa Hawkeyes in 1999-2003 as well as spending four years in the NFL. He is now a wealth manager in West Des Moines, his hometown.

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