Monday Morning Quarterback
For those of you that have never seen this feature before, we speak with former Iowa and NFL defensive lineman Jared Clauss each week for his thoughts on Iowa’s most recent game. To read all of this season’s MMQB’s, type in MMQB or Monday Morning in the search bar above. That is a new and improved feature for HawkeyeNation; search tools for stories, as well as on the message boards
Q: We have seen the Iowa defense get pushed around a bit in the first half from time to time, but then they come out after halftime and are a different team. What adjustments did you see from the first half to the second half this week?
Jared Clauss: I thought Wisconsin game out with a good game plan. Bilema knows how our defensive line plays. What I saw early was they were stepping and throwing. They were taking a step and knew our linemen would read that step and they would throw them a cross face. There was some inside zone, or counter plays inside. It wasn’t anything too elaborate, it was getting guys out of their gaps and chopping on the backside. They would open up a small crease, and when you have a big man like that running through a crease, its tough to bring him down. They were just grinding out 8 or 9 yard runs. When they didn’t have that to fall back on, they were forced to throw it and they made mistakes.
Q: You have been in the Iowa locker room at halftime before when things were not going well. What is it like? Is there a bunch of yelling, or ‘hey we have been here before’? How do the coaches handle that?
Clauss: Every coach raises their voice at times and every coach is calm at times. I don’t think there was any need to panic during this halftime. They played bad in the first half and they were only down seven points. Half the time a player is the one doing most of the yelling, or someone steps up and points out the fact that the first half is behind us, let’s move forward. This seems to be a defensive led team. In the locker room, off the field, I think a lot of the leaders on this team are on defense. And when they start making plays, the offense is opportunistic. That happened again this week and we are the Rocky Balboa of college football right now. We look shaky early, but we are to fight. We take a lot of hits but don’t go down, we fight on and we always come out on top.
Q: We have talked about momentum in the past, within seasons, and it can be bad momentum or good momentum. This team has to feel like no matter what happens, there is no reason to panic, there is no reason to sound the alarm. They just need to keep chopping wood, as Kirk might say. Seven games into a season, do you think that is this team’s identity?
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Clauss: Yes, and I think seven games into the season, they know who they are, especially on defense. The offense is still trying to find itself. The reason why Coach Ferentz’s teams get better as the year goes on is that they rely on fundamentals. They come in with a game plan, but in the fourth quarter, you are not calling elaborate scripted plays. You are calling your bread and butter and that is blocking and tackling. I think they understand their identity is one that we are just going to outlast people, try to limit the mistakes and I think Iowa is +12 in turnovers right now, with 22 takeaways. They understand that is their identity; getting turnovers, being opportunistic on offense and taking advantage of mistakes and knowing if they play sound football, someone will screw up on the other team.
Q: After seven games in 2002, you were 13th in the first BCS poll. How tough is it to keep your eyes on the next game as opposed to thinking more globally?
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Clauss: I don’t think it’s that tough at all, especially in a program like Iowa’s. We are under the radar for the most part, nationally. There is not a lot of hype, so there are not a lot of distractions with regards to elaborate media coverage. It’s pretty basic, and Coach Ferentz stresses that. Even if they were 1-6, it’s about next week. It’s not about two weeks down the road. You saw this week with Ohio State and Purdue, it does not matter who you play. Anyone can beat anyone. If they start looking ahead, that is when you get nicked up, but I don’t expect for that to happen.
Q: How much of the Wisconsin preparation carry over to Michigan State?
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Clauss: I think anytime you get two similar offenses back to back, that is going to help your defense, obviously. But, what made Wisconsin have success in the first half was not their style, it was nuances. Everyone runs inside zones and counter plays, but it was how they blocked it that made it work. A scheme is a scheme; I think it’s more important to rely on the fundamentals. Coach talks about the team having a good week of practice, it’s not x’s and o’s, it’s timing, executing fundamentals well, and things like that. I don’t think we have won at Michigan State in quite some time. It’s a tough place to play. They have a rowdy student section, a tiny visitors locker room; we have not had a lot of success there and we will see how they respond.
Jared Clauss is a graduate of West Des Moines Valley High school and played for Iowa between 1999-2003. He played in the NFL for four years and is presently a wealth manager working in West Des Moines.