Monday Morning Quarterback: Iowa State Edition
Q: Let’s start with the offensive game plan. Based on Bryan Bulaga being out and four new faces at new places from last week’s game on the offensive line, I felt that Iowa might need to open up the passing game, but I wasn’t holding my breath. What did you think of the game plan they had to start with?
Jared Clauss: I was surprised. I kept talking with people I was sitting with, saying we have only had one run, or two runs. It was uncharacteristic, but the thing they did is they worked some four and even five wide receiver sets, they also worked some good play action. It wasn’t just shotgun, there were some of their primary sets with run play action and it worked well.
Q: At the least, it was a change of tendency. In this game in recent years, regardless of the coaching staff, Iowa State has been really aggressive in their defensive front. Were you surprised to see them play that honest?
Clauss: Yeah, but I saw a few dog blitzes in there. But they were fairly straightforward, just like Iowa was all day. It was a matter of execution and for about a quarter there, we were not executing that well on offense, neither was Iowa State. Fortunately we go things corrected and their luck did not improve the rest of the game. I was impressed. ISU was stacking the box, loading guys in there, Iowa was not stubborn. They were missing their best offensive line piece and they opened it up. Once Stanzi settled down, it worked quite well.
Q: How did you feel about the play of the offensive line?
Clauss: They calmed down. UNI has a really good defensive line, and Iowa calmed down this week. I watched Vandervelde and thought he did a nice job. I think the coaches handled that well with getting a few hits on his helmet so he gets his feeling back, but not wearing him out. I watched Reiff quite a bit; I think ISU targeted him, bringing some things off of his edge. He handled it well and that will help him down the line. Offensive line is just one of those positions where you have to have continuity and be on the same page and it looks like they grew week one to week two and that will continue.
Q: Is Tony Moeaki the best blocking tight end you have seen? He dominated out there.
Clauss: A few times, and I am not sure if you saw it on TV, he was frustrating the ISU player he was blocking. He stayed on his block the entire time. As a defensive guy, that is the most frustrating thing. YOu expect to throw someone off and make a play and the guy does not let go of you, drives his feet and stays in front of you. Not only is he a fantastic and athletic playmaker, he is a devastating blocker. He works his guy all game. If he stays healthy, he is one of the best tight ends in the country.
Q: Iowa has been running so many playmakers in and out with regards to what they may have this year in the receiving game. What do you think about the balance they may be able to achieve this year once the offensive line situation settles in?
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Clauss: They have a lot of playmakers at receiver, as good of depth as they have had in the Ferentz regime. The thing that is great about that is we can run guys in, we can keep them fresh. We are going to need them in the running game for blocking, and a tired receiver can dog it if they know the play is going away from them. We are going to need fresh receiver effort to get the running game going, because that area is slow now. It was good to see Wegher and Robinson play the way they did. But we need everyone firing on all cylinders to get this thing moving and four, five or six wide receivers rotating in is an incredible luxury to have in the Big Ten when you have guys getting dinged up. I am looking forward to a more balanced attack. I can’t say enough about how pleased I was with their willingness to take what was given them and that was the passing game. A big rivalry game, Rick looked a bit nervous and amped up and sailed a few balls, but once he calmed down, it looked very efficient. It was a very efficient second half.
Q: You mentioned Brandon Wegher, he is a popular topic right now. What did you think of him? He looks like one of those players that has that ‘it’, and has brought his high school skill set to the next level.
Clauss: He wasn’t just shifty, he has a knack to get his hips turned at the right time and get out of some tackles. I was impressed with a true freshman lowering his helmet and taking on the tackler as much as he was, that is rare. Guys try to avoid contact. He was running right into them. I really liked seeing his athletic ability when he scored, diving over the pile. Again, young players don’t do that. His attitude seems to be there, too. We saw a glimpse of what his physical capability might be and its a matter of growing from here. The level of defensive play is going to ramp up in a hurry these next few weeks.
Q: What about Iowa’s defense? They were opportunistic on the day, but some people are wondering about allowing about 140 yards rushing per game. Does that have to do with the schemes they are facing? How did you feel overall about the defense?
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Clauss: I thought Iowa State had a good game plan. For years, Iowa has run adjustments based on sets, motions, things at the line of scrimmage that the linebackers see and communicate to the defensive line. Iowa State did a nice job of taking advantage of that and opening up some gaps in the middle. They were wheeling our tackles across the center’s face on some tackle-tackle games. They had a nice game plan and they executed well. But a lot of their yards came as a result of poor tackling, and that will continue to improve. We have missed too many of those these past few weeks and they will get to work on that. As a Ferentz team does, the defense will get better. I am not too concerned about that, because our scheme frustrates offenses. As a fan who might be used to watching Florida or SEC schools, it’s a different type of defense. Speaking to offensive players that go against us, it’s frustrating. They want to make big plays, but we are mixing up zones and coverages and it confuses people. Arnaud floated a few balls but a few of those were different looks we were giving them. I am encouraged and I don’t care how many yards you give up, three points is three points. Six turnovers is impressive. This team has to be in the plus side of the turnover margin. We have to be ball hawking and they were. Coach Parker used to say in games like this, ‘here comes the dreaded spread’. It was new school versus old school out there. We had linebackers on receivers, again. Five defenders in the box against six offensive players. We had minimal blitzes, what some fans call the plain vanilla defense and we just played ball. We got turnovers, helped the offense with field position. It’s the same stuff against all spreads we play; nothing has changed and everyone knows what we are going to do for the most part. We don’t care, because we will execute better than you will more often than not and that has been the case under Coach Parker. Don’t try to be things that you are not. I am excited about the playmaking ability we are showing on defense. The two young corners have done well and we get Prater back this week. The defensive line will keep improving, too. Maybe I am an optimist, but things look good to me for what this defense will be able to do this year.
Q: I wondered if Iowa might have come into this game this week with a chip on their shoulder based on some of the reaction after last week’s close win. Does this dispel the notion that Coach Ferentz doesn’t get up for this game?
Clauss: Well, people are going to have an opinion on this, but I played for him and I saw the emphasis we put on it. It has nothing to do with recent times, although he is 5 of the last 7 now. It has more to do with the fact that we didn’t catch a few breaks. You don’t think we didn’t have newspaper cutouts on our locker room walls? You don’t think we listened to everything they were saying in the media and getting fired up? All of that denial is rhetoric from people. That is garbage. I never witnessed that once. He treats it as a conference game and he has had a lot of success recently. I dispel that rumor as much as I can. This is his biggest point win in the series and hopefully it leads to more of the same over time.
Here are more of Jared’s thoughts from the game
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“I thought our punting was fantastic. You don’t know how big a lift that is for defense to come in with an offense pinned back deep. the defensive linemen get hungry, a possibility for a safety is there…its so uplifting for special teams to feed the offensive and defensive emotion and once again Donahue did a nice job of that.”
“I think getting Bulaga back this week will be huge. I don’t think Reiff did a bad job, but I am excited after seeing Vandervelde and Calloway out there and the improvement from week one to week two we saw…we are going to be OK.”
“It was great to see the freshmen in there willing to step up and make a play, making athletic plays. Davis looked good out there, willing to lay his body out there. These are not things you always see out of freshmen.”
“I said last week we saw a lot of emotion out of Sash and how he might be able to develop into a leader, and I think you are seeing that.”
“We did exactly what we needed to do this game. We mixed coverages, we kept everything in front of us, and I am excited that even when it was tough after the first and second quarter in this game, there was no panic out there. Stanzi wasn’t out there trying to change what he was doing, he just calmed down. That is the sign of a good football team, one that does not panic and play beyond their limits. You saw that if we execute our game plan, we should be dangerous. Hopefully some big things will come.”
Jared Clauss played for Iowa between 1998-2003. He also played in the NFL for four years, and prepped at West Des Moines Valley. He lives and works in his hometown as a wealth manager.