Monday Morning Quarterback: Penn State Edition

September 28, 2009

Written by Jon Miller

Ed Podolak said that at halftime, former Penn State and NFL linebacker Jack Hamm told him that Iowa’s defensive line was the best he had seen in college football.  How do you think this line ranks with the best of the Ferentz era groups?

What I am encouraged by is you have a guy at a new position holding his own in Ballard, you have Klug undersized and making plays, stepping out and taking chances.  He made a great play on a quarterback draw, that was just him making an arm-over move, not having tunnel vision and stepping out and making a play.  The confidence level is there and growing.  These guys are a pack of hungry dogs, like I said last week.  It takes everyone on the same page, just like the offensive line.  They just feed off of each other.  Binns has been playing fundamentally well all year, he has been playing the bootleg great.  He showed some power, too.  I am real encouraged.  They have more tests coming up, because Penn State’s offensive line did not look impressive to me, and they will see better lines than that this year.  Time will tell, but they stepped up big last night.

You were a part of several Ferentz era teams, and for the most part and Kirk has said this is a developmental program that plays its best football later in the year after the line of scrimmage play develops chemistry. To get a win like this on the road this early, like you did in 2002, then two home games back to back and a chance to get to 6-0, it seems like a recipe for a special season.

I like the way it has set up so far.  One thing I noticed last night that is a team builder, in 2002 we sang that fight song at Penn State, at Michigan, big games on the road where we won.  Big games in front of huge crowds, those are some of the fondest memories I have is singing our fight song on an opponents field as their fans file out while our faithful fans are there cheering us on.  That is a team builder, that is something that brings guys together.  It’s a mini-bowl game.  To step up and play as well as they did, especially on defense, it’s huge.  That is the type of game that brings guys closer together, because its such an emotional roller coaster.  No disrespect to Arkansas State, but they are a lesser opponent.  I am happy they are up next.  If we were playing Northwestern, Minnesota or Michigan State, this is a classic trap game.  I am glad we have a lesser opponent at home to come off of this emotional high and ramp it back up for Michigan.

Do you like how the schedule has played out this year, with physical and emotional tests prior to Penn State, as opposed to what the Nittany Lions played, three mop up teams?

It’s good if you win those games.  You put credit in the fact they learned a lot, they grew a lot, they have been tested, they have seen different types of offenses and have won all of their games.  But you want to play quality opponents, you don’t want those cupcake teams because you want to see what you are made of, and it’s not a shock.  The impressive thing that was last night was as much of a shock as you could possibly get.  A poor offensive start and a one play drive.  You saw a lot of character out of those guys last night to say ‘OK, that happens’.  Don’t dwell on this, here is the line in the sand.  I am encouraged that in front of that crowd, to basically take them out of the game the rest of the night with stellar play was very impressive to see.  It’s tough to do on the road.

What are your thoughts on Iowa’s running back tandem?

Robinson has a unique…he is not that fast yet, he doesn’t have all that much explosion, but he has a unique thing where at contact, he just has a knack of getting his hips away form the defender and bouncing off.  For a freshman to make some senior linebackers miss as many tackles as they did, that is encouraging.  Everyone has a unique ability.  On paper, he would not have been recruited by Penn State.  But for the most part, our guys were bringing Royster down on one tackle and it took a couple to get Adam down.  That is encouraging.  For Wegher, he has something in him obviously.  I know the announcers were saying they like his decisiveness, but I think he could have been more patient on a few zone runs.  It takes a while to get those guards out to the second level, so you have to be patient.  But he was playing high school football a year ago.  It’s very encouraging and it’s a classic Ferentz mantra; next man in.  If you think about it, as of right now, we have what we thought was our starting running back out, our starting tight end, left tackle…it was good to see DJK back, but we have had a lot of weapons out and we are still winning games.

More thoughts from Jared Clauss


I saw a lot of balls behind the wide receivers, just like everyone else did.  The kind of things that will kill us are penalties, turnovers and not making the plays that are there. We have good enough players to beat anyone we play, but we are only afforded so many opportunities in a game, and if we miss those we will not be successful.  We have to hit McNutt on the crossing route, we have to hit Chaney on the slant early in the game, or he has to catch it; we have to have those things.  We have to see the blitz quicker and there is nothing wrong with throwing the ball away.  We cannot have penalties at times when our momentum is rolling.

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Have you seen a game like this in terms of momentum being a key factor, in a while?  We have to keep the momentum on our side.  We can’t have guys running off the sidelines for the two-point conversion and wasting timeouts.  Those are a few, a very few of the things that were negative. On the good side, continued great play out of Ryan Donahue.  There are very few times when a defensive line where all four of them get a chance to score.  When you can put a team inside their own five, the line steps up.  You saw Binns step up and Clayborn threw a guy with one arm.  Our eyes get bigger and that is huge to have him be able to do that.

I don’t know if it was game plan or taking advantage of Sean Lee being out, but when things weren’t working down the field in terms of open receivers, whether it was the weather or other factors, Iowa did a great job hitting check downs, screens, dump offs, taking more sure things and earning their way down the field.  Obviously we didn’t get in the end zone that much, but they were taking what was given to them.

Allen Reisner is quietly showing up every game.  He has great hands, I can’t remember a dropped pass out of him.  Moeaki has battled injuries for a long time and Reisner is just stepping up.  He is slippery with his route running and I feel very confident if Moeaki can’t go, he is a very capable Big Ten tight end.

In the third quarter, Penn State brought some different blitzes, it was confusing our backs in terms of how they were picking things up.  Iowa was bringing a corner from the boundary, which was good to see.  That had to be a game plan thing for them.

One thing I noticed was when Iowa’s defensive line started to get pressure, teams have tendencies.  A few weeks ago, the Big Ten Network played the Iowa-PSU game in 2002.  Penn State was killing us on screens when we got up big and the line was flying to the quarterback.  They started doing that again, they fell back on that tendency and Iowa was ready for it.  I am sure we have habits, they have habits and we definitely recognized things there.

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I think our defensive line needs to recognize play action sooner.  Teams know that we are not going to blitz that often, and just like you saw on Saturday, when our defensive ends started working them, Penn State kept six in to block our four, they chipped the defensive ends with the running backs and slid a guard out on the other defensive end.  That is max protect on two of the four defensive linemen.  We have to be able to recognize things quicker and that will come with time.  We have two first year starters and a guy that has changed positions.  It just takes time.

Penn State was using a lot of cut blocks early.  A lot of teams will script their first 10 or 15 plays, sometimes it’s fewer than that.  I thought Penn State came in with a really good game plan in terms of how to take advantage of our defensive line.  They used cut blocks, they were walling off our tackles, they seemed to know when we might be slanting and running our games and they took advantage of it early.  But we adjusted and they didn’t seem to.  Once their script, if that is what they were using, ran out, they seemed to be a little confused.

Penn State used a lot of fold blocks to get to the edge, blocking down on the ends and pulling guys out.  It worked well to start, then we recognized that.  Edds was stringing things out, as was Binns.  That was classic Iowa defense, making adjustments as the game went on.

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Penn State took advantage of Klug’s size on the quarterback sneak, they went at him twice.  I have been in there as a light defensive tackle and it’s tough.  There is not much you can do at 260 with a wall of 600 pounds coming at you, so we will have to watch it.

You mentioned a long drive from Iowa last week against Arizona being a statement kind of drive.  I think that was a huge moral victory in the first quarter with a 20 play drive and Penn State only got three points out of it.  That can happen and be a killer for both sides.  Penn State understood what they were trying to do early on, they were willing to be patient and take what was there and not force there.  As the game went on, Clark lost his patience.  We see that a lot. Eventually we are going to get the odds to play in our favor and make these quarterbacks have to beat us.  They want to make plays and they make mistakes against a zone defense.  That happened as the game went on.  He was pressing as the game went on.  He was patient early, and that is how you get a 20 play drive against us.

I know there was some miscommunication on the offensive line.  I have been in that stadium, and I tried to yell at Colin Cole five feet away from me to make an adjustment, and he couldn’t hear me.  I think the miscommunication was due to crowd noise and I look for that to improve.  Penn State brought a lot of different blitz looks.  They confused our protection.  Last week, our running backs did a great job blocking, and this week Penn State had a good game plan in terms of overloading sides, or zone blitzes, two guys through one gap.  They did well and we have to see that quicker.

If we can get pressure with four guys and can drop seven, we will have a lot of success this year.  We did that and we dictated what Penn State did on offense, because they immediately changed their pass protection.

Greenwood took some heat after the UNI game, but since then he has been really stout.  He has laid some great hits out there, and he has not been getting too extended in zones and he looked good.

When Penn State comes out, they didn’t seem to have any emotion on offense and our defense took advantage of that.  Klug, he was beating his guy all game with simple arm over rushes, playing free and loose.  That is what good defensive line play is.  For a guy who is in his first year as a starter to play like that in his fourth game, that is really encouraging.

I’d like to encourage everyone that complains about Norm Parker’s style to focus on a game like this later in the year, in case they have a tough outing, where we didn’t blitz that much, we stuck to our guns and things worked.  It worked this game, it has been working this year and throughout his career at Iowa.  Keep that in mind.

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.claussinsert

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