MMQB with Jared Clauss

September 19, 2011

Written by Jon Miller

Hawkeye Nation

Jared’s Opening Thought: The key is turnover margin, executing on special teams, not making penalties…we were not perfect in all of those phases, because we still got the win which was huge.  It shows maturity, an ability to fight back even when you are shooting yourself in the foot…It was not the prettiest game by any means, but what a finish.  A lot of ‘growing up’ occurred this weekend.  I hope that confidence level that Vandenberg and those receivers have now, maybe they get into a rhythm and that leads to other big things.


I think Hyde is more of a natural fit at corner.  I like his ability to play safety in case there is an injury, but it looked to me like that defensive backfield was working well.  You saw a lot of emotion out of Bernstine and he made some huge plays on one of the best running backs in the country.

Alvis made a nice move..the Pitt offensive line was doing a lot of three step drop plays where they cut Iowa’s defensive line at the snap to get better lanes to throw in.  Because of our knack to knock down balls at the line, especially at end, but he played off that nicely and made a great play.  The defensive backs also gave the line some time to get a rush on Saturday.

It looked like Pitt was clearly game planning against some of our man coverages, to get a running back one on one with a linebacker.  We have seen that a few times this year, a check down route where they are coming out of the backfield.  We didn’t give up anything big there.  It’s a tough play to stop and Morris was the target and did a good job.

Pitt resorted to some ‘trick plays’ to get some big plays on us, but credit to them.  They showed a lot of different looks.  They snuck the tight end out of on some stuff.  They executed what they were trying to do well but they gave us some gifts, including that final throw.  It was a poor throw, but they were well coached for the most part.  They executed their game plan.

It was good to see Carl Davis get some experience against a good offense.  They are going to have to use more bodies this year in that rotation

Eric Guthrie changed field position all day long.  Just a fantastic job by him.  That is not the most high profile position, but he has been doing great, pinning down the opponent.

On the inside runs for Pitt, it looked like they were combo blocking to the linebackers were two guys hit the defensive tackles and one releases to the linebackers.  It worked with limited success.  Iowa was seeing that and learning from what Pitt was trying to do as the game went on.  It didn’t happen much.

If you try to run the ball laterally against Iowa, it’s hard to do.  We played lateral runs well again this week.  What people have success against us with is spread us out and create space for the runner.  But if you are going to hand the ball off and try to speed run to the edge, that is not happening.

I thought I had seen it all…for Pitt on a punting formation with motion to the line of scrimmage.  I don’t know what happened to a good old fashioned punt formation.  Iowa runs that, we haven’t had a lot of punts blocked.  I keep seeing all of these punt formations.  I guess the thought to that is to get guys down the field quicker because there is less traffic and you spread things out, but to me it seems like you are trying to reinvent the wheel and it doesn’t seem to be worth it in my opinion.

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They tried to come back in the second half and run that option look to the pass.  It fooled us once, and it was a good call by Pitt and they got points.  But in the second half they tried to run that again and we got them for a sack.  I think Iowa does a good job of learning.  they are not out there as robots.  They are recognizing things, it;s not that hard of a defense in terms of the amount of ‘plays’ that we have, but there are a lot of adjustments we make on the field and it was great to see them learn from that.

The defense came out in the second half with two three and outs, it built some momentum.


I really liked that Iowa was using play action and getting the tight end back into the game.  If you look at the Ferentz era, our tight end play has been as good as anyone in the country.  The amount of guys drafted and still playing at that position, the amount of all conference players, just real impressive.  We lacked that in the first two games and getting those guys back and into the mix is big.  The bootleg action slows down the backside defensive end as well.

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I thought Iowa showed a tendency their first two games in shotgun, basically throwing the ball a lot.  I liked seeing Iowa run the draw off of the shotgun, whether it was the inside zone or pulling a backside guard or a stretch play off of it; that eliminates the tendencies that other teams try to spy on film and can adjust to by seeing certain sets.

We came out and ran some boot action off of our zone look and we had not done much of that in our first two games.

Penalties really killed a lot of our momentum.  The first three quarters, the amount of times we were in 3rd and 7 or longer was astonishing (eight times).  We were not getting good yardage on first down and had to do things on second down out of their comfort zone.  If you are always at 3rd and 8 and the other team is at 3rd and 4, the math is basic.  It was great to see Iowa continue to push and be open minded and change pace when they had to.  Everyone saw the success they have in the hurry up offense.

Reiff played solidly.  You don’t see a ton of pancakes, he is not out there throwing guys around, but his guy rarely is making the play.  You can have peel back blocks and pancake blocks and all kinds of knock downs, but the basic premise on offense if you are a blocker is don’t let your guy make the play.  He is very solid.

It was good to see McNutt get more involved in the offense and the receivers in general.  Davis continues to impress me each week.  They have a great third option in Martin-Manley.  He showed a lot of athleticism.  I like the fact that once or twice, yes Vandenberg was locked onto McNutt, but he took what the defense gave him.  Our crossing routes against the zone were working.  They take a while to develop.  I thought our offensive line pass protected pretty well.  Outside of the missed ball to McNutt in the end zone, Vandenberg was throwing into zones.  He was hitting slants, hitting tight ends over the top, it was good.

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Keenan Davis shows a unique ability to make the play on the highest point on the ball.  You don’t see that a lot.  The timing can be off for a lot of receivers when they jump for the ball, or they don’t leave their feet because they are afraid to take the hits, or on deep or shallow crossers they don’t get those arms out and extend.  Davis does; he goes up and makes the play on the ball at the highest point.  With his height, that is a weapon.

I thought the offense, for a portion of the game before the great fourth quarter, they were moving the ball but we shot ourselves in the foot with a penalty or a sack or something like that and we could not get the points, then a pair of missed field goals.  Having said that, when we had that sense of urgency, pass, pass to a touchdown…Vandenberg hit his stride.  He was accurate on almost all of those throws.  When you are sitting back there winging it, sometimes a ball will sail, even in the NFL.  He was very accurate and putting it where the defense could not get it.  I thought his decision making during that time was quick.  The line did a good job of protecting, but he was making quick decision sand finding holes in the zone.  Wow.  What a fourth quarter.  I don’t think many people would have guessed that would have happened.  It was looking pretty grim there for a while.  What an emotional roller coaster.  I think that will pay big dividends later in the year.  It builds a lot of confidence.  I think you saw a hangover in the first half from the Iowa State game.  In the second half they built that up and I hope that confidence continues the next few weeks.

QUESTION: Let’s expand on that; the feeling that was in that locker room after a game like that.  It was amazing and I bet some of those guys couldn’t believe that it happened.  What can that do for a team?  Does it bring you together, instill trust, bring an offense and a defense closer together when both sides had to be perfect in the fourth quarter?

There are a few parts to that.  The first part is that you have to realize for example on defense, if the offense is not getting it done, you have to do your job.  You can’t get down, you can’t point fingers because some day it won’t be your day.  If you do get down on yourself, you will make more mistakes and the opportunity for a comeback will not be there.  The key is it builds confidence on both sides of the ball.  Sometimes you don’t have it for a while in a game.  Norm always talks about being a fireman.  They don’t bitch about when the fire starts, they go and put out the fire.  that is more of a defensive philosophy, but I think it builds confidence that you have to keep doing your job and not worry about the other side of the ball.

Emotionally, there is a grind to this game as you put a lot of time into this. A game like this makes football fun.  The first half, you don’t want to be a part of something like that because it’s mundane.  But when they are slapping each other on the head, jumping around and doing the gator chop on defense and celebrating touchdowns, that is why you signed up and put in all of the time.  It inspires a ‘want to’ factor coming off of a huge emotional loss like they were at Iowa State.  They needed this.  That was draining last week, physically and mentally and they needed this uplift and have some fun.  You get that passion back.  Wow.  What a fourth quarter.  Coach Ferentz was emotional about it, because of his background and where he came from.  You think you have seen it all until something like that happened.  I thought we were watching Texas Tech on offense, but it was Iowa.  I really liked to see that, how they made that change and started to score some points.

QUESTION:  What was Pitt doing differently or not able to execute in the fourth quarter, on defense?  Pitt was still blitzing some in that fourth quarter and Iowa was hitting the plays.

I can’t speak for the coverages because I don’t know what they were in, but I do respect the fact that Pitt stuck to their guns even when they were on offense.  A lot of people would have said to take your time, but if you try to change your identity you make mistakes.  It worked out for Iowa, but they kept their foot on the gas on offense with the type of offense they were trying to run and on defense, because that is their identity.  What I did notice is that we were airing it out more.  Pitt was doing a lot of run blitzing all day and Vandenberg made some quick decisions late in the game an accurate throws.  I don’t know if anything changed other than the fact that James was airing it out a little more.  He missed a few balls, but some of those throws were as good as you could put them.

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