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November 4, 2014

Tracy Claeys

Q.  From a personnel standpoint, do you feel like you guys are built better to face that this year?
COACH CLAEYS:  Last year we did pretty good against Michigan State and Wisconsin, so we had the people to stop.  It's just a matter if you tackle well enough and to get off blocks, you know, and chase the ball.  So it's not whether we have the people or not.  It's how we execute.

Q.  What was your main focus with your defense going into this bye week in terms of did you feel like they really needed to regroup after the early struggles against Illinois?
COACH CLAEYS:  Actually, we gotta start better.  After that‑‑ we played well after the first 20 minutes of the game.
And even the first 20 minutes, sometimes people panic, but we missed a sack, or we were out of the first one.  We miss‑ tackled on another one, we were out of there.  And then the third one we let a receiver go on man coverage.  We couldn't stay with the receiver.
So those three plays just happened to hurt us.  After that, the first that the first 20 minutes we played really well.  So there's no need to panic, just need the plays we need to make and get out of the gate better than what we have.

Q.  What goes into those early struggles, do you think?  Is that something guys maybe being over hyped or is it just taking a while to settle in?
COACH CLAEYS:  If I knew, it wouldn't happen twice in a row.  So it's‑‑ you know, we just keep going, talk about it, emphasize it, and hopefully we'll start better than what we have.

Q.  You look at your body of work defensively is still solid.  Seems like the kind of unit that could take it to another level with just a little bit more consistency.  Is that fair to say that you guys are just trying to avoid any of the‑‑
COACH CLAEYS:  I think, you know, the last two games, if we'd just started better.  I was more mad with the Purdue thing, because there was issues there when you give up that many points in a whole half, then you got issues there.
But this last game we were just a few plays away from keeping it out of the end zone, and thought we really played well at the end, had an opportunity to win the ball game.  And just so happens they picked up a fumble and score, and then that's the ball game.
You know, so we're about the same place we were a year ago on everything, and we've had some chances to make some plays, and so we have missed a few plays that you'd like for us to make, but you know, it all comes down to we've played well enough where we're still in first on our side, and it comes down to the month of November, how we play in November.  So I think the kids are looking forward to that and getting back to playing a game again.

Q.  Coach talked about their zone offense and the importance of your guys staying in position, everybody doing their job.  Are you concerned at all, Tracy, in such a big game emotionally as is coming up Saturday that people maybe will lose a little focus at times trying to jump around too much or getting out of there?
COACH CLAEYS:  All I can do is say last yearMichigan State and Wisconsin were big games, and we stayed where we needed to be and make the plays we need to make.
You know, so the one thing they do, and I always get emails every year is they put so many guys in the box.  There's 22 personnel.  They're going to block your front seven, your front eight.  Your secondary has gotta tackle well.  And guys gotta get off blocks and chase it.  Everybody's like, well, your linebackers or your safeties made too many tackles.  Well, it's because they block everybody.  Between two tight ends, two backs, they block the people in the box and they make your secondary tackle on a back that's coming downhill.  There's those games we tackle well and not give up the big play on the play actions, then the fourth quarter we'll have an opportunity to win.

Q.  Most people think of Iowa think about their running game, but they've been passing pretty well lately.  What do you see different there?
COACH CLAEYS:  I don't think there's any difference.  Their protection, they do a very nice job of pass protection, and even against the blitz, they give him time to get rid of the ball and convert on third down.  So up front they're playing very well up front, not just in their running game, but in their pass protection also.

Q.  Can you talk about the young linebackers that have been playing a little bit more, Everett Williams?
COACH CLAEYS:  Yeah, you know, there will be maybe some opportunity for a few more of them to play with more of the two‑back game in that.
If there is a concern of playing them, it will be their first time to play against somebody who's really come downhill like that in two backs.
That's probably the biggest concern is how some of those younger kids will play that are going to have to take some snaps versus the two backs.  But they practiced well last week and practiced well this week, so one way to learn is get thrown in the fire.

Q.  Jack, I mean he obviously‑‑
COACH CLAEYS:  Yeah, I'm not too worried about Jack.  In Michigan he got after them pretty good.  He'll come downhill and get after you.  So it's more of, you know, with John and Everett and De'Niro, the snaps they take, of being ready for what's going to hit them coming downhill.

Q.  Brandon Scherff, I mean all the things you hear about him, does he stand out, I mean among the guys you've faced at left tackle?
COACH CLAEYS:  I think, you know, by far they're the best line we've played all year.  I mean he's a good player, but they got‑‑ there's not a weak link up there, up front that you can take advantage of.
They're coached very well.  They have a system that they believe in.  You line up this way, they're going to run this play and block it this way.  You line up this way, they're going to run this play, so they know what they want to do and they concentrate on execution and make you get off blocks and try to get the ball to the secondary; and they think the back can take care of the secondary.
So that's‑‑ and then, you know, when you cheat up too much, then the play action over the top.  I think they hit a flea flicker this last week against Northwestern, so it's all staying disciplined in what you're supposed to do and tackling.

Q.  Over the bye week, you know, they go out and have that kind of a game against Northwestern, and I know in your preparation so much more than one game goes into it, but do you almost hope the guys weren't too locked in on that game on their off week?
COACH CLAEYS:  I think they need‑‑ because that's how good they can be.  If you don't play well and do what you're supposed to do, they can embarrass you.  That's to the point they are, and so no, I think that's good.  I think it'll‑‑ we should be ready to go and take them seriously, because they can do the same thing to us if we're not ready to play.

Q.  Is there any discernible difference between their two quarterbacks?
COACH CLAEYS:  No.  They do the same stuff.  Same stuff.  Both of them‑‑ like I say, they've done well on third downs, and because their offensive line protection wise, even when people blitz them, you just can't get to it; they give you time to get the ball off.
THE MODERATOR:  Any more questions for Coach Claeys?

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