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November 4, 2014

Matt Limegrover

Q.  Last year's game Iowa's linebackers were pretty much all over the place.  I think they were all three seniors, but what have you seen from this younger group of linebackers?
COACH LIMEGROVER:  You know, jersey numbers may be different, but they just have a great way of reloading.  You know, they have a really, really strong system.  They're basic.  They're very fundamental all the way around, all 11 positions.  What you see is what you get.  They don't change too much.
They're not super outstanding one year, like No. 1 in the country and they're not 125 in the country.  They're very consistent.  And that doesn't change from year to year, and really it's no different.  They got a younger group of linebackers, but at front four there is really front six or seven when they rotate some guys through, that kind of picks those backers up and allows them to get a little more experience, but they're very solid all the way around.

Q.  Do you try and challenge your team, I mean the Xs and Os are one thing, but you know what they're going to do on defense.  It hasn't changed for years.  Do you challenge your team from down here and say this is about toughness one on one, can you reduce it to that?
COACH LIMEGROVER:  Yeah.  You know, there's nothing tricky about them, nothing at all.  They're going to let you know exactly what they're going to do, and they do it well.  So absolutely, there becomes more of a, hey, this is going to be a one‑on‑one battle; how are you going to face it, how are you going to step up to the challenge.  It's always that way.  It's classic BIG TEN football.  It's just going to be body on body, and who's going to be better at what they do.  And that's the theme, without a doubt, for the last seven or eight dates.

Q.  It was obvious that Mitch's confidence was really rising when he reeled off those three solid games in a row, but do you worry at all just how he'll rebound after having a little bit more struggles at Illinois?
COACH LIMEGROVER:  Well, you know, I think there were some good things that he was able to do at Illinois.  You know, we were able to hit the long ball, you know, which we needed to, and definitely benefited us.
Mitch doesn't let a whole lot phase him at the end of the day.  He's learning that each week and getting better at that.  Having the week off to kind of put Illinois in our rearview mirror and set our sights for Iowa, I loved his demeanor and how he went about things on Sunday, and expect more of the same this week and going into the game.

Q.  It seems like some of your first drives, a couple drops that just‑‑ I think back through the season where maybe Mitch's confidence takes a hit that moment.  I mean obviously you'd want those catches made, but just is that something you've thought about, too, that if you could just get that first first‑down, how things can start to‑‑
COACH LIMEGROVER:  Yeah.  That's all part of it.  That's all part of the preparation going into the game.  You know, that's the idea of scripting, you know, initial starter plays, you know, whether it's first 12 or 15 or 18 plays.  You know, you look at it and you say, hey, how can we get this guy going, how can we establish something here.  You know, let's see what they're going to do to a formation to set the tone for the rest of the ball game.  Let's get our quarterback going in the right direction.
So yeah, it is a little bit disheartening when you have something, and maybe there's a drop or maybe the ball wasn't put where it needs to be, because you really put a fair amount of time into trying to get those situations as advantageous as you can, because you do have the time in the preparation and then you're able to see, okay, here's how they're adjusting to us, here's what they're doing and then that's when the end‑gate stuff kind of kicks in.
So anytime you have a situation like that, I think that it does make it a little harder to fight through when those situations come up early in the ball game.

Q.  You mentioned before you guys have actually more plays at 30 yards or more this year than before.  Do you find yourself more apt to gamble on some of these bigger‑‑ big yardage plays?
COACH LIMEGROVER:  I don't know if gamble is the right way to put it.  We've got a lot of confidence in David Cobb that if we do take a chance on first down and we want to come back and run the ball on second down, that he's a guy that'll find a way to get us into third and manageable.
So that's always the challenge when you're not a drop‑back, throw‑it‑50‑times‑a‑game type of team is, okay, where do we go on second and ten, and sometimes that shies you away from taking some chances, but when you look at it and say, hey, we feel very good about being able to run the ball and also having some good shots that maybe aren't down the field, but that'll get you into third and manageable, because then that becomes your goal on second and ten is get yourself back on track.  So we're feeling better and better about those things that we have as well, so it allows us to open things up on first down a little bit more.

Q.  Cobb seemed pretty devastated after the game last week.  Do you just reinforce with him, hey, keep running the way you do or do you have to say be mindful when you're trying to break tackles and guys are going to try to strip it?
COACH LIMEGROVER:  It's a tremendously fine line because you gotta continue to coach and say, be smart, understand the situation, but at the same time, some of his best runs, some of his most impressive runs is he's had a guy hanging on each leg, another one jumping on his back and he's found a way.
So the way I'd sum it up is the same thing with the running back, if you're running zone scheme and the guy gets the ball early and he cuts the thing back and has a good gain, those guys want to keep cutting it back all the time.  You can't take that out of them, but you gotta keep them on track.
And I think that's the same thing in the situation like that.  We preach so much about team football and about taking care of the ball, about being good teammates, not putting the defense in a bind.  That's the ultimate there is not only fumbling, but them taking it back for a touchdown.
So the reinforcement has gotta be, hey, we love what you do, but let's be mindful of taking care of that football, because if the worst thing we have to do there is punt on 4th and 12, so be it.  Let's let our defense finish this thing off.

Q.  Until you notice guys because he does try to pressure guys, try to punch the ball out when they have several guys on him?
COACH LIMEGROVER:  Oh, yeah.  And you know what's interesting about that, and I think Tracy would tell you the same thing, is sometimes those guys are trying so hard to do that, that's what gets him that extra‑‑ you know, there are times where I'm fortunate to be in the box with Tracy, and he gets mad at our defensive guys because they're not wrapping up and tackling, they're trying to go for a strip or trying to get the ball, and all of a sudden the guy squirts out and gets 10 or 12 extra yards.  I think David is very good at that, but because of that kind of style, he is prone to people going after the ball more, and he's definitely gotta be more mindful of that as he's trying to get those extra yards without a county.

Q.  How have the guys gotten over the Illinois loss and how can you tell that they've put that behind them?
COACH LIMEGROVER:  Well, you know, I think having the week‑‑ the off week was definitely came at the right time mentally, you know, because there was the grieving process.  You know, nobody felt good about it.
You know, Coach gave them a day or two away.  We watched the film.  We made the corrections, and then we tell them all the time, put it in the rearview mirror.
You know, one of the things we talk about is toughness individually and as a team, and it's not just the physical toughness of going out there, you know, and going one on one or whatever, but there's also a mental toughness of get it in your rearview mirror and keep looking forward.
And we stressed that to those guys last week, and come Sunday there wasn't a word about it.  We were moving forward and got a huge game, big game, big conference game, border opponent.  Everybody knows that.  We're well aware of what's ahead for us this next week.  So it was good to kind of have that week to get through that and then move forward.

Q.  Northwestern didn't seem to be posing much opposition for them.  They just looked like they caved in.
COACH LIMEGROVER:  Well, I'll tell you what, we had a chance because having Saturday off, we had a chance to watch a little bit of the beginning of that game, and you know, they had special teams breakdowns.  They were in third and long their first three or four possessions, Northwestern was.  They were in third and eight plus, I think each of their first four possessions, and that's not where you want to be against Iowa.
So they just didn't get anything going, and it was one of those where before they could even take a breath, they were down 24 nothing, and it was a combination of poor field position, special teams, couple big plays by Iowa.
I think they were able to start one drive on their own side of the 50, and you give them a short field, they're gonna take advantage.  So we know that special teams are going to be huge.  We've gotta win the special teams battle, and then we can't, you know, as I've said all along, we gotta be good teammates on offense.  We may not get a first down, but we can't go from third and eight to fourth and 18 and lose 10 more yards and put ourselves in a bind and start tilting that field away from us.  So we'll use that as a good template as to what not to do for sure.

Q.  Ben Lauer sounds like his ankle is acting up again.  Is it fair to say that if he was healthy, he and Jonah are both two guys that could be starting and one reason you guys have split time there is to save Ben some wear and tear?
COACH LIMEGROVER:  Yeah.  You know, they're both younger guys, and physically they're not fourth or fifth‑year seniors, you know, in the strength program and developmentally.  So what I found last year, you know, Eddie Olson was kind of banged up, so he wasn't going to make it through a full ball game.  And then you had Ben Lauer as a redshirt freshmen.
Now, Ben got stronger over the off season, but he's still not where he probably needs to be to be a dominant BIG TEN offensive lineman.  Then you have Jonah who's had a lot of injuries but now is healthy, a little bit behind that way.  So when you can trot a fresh kid out there every other series as opposed to a younger kid getting worn down, I never used to believe in that, but since I've gotten here, and particularly in the last two years, I think you're able to get more out of them.
So those guys being costarters when Ben's healthy, I think that helps both those guys be strong throughout a ball game.  Instead of having 70 plays in a ball game, each of them getting between 33 and 37, it seems to get the most out of those guys right now.
Now, what I'd love for it this time next year or two years from now, depending on how things go with what we do with Josh Campion and those guys be our bookends and they're fourth‑ year seniors now and they're stronger than they've ever been and they're both huge bodies.  That's what the really good programs are able to do is take those guys and build them over time.
So that's why we do that with those two guys in particular.

Q.  Do you feel that Connor has progressed now that he's taken that next step up; you've taken the redshirt off him.  How have you seen him develop the last couple weeks?
COACH LIMEGROVER:  You know what, the off week really helped him as well, to get the couple extra days in.  That's the one good thing about a team like Iowa is we'll be able to get Connor in there a little bit more, because like I said, for the most part we know what they're going to do.  They're going to be very good at what they do, but there's not going to be a lot of, like I say, sometimes for a freshmen it's like the what you see on a commercial where there's somebody standing on a street corner and they speed everything up around them.
A lot of times for a freshman in general, but especially a freshman offensive lineman, you kind of feel like that guy's standing there when that stuff's going at warp speed around you.  I think the last couple of weeks that stuff's really slowed down for Connor and it's given him an opportunity to really work on that technique, especially the last seven days or so.
So this is not an ideal game for him because it is Iowa, but it is good as far as being able to get in there and get going.

Q.  Matt, you're two‑thirds through this season.  How would you in kind of a short overview, how would you evaluate where the offense is?
COACH LIMEGROVER:  You know, as always, it's a work in progress.  I feel like we're‑‑ I feel like we're further along than we were at this point last year, but I don't think we're far enough along that we can completely week in and week out say, hey, you know, defense has an off day, we're going to be able to against the better teams in the conference go out there and dominate a game and score 40 points in a ball game.
Eventually that's your goal is you want to do that every week, go out there and no one's going to stop you from scoring 35 or 38.  And we're working towards that, and I think we're getting closer, but still definitely a work in progress, and each week's going to be, as it is with everybody in this conference, going to be a challenge to find ways to score points against good defenses.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, guys.  Thank you, Coach.

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