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Black Shoe Diaries Q&A with Black Heart Gold Pants

Okay BSDers, Patrick from Black Heart Gold Pants was kind enough to take some time away from helping Ricky Stanzi tape his latest Barbasol commercial to answer a few questions for us.  

Saturday will be another big test for Robert Bolden.  The Alabama game showed us that we can at least stay close to a ranked team.  Eliminate the red zone turnovers and we could have been in business (maybe). 

QBSneak12: Ricky Stanzi seems to have finally put it together and is no longer throwing multiple INTs in every game (9 TDs to 1 INT this season).  What do you think has been the reason for Stanzi's early success this season?

BHGP: There are any number of reasons for Stanzi's improved play so far this season.  To begin, he has better receivers; Iowa's two best wideouts from last season returned, and Alan Reisner has shown he can clearly fill the shoes of Tony Moeaki at tight end.  Part of the Manzi's improvement has been due to the offensive playcalling.  Too often last season, Rick (QBSneak12: I only know of one Rick, and it is this one) was asked to make throws that he frankly didn't have the arm strength to complete.  Stanzi throws an excellent deep ball, to be sure, but throwing constant 15-yard out routes takes an entirely different animal than he.  While last year's playbook was stocked full of late-breaking routes, this year has focused on short routes, vert/skinny posts, and screens, the kind of routes Stanzi can throw in his sleep.  And part of it is simply an off-season of growth, an off-season where Americanzi said the only thing more disgusting to him than an interception is someone burning an American flag LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT USA #1...Excuse me.

QBSneak12: With the injury to Jewel Hampton, Adam Robinson is the last man standing.  Do you think Robinson will have the same type of success Trent Richardson had against Penn State, or will the PSU defense be able to contain him like they did "Heisman candidate" Bernard Pierce (Temple)?

BHGP: First off, there's no need to scare quote Bernard Pierce like he attends Mosque University. But as for Robinson, it's a very interesting question, because ARob is basically a homeless man's Trent Richardson. He's not big, he's not particularly agile, he's not going to outrun anyone's defensive backs, and he's certainly not a great pass blocker.  No, Robinson doesn't do anything great, but he's a great system back; he makes the one cut, shakes a tackle now and then, and knows how to finish.

And this is about the time where I find out he's torn an ACL.  Damn you, Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God! (QBSneak12: It appears he has time shares in Iowa City and State College).

QBSneak12: If you haven't heard, Penn State is starting a true freshman at QB (Robert Bolden) who, in one road game, had his worst game of the season against a very good Alabama football team. What will Iowa look to do on Saturday that Bolden hasn't already seen before?
BHGP: Absolutely nothing.  There may be some movement within our defensive line (in some situations last week, Iowa moved Adrian Clayborn to defensive tackle and kicked Karl Klug out to end, just to avoid constant double teams on Clayborn), and there might be an occasional blitz (look for this if Iowa has a lead in the fourth quarter, just as they dialed up last year late), but Iowa's coming at you with straight cover 2 zone on virtually every play.  Unless Bolden played high school ball in Amish country, he's seen cover 2 for at least 4 years.  What he hasn't seen is cover 2 so effective, so efficient, so thoroughly precise as Iowa's.  That's where he will have to grow up fast, lest he be baited onto that proverbial hook.
QBSneak12: Penn State's already shaky offensive line took a huge hit last Saturday when Lou Eliades tore his ACL.  With the talent and experience Iowa has on the D-line, do you think Penn State will be able to get into any sort of rhythm offensively (pass or run)?

BHGP: Nope, not really.

OK, maybe.  There's one way to do it, and it's possible for Penn State, and it's not even that complicated: Throw from a 3-step drop every down. Seriously, every down.  You want to get Royster the rock?  There's a perfectly good quarterback to throw him the ball in the flat.  Iowa has an embarrassment of riches on the defensive line, with five guys to fill four spots who are all virtually interchangeable. And so Iowa has routinely played Christian Ballard, a 305-lb. ball of pain, at end (and with great success).  This is done to the detriment of Broderick Binns, who normally plays end and has the wingspan of a baby pterodactyl.  This means a 3-step drop keeps Clayborn from turning your quarterback into those little rubber pellets in the field turf, and the throwing lanes to the outside will look like runways, to be exploited given Iowa's soft zone on the outside.  This, my friends...this is your only hope.

QBSneak12: Iowa is sitting at 3-1 on the season, playing the same number of cream puffs as Penn State.  Arizona seemed to solve the Hawkeyes, especially on Special Teams.  Is that the Achilles heal of this years Iowa team?

BHGP: It appears that way, yes.  Iowa has the conference's -- and maybe the country's -- best punter, and has been effective in punt coverage. Other than that, it's a disaster, and it's somewhat explainable.  Iowa's special teams are where walk-ons and redshirt freshmen make their mark, and they're coached by linebackers coach Darrell Wilson and running backs coach Lester Erb.  The problem is, Iowa's underclass is overloaded with that sort of over-sized tight end/linebacker that Iowa takes from the MAC and turns into Robert Gallery.  Those guys are good in certain spots, but not throughout the kick coverage team, and the kick returns against Iowa have been based on pure speed.  Add to that the fact that Wilson is the interim defensive coordinator (Norm Parker's been ill for 3 weeks now) and Erb is down to Robinson and 2 freshmen, and it's clear where there could be problems.

Also, our kickers have complex physical and mental limitations that cause them to lose all confidence and kick the ball directly into the offensive line without notice.  Last week, they turned to a walk-on true freshman, and the move was praised by the BHGProletariat. Situation critical.  That certainly doesn't help.

QBSneak12: What are your 3 keys to the game?
  1. If Iowa can consistently run the ball against the Penn State front seven, sayonara.  The only reason Arizona beat Iowa -- other than the sort of absurd turnover meltdown you only get in the desert -- was that they shut down the run and forced Iowa to throw on all 3 downs.  I'd expect PSU to be even more aggressive with the strong safety in the box in that cover 3 you love so much.  If that's enough to keep Robinson below 55 yards at the half, this game is going to be a nailbiter.
  2. Bolden needs to win this game for Penn State, and he has to be incredibly accurate to do that.  If he's hesitant throwing the ball or simply inaccurate, he'll eventually fold to interceptions and hits from the Iowa front four. Nobody wants to see that. Well, except for me. I kind of want to see that.
  3. Just have fun and exhibit good sportsmanship, boys!  Remember, it's only a game!
QBsneak12: Some Penn Staters are going to be in Iowa City for the game this week, what is your favorite spot for FAC (Friday After Class)?
BHGP: I'm 29.  My favorite spots are places where I can get a game of cribbage.  You don't want to ask me.  (QBSneak12: Check out the Sports Column).
So it looks like it will be up to Bolden tomorrow (which we already knew).  Iowa's defense is going to be the game changer.  If we can figure out hwo to move th ball on the ground against them (or in the air with short passes) we might be okay.  I do know one thing, Bolden can't take too many huge shots from Clayborn and Klug or else we will be looking at Kevin Newsome to get us the win in relief.
Thanks again to Patrick from Black Heart Gold Pants.  Good like in your cribbage game.