Iowa Football

Iowa football Tuesday Takeoff: Using the silent but deadly count at Wisconsin

It's the Hawkeyes against a loud student section and Steve Miller's 'Swingtown'

Wisconsin's Camp Randall Stadium.
Wisconsin's Camp Randall Stadium.

To steal a Steve Martin line, let’s get small. No, no, this still is Iowa-Wisconsin week. Wisconsin is the big team. Always has been, always will be. Iowa is the kind of big team.

What’s the one big advantage offense has over defense? It knows when the play starts. Of course, on the road, this gets trickier.

Everyone says Michigan Stadium (aka The Big House) is quiet. It’s not. 112,000 or however many people aren’t quiet. It’s virtually impossible.

So, let’s flash back a little bit to the 10-3 loss at Michigan in October. Iowa went to silent count. It had to.

“From the stadium standpoint, you can tell when they get cranked up when they get us in those sticky situations, third-and-8 or long,” guard Levi Paulsen said in the postgame. “Those situations are tough and playing in crowd noise like that does present a challenge.”

It’s a little thing, but the road does at least somewhat neutralize that one advantage the offense begins every play with.

If you think they were awake in Ann Arbor, Madison is the “Scarface” of crowd noise. Jump Around and all of that. The students do a thing were they sing the big “Ohhhhh oh oh oh oh ohhhh” intro to Steve Miller’s “Swingtown.” Yes, the Badgers are not beneath playing the “Swingtown” card.

What’s an offense to do?

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“It’s our job to go out and replicate that every week and be locked in on ‘Hey, we’re going to go on a silent count,'” Paulsen said. “It’s something we can get cleaned up and I know we will.”

Of course, we’re not going to go into detail on what Iowa does for a silent count. It’s one thing to know the recipe for Coke, and it’s another to wear a T-shirt with the recipe to a concert or something.

You see all kinds of ways to deal with it. Lots of teams have the guard look back and tap the center when the backfield is ready. Could be a head bob, could be anything. The point is the offense has to see it to go. The defense is allowed in on this bit of info and uses it to its advantage.

Of course, it’s football.

Adding complication is Wisconsin’s 3-4 defense that brings speed and morphs into most things it needs to be. Iowa probably won’t show a personnel group that will force Wisconsin out of that.

“They really have linebackers at those outside end positions,” Iowa QB Nate Stanley said. “They have a lot of ability to run games and get home quickly with those guys because of how athletic they are. We need to communicate with their blitzes and their games.”

Stanley played at Camp Randall when he was a sophomore. Of course, he’s from Menomonie, Wis. That really doesn’t mean jack bleep this week, by the way.

Camp Randall turned out to be everything Stanley thought it would be.

“Just how loud it was,” Stanley said. “We were backed up for a lot of that game, especially into their student section. It was extremely loud, so that was something that I wasn’t really ready for or didn’t realize that it was going to be that loud. That’s one thing that I definitely know to expect.”

Iowa does have a freshman center. Tyler Linderbaum was the same center at Michigan. He’s had time to learn the real nuances — the stuff you simply can’t learn from a coach in a classroom setting — of silent counts and big, mean, loud stadiums. And, yes, there’s no nuance in the big, mean, loud. That’s how big, mean, loud works. But there is process and Linderbaum now has a resume.

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“The crowd noise does bring a whole new aspect to the game,” Linderbaum said. “The good thing is we’re in week 8 already, so we’ve been through a lot already. We’re on the same page. We’re practicing well, getting the communication down to where stuff hits the fan during the game, we fall back on our training.”

Stuff’s going to hit the fan. That is the one certainty going into a Big Ten West elimination game at Camp Randall Stadium.

Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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