BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Kirk Ferentz isn’t asking for a standup routine out of his quarterback. He’d just like it if Nate Stanley could stand back, take a minute and enjoy the ride.
“It’s hard to get him to smile,” Ferentz said. “He’s just that way. He’s a serious guy. Smart guy, really serious. This is serious stuff, I don’t mean to minimize it, but sometimes you’ve got to let things go a little bit.”
And all of you are thinking right now, no, no, no. Keep doing what you’re doing.
Everyone’s right. Why not? It was one of those kind of days.
Stanley’s six touchdown passes lifted the Hawkeyes (5-1, 2-1 Big Ten) over Indiana (4-3, 1-3), 42-16, before 40,512 fans Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
Stanley almost smiled when he took the first question, but it was more because he was repeating himself. Again, everyone’s right. Stanley said Iowa called and executed what was working.
After Iowa’s first two games this season, Ferentz said he thought Stanley was pressing and the numbers reflected that. The last four weeks? Stanley’s pressed all of the right buttons.
Stanley has said, kind of famously, that he doesn’t hang out in downtown Iowa City. Also, he said last year that he likes to relax and enjoy his mom’s cheeseburger soup after games.
“He’s a guy who’s a perfectionist, so I think he’s starting to relax a little bit,” Ferentz said. “We encourage him. You’re a college football player, for crying out loud. Enjoy it a little bit. Everything’s starting to come around a little bit, and he should enjoy himself.”
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Stanley has six reasons to drown himself in cheeseburger soup tonight. The six TDs were second most in Iowa history, tying Chuck Long (who did it twice) and falling one shy of Chuck Hartlieb’s school record seven (Northwestern 1987).
Again, if you’re an Iowa QB and you put up numbers that invoke the Chucks, you have a lot of reasons to smile.
Wait, wait, wait, Stanley did crack a joke.
Early in the second quarter, Indiana linebacker Marcelino Ball had a free run on a blitz and had Stanley wrapped up. Just as he did against Ohio State last season, Stanley shucked the blitzer, took off to his right and whipped a line drive to wide receiver Nick Easley for a 12-yard TD. The ball was perfect, clearing a defender and then hitting Easley between the numbers maybe two feet off the turf.
“There’s an easier way to make a completion on that play,” Stanley said.
OK, maybe he wasn’t joking.
“I made a mental mistake, but you can’t just stop,” he said. “You have to continue to play and Nick did a great job tracking with me.”
Stanley the presser is back to Stanley the passer.
His 14 TD passes over the last four games ties for the most ever in a four-game stretch for the Hawkeyes (Long in 1985). He finished Saturday 21 of 33 with for 320 yards, the six TDs and an interception. With his 300-yard effort last week at Minnesota, Stanley is the first Iowa QB with back-to-back 300-yard games since Drew Tate in 2005.
“He’s able to see some things that some quarterbacks can’t see,” tight end T.J. Hockenson said. “He checked to things that attacked the defense and that we used to our advantage. That starts with him.”
It was early Halloween for Iowa’s wide receivers and tight ends.
Hockenson had four catches for 107 yards and two TDs. Tight end Noah Fant had four catches for 101 yards and a TD. Easley finished with four receptions for 28 yards and a TD.
“We’re trying to be a championship-level football team around here,” Hockenson said. “Once you get up on a team, you need to step on the gas. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
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The offense started fast (14-3 lead in the first quarter, TDs on three of the first four drives) and finished with 479 yards to 330 for the Hoosiers. Iowa put up 10 explosive plays, including a 54-yard TD to Hockenson and a 58-yard gain from Fant.
Indiana had quite a bit of dysfunction. The Hoosiers’ sideline earned two unsportsmanlike penalties. IU head coach Tom Allen said one of those came when an IU assistant was yelling at one of his defensive backs.
You know it’s not your day.
And then it was 14-10 and Iowa wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette bobbled and dropped a kickoff, finally latched on and bolted 60 yards to set up another Iowa TD.
“Painful memories right there,” Allen said.
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