Iowa Football

Stat Pak, Iowa vs. Iowa State: Yes, Nate Stanley has some tightening to do

Lots of factors going into the quarterback's slow, but winning start

Iowa Hawkeyes players swarm the Cy-Hawk Trophy as they celebrate their win over the Iowa State Cyclones at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. Iowa won 13-3. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes players swarm the Cy-Hawk Trophy as they celebrate their win over the Iowa State Cyclones at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. Iowa won 13-3. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley handles his business. He rarely breaks character as far as dealing with frustration goes.

There was this throw last Saturday in the Hawkeyes’ 13-3 victory over Iowa State that stopped him cold.

Wide receiver Nick Easley had separated from coverage on a third-and-9 at Iowa State’s 32 at the beginning of the fourth quarter. He was open in the middle of the field. Iowa State didn’t generate much of a rush. Stanley had plenty of time.

And he short-armed it.

Easley had a lunge into open space and beyond the first-down marker for the Hawkeyes (2-0). The ball bounced into his chest. Iowa kicker Miguel Recinos missed a 50-yard field goal attempt wide right.

Stanley yelled and clapped his hands together. It was like a golfer cussing after their breath after a bad drive.

That’s been Stanley’s first two games.

Generally, Stanley’s numbers say he’s the 13th best QB in the Big Ten right now. His 5.4 yards per attempt is 13th. His 52.9 completion percentage is 13th. His 100.62 pass efficiency is 13th.

“We have to come in with the mindset that things are going to be tough and we have to continue to battle,” Stanley said.

They cover this with a team approach.

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“We all rely on each other,” Stanley said. “If we see someone having a tough time, we go and help them out. That’s part of being a team and being a leader on a team.”

He wasn’t the 13th best QB in the Big Ten as a sophomore last season. After two games last season, Stanley had eight TD passes. After two this year, he has one TD pass with one interception.

Some factors that might be shaping this:

— Iowa’s starting offensive tackles were out in week 1 against Northern Illinois, which came in with an impressive pass rush resume.

Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz had to be conscious of pass protection in week 1. Maybe overly so.

— It was Iowa State (0-1) last week.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz doesn’t even like putting true freshmen in this game. It’s a super-intense rivalry. It’s not treated with an eye toward development. It’s just win the game.

So, more conservative thinking in personnel and playcalls.

— The wide receiver position is thin.

For the most part, it’s been sophomores Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Brandon Smith. Easley saw his snap count go from 20 to 34 this week. He caught his first pass of the season during Iowa’s best drive of the season, a 13-play, 83-yarder that ended with Iowa’s clinching TD.

Smith-Marsette suffered a shoulder injury making a 45-yard reception. He landed on his shoulder. The X-rays were negative, but that’s obviously a situation that needs watching. On the flip side of that, Smith came alive with a 30-yard catch that put Iowa in position for the game-clinching TD.

Senior Kyle Groeneweg replaced Smith-Marsette after he exited the game.

— Tight end Noah Fant has been all over the place. He’d be the first one to tell you that.

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He’s had two or three drops in the first two games. Fant didn’t play in the first couple of series in the second half.

In that regard, Stanley told you with his reaction to the Easley miss that he’s frustrated.

You always hear offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz say Iowa puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Stanley has said he wants that pressure.

And then there’s that fourth-quarter drive. It started with a sketchy ball from Stanley to Fant’s wrong hip and a drop. Later on the drive, Stanley twisted Fant into a pretzel with a ball Fant had to reach back for.

Then, three plays later, Stanley hit Easley for 15 yards. Three plays later, he threaded the needle to tight end T.J. Hockenson for a 7-yard gain and a first down. Another three plays, it was Stanley’s 30-yarder to Smith.

Smith beat ISU corner D’Andre Payne on the inside shoulder and ran past him. Stanley, who deserves some credit for not forcing things, floated the ball perfectly.

“They came down and loaded the box on a run play that we had,” Stanley said. “That’s one thing we always talk about is not running a dead play. Running the ball against an eight-man box isn’t really the best thing. Brandon did a great job of getting open, and he made that play for us.”

It was his best throw of the game.

“Yeah, probably,” Stanley said.

It was his last throw of the game. It’d be good for Iowa if everyone picked up there next week.

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Three Stars

1. Iowa’s defensive line — Same spot as last week.

One of Iowa’s four sacks came off a blitz by linebacker Nick Niemann, but the Hawkeyes did have four sacks. They also had nine hurries (three from end Anthony Nelson) and four QB hits, including two from end Parker Hesse.

Sophomore defensive end A.J. Epenesa closed the lid on this with a pair of fourth-quarter sacks, including another strip sack fumble. He also batted down a pass and drew a hold when ISU was in desperation mode.

Now yes, you have to strain this through the quality of the opponent. If Iowa State’s O-line can’t protect the edge better, it won’t go to a bowl game.

“A lot of guys playing different positions, some guys getting out there and being counted on for the first time,” ISU coach Matt Campbell said. “That group is going to have to grow.”

2. Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker — Throw linebackers coach and assistant defensive coordinator Seth Wallace in here, too.

The Hawkeyes have a defense that might keep them in every game this season.

3. Iowa State defensive coordinator Jon Heacock — I’ve covered and been around Iowa State for around 25 years. Saturday was the best I’ve ever seen the Cyclones look on defense. Iowa earned every inch. And, you saw it, that was an inch-for-inch game.

Globally

Northern Iowa (0-1) had last weekend off after dropping its opener to Montana, 26-23. The Panthers fell behind 26-0 before coming back.

They dropped to No. 18 in the AVCA FCS Coaches’ Poll and 21st in the STATS FCS Poll.

— Let’s do some Big Ten fake rankings here.

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1. Ohio State — When you get sick of college football, this is why.

2. Wisconsin — The roommate who eats everything.

3. Penn State — If someone is going to get to Ohio State this year ...

4. Michigan — I don’t know yet. You don’t, either.

5. Iowa — You block that defensive line.

6. Michigan State — Excellent game at Arizona State. They lost, but they did it the Dantonio way.

7. Northwestern — No Bat signal, but they did lose listlessly at home to Duke.

8. Maryland — A resilient group, to be sure.

9. Purdue — So far, I haven’t gotten any “Put Wiegers in” tweets. I consider that some sort of miracle.

10. Nebraska — Had a chance to beat Colorado. That’s something.

11. Indiana — Is Virginia a quality win? No? OK.

12. Minnesota — The Gophers are playing the schedule they need to play.

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13. Illinois — Illinois is playing the schedule it needs to play. You weren’t going to watch anyway.

14. Rutgers — I love them like Charlie Brown loved his little Christmas tree.

The Numbers Game

Touchdowns in the red zone

Iowa — 1 of 3

Iowa State — 0 of 1

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. NIU — 4 of 5 (off), 1 of 2 (def); Week 2 vs. ISU — 1 of 3 (off), 0 of 1 (def)

The takeaway: The one Iowa did get was worth everything. It turned Kinnick Stadium into a hooting and hollering hootenanny. Against Wisconsin, well, worry about that in a couple of weeks.

Three and outs forced by the defense

Iowa — 6

Iowa State — 4

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. NIU — 5 (def), 5 (off); Week 2 vs. ISU — 6 (def), 4 (off)

The takeaway: That’s about what you thought, right? Defensive game? Lots and lots of three and outs. One thing: One of Iowa’s came at the end of a half. Two others happened when the Hawkeyes wanted to run clock in the fourth.

Efficiency

(50% of needed yards on first down, 70% of needed yards on second down, or 100% of needed yards on third or fourth down)

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Iowa — 29.6 percent (19 efficient plays out of 64 total)

Iowa State — 26.7 percent (15 of 56)

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. NIU — 34.2 percent (off), 38.8 (def); Week 2 vs. ISU — 29.6 (off), 26.7 (def)

The takeaway: Six of Iowa’s 19 efficient plays came on the Hawkeyes’ 83-yard drive in the fourth quarter. Iowa State had five on its first drive. That’s probably a low in this stat for Iowa’s defense.

Explosive plays

(Runs of 12-plus yards; passes of 16-plus)

Iowa — 2 (2 passes)

Iowa State — 2 (2 passes)

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. NIU — 6 (off), 3 (def); Week 2 vs. ISU — 2 (off), 2 (def)

The takeaway: If you see Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Brandon Smith here, Iowa’s offense will be doing winning things. I wrote last week “big” things. These two made the explosive plays (45 reception for ISM, 30 for Smith) and Iowa scored just 13 points. They keep showing up here, it’s a good thing.

Halftime adjustments

(General idea of how busy the whiteboard is)

Iowa — First half: 28 plays for 73 yards and 2.6 yards per play.

Second half: 36 plays for 198 yards and 5.5 yards per play.

Iowa State — First half: 28 plays and 105 yards for 3.75 per.

Second half: 28 plays and 83 yards for 2.96 per play.

The takeaway: When you have 20 D-linemen you can play, your defense gets a lot better in the second half.

Magic Points (scores inside of two minutes)

Iowa — 0

Iowa State — 0

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Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. NIU — 0 (off), 0 (def); Week 2 vs. ISU — 0 (off), 0 (def)

The takeaway: At some point, Iowa will need a two-minute drill. Haven’t seen one yet.

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

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