IOWA CITY — It’s gamesmanship for everyone. Nate Stanley said very little about his thumb on Tuesday. He mostly kept his hands in his hoodie pocket.
“I’m just going with the flow,” the Iowa quarterback said when asked about keeping his right hand in his pocket. “I mean, I don’t know.”
Yes, that exchange was as awkward as it sounded.
Stanley doesn’t seem like a person who would say “Go with the flow,” but he did bang his thumb on center Keegan Render’s helmet in the fourth quarter of last Saturday’s loss at Penn State.
And this is gamesmanship, with the Iowa quarterback dealing with a thumb thing going into Saturday’s game at Purdue. The No. 19 Hawkeyes (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) washed their wallets last weekend in Happy Valley, but the Big Ten West Division quest isn’t over yet.
Don’t give it anymore thought than they have to win them all to get to the Big Ten championship game. That’s where it is, and they know that going into what now is now basically a playoff situation this weekend with the Boilermakers (4-4, 3-2).
“We have talked about it,” tight end Noah Fant said. “We all agree we can’t do anything but win all of our games and the rest will play out. That’s definitely a goal for us and that’s definitely a goal still in reach.”
A photo from HawkeyeReport.com shows the injury. In the follow through after a throw, you can see Stanley’s thumb hit Render’s helmet and take a wicked angle.
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Asked if he’ll be able to play this week, “That’s the goal. That’s all I’m going to say about it.”
Has he been able to practice?
“I practiced today, just doing everything I can,” he said.
And head coach Kirk Ferentz of course was asked if Stanley will play Saturday,
“I hope so, yeah,” Ferentz said. “He’s fine. He threw the ball well today, and I think he’s good to go.”
This was just a Tuesday with everyone going with the flow.
That was it from Stanley on the thumb thing. He didn’t care to relive the specifics from Penn State. Totally understandable. Stanley completed 18 of 49 for 205 yards, no TDs and two interceptions. With three minutes left, an interception on Penn State’s goal line devastated Iowa’s chances.
Stanley’s passer rating was 63.7, second-lowest of his career.
That’s the other part of the challenge for Stanley, putting the stuffing back in after a rough outing in State College.
“Nate Stanley is going to compete his butt off,” Fant said. “If he makes a bad throw or anything like that, obviously he’s not doing it on purpose. Everybody’s going to make mistakes. I’m 100 percent behind him. With him being one of our leaders on our team and on the offense, I know he’s going to come out and compete as hard as he can.”
Stanley shows up after six TD passes. He shows up after rough days. Tuesday he was asked about poise, if he took the Penn State performance personally, outside noise and where he draws inspiration when he needs an injection of mental toughness.
“No matter the situation, no matter the environment, just fall back on your fundamentals,” said Stanley, who’s sixth in the Big Ten in yards per attempt (7.2) and passer rating (131.9). “Do everything you can to play calm and be collected the whole game and not let the situation dictate how your emotions should be.”
Everyone was looking under rocks for an explanation of what happened at Penn State. Stanley’s night was uncharacteristic compared to the Stanley who ripped apart the Big Ten in the three previous games. It was uncharacteristic before the thumb injury, but now there’s that, too.
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“To think of a quarterback is going to go out with a ball that’s not real symmetrical and in conditions that are very, very tough and challenging, to think quarterbacks aren’t going to have struggles at some point, that’s probably not realistic,” Ferentz said. “That’s how I look at it, and we don’t have a better guy on our football team. Nobody works harder, more invested, so he’ll bounce back.”
But just in case ...
Seriously, there has to be a “just in case” here. You read the language everyone used. “Hope.” “I think.” “That’s the goal.” “Just going with the flow.”
So, just in case, here’s what Ferentz said about backups redshirt freshman Peyton Mansell and true freshman Spencer Petras.
“Well, that’s something we’ll find out, because again, you never know until a guy really gets on the field and starts playing,” Ferentz said. “But last year it would have been scary, last spring, and I think he made a big jump in August, and I’d say the same thing about Petras. He made a big jump from spring ball to August.
“But that’s the next step is getting on the field and seeing where they’re at. They’re doing a good job in practice and hopefully they’ll be ready to go because they’re all one play away from being out there.”
It’s gamesmanship for everyone.
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