Iowa Football

Iowa QB Nate Stanley: Comfortable and in control

Stellar senior quarterback has been in command so far this season

IOWA CITY — That 24-hour rule Iowa’s football coaches have for celebrating wins or mourning losses may need to be cut to 23, or even 22.

Going to Iowa State, which the Hawkeyes will do next, isn’t playing Miami (Ohio) or Rutgers at home. Not in 2019.

That said, Iowa has much to feel good about besides being alone atop the entire Big Ten at 1-0. Its 30-0 pasting of Rutgers at Kinnick Stadium Saturday was a second-straight systematic decimation of an opponent.

Rutgers totaled 125 yards against the Hawkeye defense. Not good. It completed 9 of 26 passes for 41 yards. Atrocious.

Iowa has just one player — Ihmir Smith-Marsette — from New Jersey, but he had two touchdowns to the Jersey team’s zero.

This game wasn’t really any different from Iowa’s 63-0 win at Illinois last November except Rutgers had a punter with the amazing propensity to kick 50-yarders that found their way between the goal line and the Iowa 3.

That happened four times, and two other Adam Korsak boots left put Iowa at its 8 and 11. He punted 10 times overall for a 47.6-yard average. Speaking of incredible, Iowa’s Michael Sleep-Dalton matched fellow Aussie Korsak’s thunder from down under with six punts at 48.3 yards per attempt.

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So the punting was a push, but everything else was the Hawkeyes pushing Rutgers around. You know the preseason buildup for Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa and offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs? That jumped off the printed page and knocked the Scarlet Knights down.

Epenesa and Wirfs were stellar. Their teammates were stellar. In postgame interviews you heard a linebacker praise the defensive line, a quarterback praise the offensive line, and on and on as the kudos came full-circle.

But through two weeks, Nate Stanley has been The Man. He has six TD passes, no picks, and on-field command has everyone around him content.

“He’s playing at a very high level,” said Smith-Marsette. “He’s spreading the ball around, 10 receivers last week, eight receivers this week. He’s real comfortable within the offense. He’s showing that he trusts multiple players out there on the field, getting the ball to them.

“Stanley is at another level, just going out there telling us what he wants, and I think he’s coming through and executing.”

“He really looks like he’s comfortable and in control, those two things,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “That’s something you can’t hand a player.”

For the two on-the-button TD tosses to Smith-Marsette and the other to Tyrone Tracy, a play that gained less than a yard may have defined Stanley’s day:

Leading 7-0 in the second quarter, Iowa went for a first down on fourth-and-1 at its own 44. That’s Ferentz football 2019, by the way, not 2014 or 2009 or 1999. Anyway, the exchange of the snap from center Tyler Linderbaum to Stanley wasn’t good.

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Instead of a botched play to give Rutgers the ball and an emotional lift, Stanley reeled in the bobble and powered forward for the yard his team needed to extend the drive. Five plays later, he threw a 7-yard TD pass to freshman Tracy.

“The offensive line did a great job of responding,” Stanley said about the play. “Obviously a little late off the ball, but they did a great job of helping me get, I don’t know, we needed a half-yard, maybe.”

Uh, that play was Stanley keeping his cool and reacting as well as possible in the moment.

Last year, Stanley had just one TD pass over the first two games before putting up a total of 26 for the second-straight season. Not so crazily, 26 now seems like a low target for this year.

“The coaches and my teammates are expecting me to play within my role and play my best,” Stanley said. “I think last year I was trying to do a bit too much, putting too much pressure on myself.

“This year I feel very confident on the field, feel very poised. I know that my teammates have my back no matter what.”

So, revel in all of that, Hawkeyes. Roll around in it. But by noon Sunday, wave goodbye to it. It’s Iowa-Iowa State Week. Let the sound and fury begin.

l Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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