Iowa Football

Wisconsin defense focused on pressuring Nate Stanley again

Iowa quarterback has struggled against Badgers

Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley (4) tosses the ball to wide receiver Nick Easley (84) as Wisconsin safety Scott Nelson (9) during the last play of the game last season at Kinnick Stadium. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley (4) tosses the ball to wide receiver Nick Easley (84) as Wisconsin safety Scott Nelson (9) during the last play of the game last season at Kinnick Stadium. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

MADISON, Wis. — If Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst had his way, Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley would be wearing blue and gold or red and white instead of black and gold.

Chryst saw the Menomonie, Wis., prospect’s prowess and tried recruiting him to Pittsburgh while he was the head coach there and then at Wisconsin when he took over in 2014.

“Nate’s a heck of a player,” Chryst said. “(I) enjoyed getting to know him and his family. He competes, and he’s obviously very talented. ... He has a real strong command of the game.”

Yet when Stanley has taken on Chryst and the Badgers, that “real strong command” hasn’t always been at Kinnick or Camp Randall stadiums.

In Stanley’s two games against his home state team, he’s completed 46.8 percent of his passes and had as many touchdowns — two — as interceptions.

As Wisconsin looks to slow down Iowa’s offense, the linchpin likely may be Stanley. The Hawkeyes are 5-0 this year when Stanley hasn’t thrown an interception and 4-0 when he completes at least 60 percent of his passes.

“If we could neutralize him, it’d definitely help out a lot,” Wisconsin inside linebacker Chris Orr said.

Orr and fellow linebacker Zach Baun said the game plan starts with stopping Iowa’s running game. If the Badgers can stop the Hawkeyes on the ground, then Baun and Orr think they can force Stanley and the offense into undesirable third-and-long situations.

“He’s kind of like their puppet master,” Baun said. “But when we can get him in those third-and-long situations, that makes any quarterback uncomfortable and especially (when) bringing the pressure we have.”

Last year, Iowa was 5 for 11 on third-down conversions. That goes down to 3 for 9 when excluding Iowa’s two third-and-1 situations.

Orr said Wisconsin needs to pressure Stanley to make him uncomfortable and help Wisconsin’s secondary keep up with Iowa’s receivers.

“Hit him. Definitely try to get in his face as much as you can,” Orr said. “I feel like that’s pretty much what you do against any good quarterback.”

Baun, however, said sacking Stanley’s 6-foot-4, 243-pound frame can be challenging. Baun compared Stanley to another field general wearing black and gold — Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is listed at 6-5 and 250 pounds.

“He’s a big guy,” Baun said. “When you get to him, make sure you secure him. He’s not going to go down easy.”

That doesn’t take away any of the fun for Orr, though.

“It’s definitely a chess match,” Orr said. “Something you look forward to. It’ll be fun.”

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