The numbers say Ricky Stanzi has been one of college football’s best passers through three games.
The Iowa quarterback is 10th in the country in passing efficiency, his completion rate is at 63.5, up 6 percent from his career figure entering the season, and he’s thrown six touchdowns to one interception this season.
The numbers say Stanzi has been superb as a senior going into Saturday’s game against Ball State. But the numbers weren’t talking earlier this week. The numbers weren’t breaking down the misfires at Arizona, the passes that missed the mark and the plays that went haywire in a 34-27 loss.
If the numbers were talking, they wouldn’t have been as critical of Stanzi as Stanzi has been.
Stanzi was talking earlier this week about a few plays that contributed to last week’s defeat. First, there was the pass on Iowa’s second drive that went through receiver Marvin McNutt’s hands, wound up in the mitts of cornerback Trevin Wade and went 85 yards for an Arizona touchdown.
“That’s on me,” Stanzi said. “As a senior, in a big game on the road, you’ve got to be able to put the ball in the right spot at the right time. Giving them that interception hurt.”
Ball placement was a hot topic for Stanzi during the past week. He talked about accuracy issues Saturday night after the loss to the Wildcats. He reiterated the point when he met Tuesday with reporters. He mentioned the pass that was too high for McNutt and one later in the first half that was too long for Derrell Johnson-Koulianos when the receiver had gotten behind the Arizona secondary near the end zone.
“It’s just outside his reach and what should’ve been a routine touchdown turns into what would’ve had to have been an incredible catch,” Stanzi said. “It doesn’t need to be that way if I can put the ball in the right spot and give us better chances.”
Out of necessity, Iowa’s offense tilted toward the pass last week for the first time this season. The Hawkeyes trailed by two touchdowns for nearly three quarters of the game. Stanzi threw 33 passes, while Iowa ran the ball 26 times for 29 yards.
Arizona’s commitment to taking away the run created openings for the passing game. The Hawkeyes exploited some — Stanzi passed for 278 yards and three touchdowns, Johnson-Koulianos caught seven passes for 114 yards and a score, and McNutt grabbed his 10th touchdown in 12 games — but Iowa couldn’t cash in on others.
“To me, makeable plays we need to make,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “The more of those we can make the better off we’ll be in the passing game, running game, certainly in the kicking game. When you don’t make makeable plays they have a cumulative effect. We had more than several of them the other night.”
The cumulative effect put the Hawkeyes in a 34-27 deficit with less than four minutes to play and needing to go 73 yards for the tying touchdown. The drive got off to a good start when Johnson-Koulianos took a kickoff out to the 37-yard-line and caught a pass from Stanzi for 7 yards on first down. But it quickly spiraled the wrong way after that.
Stanzi got dropped for a nine-yard loss on second-and-3 when he got sacked by Justin Washington. Ferentz said another count of pass protection would’ve led to a 15-yard completion.
“It was wide open,” Ferentz said. “We couldn’t get the ball out. All of a sudden you’re 15 yards down the field, moving and maybe have a little bit of momentum as opposed to third-and-12. … That’s how close football is, and that’s why it’s important you execute as well as you can on every play because the ramifications of a sack on a second-and-3 just really compounds a tough situation already.”
The series unraveled from there with a false start and two more sacks. The Hawkeyes went backward 29 yards after second-and-3 to fourth-and-forever.
“There’s a lot of what-ifs,” Stanzi said. “But I tell you, when you’re out there it doesn’t feel like that. It feels like a bull rush. When there’s a blitz on, it’s extremely important — regardless of if you have everybody picked up — that you get rid of the ball. You can’t just stand in there all day. You have to get rid of the football.
“I should’ve been smarter with what I was doing — either change the play at the line, fix the protection, do something. But it was my fault not communicating to the guys that put us in that tough situation at the end there where we were trying to claw out of some serious yardage. It didn’t need to be that way if I would’ve taken care of business on first or second down.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football