Iowa football: Breaking down Nate Stanley's performance through 2 weeks
It’s two weeks into the college football season and the Big Ten team that’s supposed to have the most NFL-ready quarterback, the Iowa Hawkeyes, are constantly shooting themselves in the foot offensively.
Criticism of quarterback Nate Stanley and the Hawkeyes offense have been muted by the fact that the Hawkeyes are 2-0, and winning oftentimes glosses over major problems. But the Iowa offense has been so ugly — especially in the first half of games with Northern Illinois and Iowa State — that there’s no denying there are issues.
And that’s surprising.
Through two Saturdays, Iowa has yet to score a touchdown in the first half. They are lethargic and aren’t putting any drives together. They averaged 2.6 yards per play against Iowa State in the first half and averaged just 4.0 yards the week earlier against Northern Illinois.
The slow starts are brutal. For instance, in the first quarter alone, Iowa has run 30 plays and gained a grand total of 82 yards with no points.
“We’re sporadic. We’re hit or miss right now,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said last week. “We don’t have a rhythm.”
And it’s hard to imagine why.
Sure there have been some injuries, but that doesn’t explain it all. Starting running back Ivory Kelly-Martin had 62 yards on 16 carries in the opener, but an ankle injury ended his day and kept him out of the Iowa State game. He should be back this week, though it’ll be interesting to see if they give him another week off so he’s 100 percent healthy for the huge Sept. 22 Big Ten West showdown with Wisconsin.
“Ivory couldn’t go (against Iowa State), so we’ll see what he looks like this week (for Northern Iowa),” Ferentz said. “But we’re hoping (he’s ready) sooner than later.”
Ihmir Smith-Marsette left Saturday’s game with a shoulder injury, and that hurt, too. He’s day-to-day, as well.
But still, there should be enough depth and talent at those skill positions for the Hawkeyes to not miss a beat. It just hasn’t happened early.
And what’s Stanley’s role in this so far?
His numbers aren’t good. He’s thrown for only 274 yards in two games, with just one touchdown pass and one interception. He’s completed only 52 percent of his passes and re-watching both games, he hasn’t been good with making all the right decisions either.
There have been these problems so far:
- He has started a game with a delay-of-game penalty.
- He has made the wrong choice on run-pass options, oftentimes taking the conservative route and running the ball against stacked fronts.
- He has seen nine-man fronts and not gotten out of running plays that were doomed to fail.
- He has missed wide-open receivers. Once he missed Nick Easley on what should have been an easy third-down conversion. That just can’t happen.
“Everybody’s really just trying to encourage everybody and just stay the course,” Stanley said.
Good. They need that.
What’s helped is that the Hawkeyes have still found a way to win games. They managed 30 points in the second half against Northern Illinois in the 33-7 win. And they had a huge 13-play drive in the fourth quarter against Iowa State that sealed the deal in the 13-3 win against the in-state rivals, their fourth in a row in the rivalry.
Stanley got lots of love from ESPN draft guru Todd McShay in the preseason, who included the Iowa QB in his ranking of the top 32 players in the 2019 NFL Draft. We haven’t seen that so far, but it doesn’t mean we won’t see some great throws down the road.
The Hawkeyes need him, big time. It will be good to see them break out a little bit this week against Northern Iowa, because it’s the last tuneup before Wisconsin.
It’s time for Stanley and his mates to step up.