Everything but the girl for Stanzi
By Marc Morehouse
(Liz Martin photos/The Gazette)
Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi looks for a receiver as he’s tailed by Florida International’s Jonathan Betancourt in the first half Saturday at Iowa City. Stanzi threw for three touchdowns in his first start, and Iowa defeated FIU, 42-0.
IOWA CITY – The only way Ricky Stanzi’s day could’ve gone any better is if he would’ve landed the gorgeous sideline reporter’s phone number.
And who knows? Maybe he did.
“Yes, she’s very pretty,” the Iowa quarterback laughed. “She’s a great reporter.”
After throwing three touchdown passes Saturday in Iowa’s 42-0 victory over Florida International, Stanzi was held on the field for an interview with the Big Ten Network’s Ashley Russell. When he finished, he got a standing ovation from a decent number of the remaining 70,585 fans at Kinnick Stadium.
Junior running back Shonn Greene rushed for a career-high 130 yards and a TD. The Hawkeyes (2-0) punched out 512 yards of offense, their best effort since 546 against Minnesota in 2006. Iowa’s defense didn’t allow a TD for a second straight week, hounded FIU quarterbacks with six sacks and caused three turnovers.
But that’s enough of that. This was Stanzi’s day, no doubt.
Just before Stanzi ran off, the P.A. announced Stanzi was named player of the game. Minutes later, the BTN studio show’s graphic read “Ricky Stanzi solves Iowa QB problem with strong debut.”
As far as first career starts go, this ranks up there with Lou Gehrig and Brett Favre.
“It was exciting,” said Stanzi, who completed 8 of 10 for 162 yards. “I guess there isn’t any other way to draw it up.”
OK, it was Florida International (0-2), one of the youngest and weakest programs in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Probably should hold off on bronzing the statue and retiring the jersey No. 12. Heck, probably should hold off on naming Stanzi the starter against Iowa State (2-0), a real team with real players.
Kirk Ferentz isn’t ready to go there. Don’t expect to get a straight answer from Tuesday’s depth chart, either.
“We’ll have to make a decision who’s going to start at some point, certainly,” said Ferentz, who later added, “Right now I don’t have a strong feeling either way.”
A good number of fans certainly had strong feelings. Quarterback Jake Christensen, whose streak of 13 starts ended Saturday, was roundly booed after throwing an incompletion on his first pass, which came after Stanzi directed Iowa (2-0) to TDs on its first two possessions.
One pass, one incompletion and one big round of boos from an edgy fan base.
“I’m not deaf,” said Christensen, who put more than his share of time in the interview room, answering every question, ducking nothing. “It’s hard when your fans boo. We’re all trying as hard as we can out there. It’s really hard to swallow that, but it’s their choice.”
The boos got Ferentz’s attention, even with the headphones on. It was also noticeable on BTN’s telecast.
“I think that’s unfortunate,” said Ferentz, who believes the boos don’t represent the majority of fans. “I found it really distasteful back in 2001 when (quarterback) Kyle McCann got booed. He certainly didn’t deserve that. We’re talking about guys who are just trying to play well and do a good job for our team.”
Christensen didn’t do anything on the field to lose the job. The junior completed 8 of 12 for 99 yards and a TD. Perhaps the only tip of things to come is that Stanzi didn’t play a down in the second half. With a 35-0 halftime lead, Iowa pulled a lot of starters.
“I think you’re always competing no matter what the deal is,” Christensen said when asked about the possibility of being the backup. “You’re always trying to get better no matter if you’re starter or not.”
Stanzi put on a show in the first half, hitting Derrell Johnson-Koulianos for a 59-yard TD, finding tight end Brandon Myers on a beautifully executed screen for a 23-yard TD and lofting an 8-yard pass over a pair of defenders to wide receiver Colin Sandeman for a TD.
He scrambled five times for 30 yards. On a second-and-12 from Iowa’s 32, the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder shook off defensive lineman Jarvis Penerton, a 6-4, 280-pounder, for an 18-yard gain. On the next play, Stanzi zipped a 38-yard completion to tight end Allen Reisner. Three plays later, he put touch on the 8-yarder to Sandeman.
“For Rick when he comes in the huddle it’s more, ‘Just relax and we’re going to play our game. We’ve been doing this all week, let’s just go out and play,’ ” Johnson-Koulianos said. “There’s no tension, he’s not yelling. He knows the job you have to do. For (his) first game starting, just poise. He defined it today.”
Linebacker A.J. Edds has lived with Stanzi since they were freshmen. He’s seen the sophomore from Mentor, Ohio, grow from the No. 3 QB who wasn’t even in the race last season to a huge decision for this coaching staff.
“He didn’t force anything today,” Edds said. “He said that was something that was going to be big for him. Just play the game and take what the defense gave him. He did that all day long.”
Offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe told Stanzi on Wednesday that he was the starter. Ferentz explained the decision to Christensen on Wednesday with more dialogue Thursday.
A decision needs to be made. It doesn’t have to be permanent, but it might be closer to that after Saturday. Ferentz still would like to have a clear-cut starter.
There’s absolutely no way coaches could follow Johnson-Koulianos’ suggestion. Not without some sort of crazy mad scientist stuff.