Posted by: marcmwm | September 22, 2008

Your Northwestern two deeps . . .

QB Ricky Stanzi is listed as the starter. No “slashes” or “and/or” or anything like that. The only punctuation is a comma and, so far, that means starter. So, for what that’s worth.

Usually, I see this all as overreaction. Sleep it off, boys, you’ll come to your senses. But the vibe I feel from you guys is genuine bewilderment and robust anger.

 

They wanna know why, coach. And that’s a more than fair question.

 

I can’t believe it was the end of the first half, but it’s the only evidence we have that Stanzi was out of his element. Maybe they didn’t like some of the throws he made, but there were only 10 and only three incompletions. If something was said in the lockerroom, Stanzi didn’t let on in interviews after the game. Neither did Kirk Ferentz. But if there was a hanging offense, it had to be Stanzi’s last drive or something in the aftermath thereafter. And if it was some sort of lockerroom, heat-of-the-moment disrespect from Stanzi to coaches, that’s not going to come out. One of the team’s mottos is their business is their business. That’s would keep a Drew Tate-like spout under wraps, certainly on the Ferentz end of things.

 

I watched the O huddle repeatedly in the second half, thinking Stanzi was going in. He was never considered. He had his helmet on, but everytime he stood behind offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe while he conducted his last-second direction to the players going out on the field. It was like Stanzi was banished.

 

Another theory is this was Jake Christensen’s final exam. This was his chance to elevate, make the makeable plays (there were a few) and lift the team to victory. Stick with him, no matter the situation, and see if he can play quarterback. If he does, then there’s next week. If he doesn’t, coaches can’t say they didn’t give him every opportunity to claim the job and they move to Stanzi, as in permanently. This rings true if — and I’m talking Sears Tower, Mount Everest proportions — coaches saw this game as one they could afford to lose. And there I go, blowing this theory to shreds. You guys can grind all you want on losses, but don’t think you grind on them anymore than Kirk Ferentz. I doubt he or anyone in the Hayden Fry Football Complex saw this as “expendable.” They owe it to each other to out their best football forward every week and try to win. I don’t believe they would sacrifice a game to see if Christensen really “has” it.

 

And blame is spread all around for this one. The defense was leaky, at the beginning and at the end. The special teams took a step back. But QB and production from the passing game was spotty and not there when they needed it the most.

So, the end of the first half, was that really it? Let’s go over the first-half stats one more time: Christensen 2-for-6 for 15 yards with one sack and a field goal drive that started at Pitt’s 19. Stanzi was 7 of 10 for 79 yards, a mostly Shonn Greene TD drive and two sacks.

 

Road game? Didn’t trust the kid? If that’s the reason, why not say that?

 

People want more than “gut” feeling.” Ferentz praises fans, you guys, all the time for your support, particularly with sell-out crowds for Maine and Florida International. He praises you for making Iowa a much more attractive bowl team than anyone in the Big Ten outside of Michigan, Ohio State and, sometimes, Wisconsin.

 

Do you feel like he owes you more than “gut feeling”? I know what you’re going to say, that he does. Tell me why. And, up front, I don’t disagree.

 

 

 

 

IOWA OFFENSE

WR………15 Koulianos, 86 Stross

LT………..79 Bulaga, 68 Kuempel

LG……….52 Eubanks/63 Vandervelde, 69 Haganman

C………..58 Bruggeman, 67 Koeppel

RG…..71 Olsen, 73 Gettis

RT……….60 Calloway, 75 Aeschliman

TE…….83 Myers/81 Moeaki, 82 Reisner

QB……12 Stanzi, 6 Christensen

WR………80 Brodell, 22 Sandem

RB……….23 Greene, 25 O’Meara

FB……36 Morse, 47 Leppert

IOWA DEFENSE

DE……94 Clayborn, 98 Geary

DT……….53 Kroul, 95 Klug

DT……..47 King, 59 Narinskiy

DE……46 Ballard, 91 Binns

OLB…..49 Edds, 45 Nielsen

MLB….43 Angerer, 55 Coleman

WLB….42 Hunter, 48 Johnson

LC……29 Fletcher, 28 Shaun Prater/16 Gardner

SS……9 Sash, 2 Dalton

FS……30 Greenwood, 3 Morrow

RC….19 Spievey, 4 Bernstine

PT……5 Donahue, 6 Guthrie

PK….8 Mossbrucker, 1 Murray

 

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Responses

  1. In all this mess, where is the criticism of Ken O’Keefe? He does nothing to help either Christensian or Stanzi. The QB execution hasn’t been there, granted. But, I don’t see O’Keefe putting them in a position to be successful.

  2. Marc, how do you guys in the media feel when you get responses like “gut feeling” to valid and newsworthy questions that call for real responses? Seems like it was just so dismissive (even insulting?) to answer that way. No objective-minded person that watched that first half actually believed Jake “had a better grasp on what we were trying to do.”

    And are we going to get the same answer tomorrow at the news conference?

  3. The team cannot succeed without being able to throw the ball downfield.
    And the 7-8 yard rollout isn’t going to always be there. I just think Stanzi has the better arm with more mobility.
    Tomorrow’s presser should be a good one.

  4. This from Aaron in Illinois:

    Marc,

    I’m thinking the popularity of Ferentz is reaching Alford levels (maybe not that low), but close. What a mess, this is what happens when thoughts become institutionalized, as has been the case over the last five years. Just perplexing that a (statistically & probably talent wise) better QB doesn’t play in the second half, I don’t care if he was instructed to run out the clock, chew him out for not following instructions, then put him back in.

    What has occurred since Saturday, when Jake Christensen was the QB with the best feel for the Pitt defense, and presumably the QB who gave Iowa the best chance to win, that makes Ferentz believe Ricky Stanzi is the QB who gives Iowa the best chance to win against Northwestern?

    Best Regards,

    Aaron Temple
    Chicago IL

  5. It appears that Jake Christensen does not possess the intangible of knowing when to get rid of the ball to avoid a sack and lose yards. He almost seems like he can’t wait to get rid of the ball and appears flustered lots of times early on. Iowa has little or no continuity and no rythym when he runs the team. Iowa has no sustained drives when Jake is qb. He just does not have what it takes given this is his 4th year in the system.

  6. I do think that KF treats noncon games differently than BXI games, and he frequently has said so in the past.

    I don’t think KF believes it’s realistic for Iowa to assume they’ll go 12-0, so given point one, your theory of the expendable game is plausible.

    But it doesn’t matter. There was a conscious decision on that sideline to go away from what was beating Pitt into submission, and that was Shonn left, right and up the middle. I do not accept that our sideline did not know that Shonn was running for more per carry than JC was getting per attempt. Maybe it was about JC getting his final audition, maybe not. However, I cannot recall a DI or NFL game — ever — when I witnessed run dominance in a close game, and then witnessed the coaches abandon the run.

  7. The fact that he names Stanzi the starter this week is the most perplexing part…

    If his “gut feeling” led to Chritensen’s playing of the entire second half, (most of which we all will agree was sub-par) what happened to his gut between the end of the game and the release of this week’s two deeps? In other words, why did his gut not change during the 4th quarter when he had physical evidence that a switch was needed.

    If, like you mentioned, this is a matter of morally giving Chritensen one more chance, we have a serious problem. This is football. There is no reason to sing kumbaya while giving the old starter his final goodbye. On Saturday, the only thing in Ferentz’s mind should have been winning. And because of this, he should have realized that Jake wasn’t giving the team this chance and give the ball to a guy that could.

    At the very least, he should have considered sticking to the team’s bread and butter–the running game with Greene.

    It’s a curious situation and I think we all just want more answers than we got. By the way, I never heard any comments from Stanzi…what were his thoughts?

  8. The two questions I want answered:

    The last time Shonn was handed the ball in that game was at the 8:22 mark in the 4th qtr. If it really was because he was so tired, then why did he stay on the field almost the whole game lined up in the slot when we kept going 5 wide.
    He couldn’t even be used as a decoy in that formation.

    Keep running Shonn and we win that game with an easy field goal.

    Question #2: Why go into a 2 minute offense with 6 minutes to go, and only down by 1 point? Especially with a quarterback that has proven to everyone but Kirk Ferentz that he could not even start for a Division III school.

    With all that said, I don’t believe we’ll ever see Jake on the field again unless Rick Stanzi is hurt. It’s finally over.

  9. Marc, I think KF is a man of extraordinary character and integrity. I believe he is very loyal to people like KOK and Jake. I have watched the game again, and I believe by body language that Stanzi expected to go back in, but the conditions of the game made them stay with the more experienced guy, believing Jake would find a way. It was only a week ago that we were tied 3-3 after 3 quarters, not much was working, and Jake made that read that caused the big play that turned the game. But lightening didn’t strike twice, the inconsistency presented itself (super 40 yd pass to DJK with 12 min left in 4th, then 3 plays later, a 5 yd bounce pass to Stross), and we again found ourselves in quicksand. Only two completions to a WR in the 4th quarter, and the latter for 1 yard!

    After ISU, I was drinking the Kool-Aid and thinking 8-4. Pitt showed we have a lot of opportunities for improvement. But I believe Rick Will improve with a lot of practice reps and game situations, whereas I think Jake has plateaued, and will never stretch the field vertically to defeat the blitz.

  10. Joe — I think, ultimately, Ken O’Keefe and the offense he runs and the plays he calls are products of Kirk Ferentz. Ferentz is the boss. Ferentz signs off on all the decisions O’Keefe makes. O’Keefe calls the plays, but you can bet they’ve been vetted by and/or with Ferentz.

    Dave — I can easily see how you’d see it that way, insulting. I just think the way he stuttered out of the gate with that question — didn’t make eye contact, either — that he wasn’t going to go too deep into it. He wasn’t going to lie about it, but he wasn’t going to elaborate. I’ve been yelled at and insulted a few times during pressers, but that’s part of doing business. I never take it personally. It’s part of the job.

    Greg — Every presser is a good one. Tomorrow? I doubt we get much more insight into the halftime QB decision. It was something that was decided within the walls of the lockerroom. That stuff usually stays there.

    Michael — The records and results are certainly mixed with Jake. What he has that rates highly with Ferentz is experience. And Saturday, if Stanzi got the hook for running his own play at the end of the half, that’s why Ferentz goes with Jake. He’s coachable. He does what he’s told. He does, however, have a hard time making makeable plays consistently and, thus, the offense is stuck. Iowa’s receivers have to start playing a lot better, no matter who the QB is.

    Drew — Trailing late in the game? Timeouts? Passing hoping to open up the run? Greene running on empty? I don’t know the answer to that one. If I’m a coach and I’m trailing by 1 with nine minutes left in the third quarter, I better feel like I can call a passing play that works, knowing that I have 6.5 yards a carry when I need it. Every offense should be able to execute a clean passing play. Maybe they just wanted to see that?
    I think the 6.5 yards a carry is great, but maybe they were in a desperation mode.

    Tim — I don’t think Ferentz would sacrifice a win just to see if Jake could do it. Would he play Jake to teach Stanzi a lesson? I don’t know. The only thing I do know is that the coaches didn’t like what Stanzi did at the end of the half. It seemed innocuous, but it must not have been to them. Abandon the running game? A team has to be able to pass sometime. To me, the biggest red flag Ferentz raised is when he said the passing game looked like it did last season. That’s NG — not good. Stanzi talked plenty after the game. He said all the right things. When asked if he was confused by the situation, he said yes and then qualified that with good team guy stuff. Was he surprised he didn’t play the second half? He said he wasn’t. I really believe Stanzi’s ego is where it needs to be. Did something happen we didn’t see? Did he show up a coach? We don’t know. I don’t see him being that way. Maybe a Tate, an all-Big Ten, championship ring holder, gets away with that. Stanzi can’t think he’s got enough cache to pull that off. If he did, Ferentz is totally justified in sitting him. We don’t know, however, if that’s the case.

    Paul — That’s a great point, about running Greene and kicking the field goal. They had a few negative plays in the second-to-last series. The series with 8 or 9 minutes, that would’ve been a Greene series, but maybe he was out of gas. Lining up in the slot isn’t the same as running between the tackles. Iowa’s two minute offense — when’s the last time it clicked? I understand what you’re saying on Jake. I’m not here to tell any fans how to treat players. I’m a fan of a certain NFL team from Wisconsin and I can’t tell you how many times I wanted the former QB thrown in the wood chipper. I do wish, though, that some sort of peace could be reached on fans’ views of Jake. I wish it didn’t feel so personal. And what you wrote was fine, Paul. Totally tame to some of the things I’ve seen on the net. Good thoughts.

    Pete — Good analysis. I believe Ferentz’s belief in Jake’s experience played a part in Saturday’s second half. Push comes to shove, experience wins out. Rarely in Ferentz’s 10 years has a starting player been unseated. Greenway for Worthy. Sash for Dalton. They used to play some musical chairs at QB, with McCann, Mullen and Buetjer. That nearly three years to unravel. Am I missing any? Oh yeah, maybe Stanzi for Christensen now. Maybe. It’s just Tuesday. It’s Iowa QB, a lot can happen before Saturday.

    Excellent comments from you guys. I feel like I learned something, taking in your views. I know I don’t have all the answers, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to have another pair of eyes, or eight, on this deal.

    Don’t look for any “eureka” moments out of Ferentz’s news conference tomorrow. “Gut feeling” might be as far as this goes, especially if Ricky is starting Saturday.

    BTW, Northwestern’s D-line is pretty good. RB Sutton will play (350-some yards in three starts vs. Iowa) and Bacher threw four picks last week.

  11. Good comments.

    I don’t think Ferentz owes the fans an explanation, but a foolish answer such as ” gut feeling” does open him up for ridicule. If all they were upset about was Stanzi missing the call to down the ball at end of 1st half, then it is overreaction and petty on their part to bench him for the rest of the game. KOK certainly looked clueless in his play calling in 4th quarter and should have been benched himself. Coming out throwing with 4minutes left and needing a FG just doesn’t make sense.

    Yes, the fans are angry coming off a few years deteriorating performance which culminated in having the worst offense in Big10 last year. Now we see JC at Pitt and see the same anemic offense. I think JC will get Ferentz fired if he keeps playing the guy…at least that is my gut feeling.

  12. At halftime I felt like our defense had figured out what it needed to do, as they shut down Pitt’s offense at the end of the second quarter. I thought our offense was close to closing the deal on our drives, but just hadn’t scored. I was looking forward to see what adjustments they made and thought I’d see them take control in the second half. I thought Jake’s performance was a big part of them not closing the deal on a score in the first half, so I have no idea what gut feeling Ferentz might have had other than indigestion.


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