Stony Stanzi survives, lives to see another play
Stony Stanzi survives, lives to see another play
By Marc Morehouse
IOWA CITY — If you’re on the field for Iowa, Coach Kirk Ferentz trusts you. But there are degrees of trust.
Ferentz trusts quarterback Ricky Stanzi. He’s on board with the sophomore from Ohio. He’s been all-in with Stanzi since Week 5.
Ferentz stayed with the first-year starter last Saturday against No. 7 Penn State. He stuck with him despite two fumbles and an interception, the basic recipe for destruction for the Hawkeyes (6-4, 3-3 Big Ten) this season.
During Iowa’s 0-2 start in the Big Ten, Stanzi had five turnovers. When the Hawkeyes pulled to 2-2, Stanzi had no turnovers. In a 27-24 loss to Illinois, he had three turnovers, with two of those leading to 10 Illinois’ points and the final one ending the Hawkeyes’ comeback.
Against Penn State, two of his turnovers led to 10 points, including a fumble on a center-QB exchange to led to a PSU touchdown and a 23-14 deficit late in the third quarter. There was no flinch out of the Iowa offensive coaches. The degree of trust in Stanzi is high. They don’t have any other choice at this point.
“There’s a learning curve here,” Ferentz said Tuesday. “I’ll be a lot happier when we quit turning it over. If you’d told me at halftime we’d turn it over twice on our first three possessions (in the third quarter) and win the game, I’d have said absolutely no way.”
After three quarters of herky jerky, Stanzi crystallized in the fourth quarter. He completed 7 of 13 passes and led the Hawkeyes on two scoring drives. On Iowa’s game-winning drive, he completed 4 of 8 for 37 yards.
Three quarters of herky jerky, Stanzi pulled it together for 15-play, 57-yard drive when Iowa absolutely had to have it.
“He’s a young player, so hopefully that’s something good in the bank,” Ferentz said. “We’ve gone through some tough times, too, with him and some tough situations in that ballgame and a couple the week before. He’s growing and if he’s learning from those things, it gives him a chance to go on and do some good things during his career.”
The week before at Illinois, Stanzi fought through the three turnovers to lead an Iowa comeback that closed a 24-9 deficit to 24-24 with 2:46 left to play.
In the fourth quarter at Champaign, he went 4 of 10 for 91 yards with a fumble that went for a TD and an interception that ended Iowa’s hopes. He also threw a TD pass and a completion on a two-point conversion that pulled Iowa into a tie.
That’s a learning curve with a lot of turns to it.
Stanzi doesn’t seem to internalize these turnovers. Interception, fumble, he heads over to the sidelines, gets grilled about it and moves on.
Stanzi didn’t play much baseball back home in Mentor, Ohio, but somewhere along the line, he picked up the soul of a relief pitcher. When he blows a save, he still wants the ball the next day.
“I think short memory,” Stanzi said. “A lot of quarterbacks talk about that and you hear it every now and then, but I think it’s really important to try to develop that. If you make critical mistakes, there’s nothing you can do about it at that time. You’ve got to let it go, work on the next drive and try to redeem yourself.”
Iowa’s last drive of the third quarter last week ended in the botched snap. Two drives later, Stanzi completed two passes that helped set up running back Shonn Greene’s 5-yard TD.
“He’s a pretty lighthearted guy,” center Rob Bruggeman said. “We spend so much time with each other, you know peoples’ idiosyncrasies inside and out, how they act on and off the field. When they’re out there, they’re pretty much the same guy.
“He reacts positively to most things. He’s happy all the time. If you ever notice, he rarely gets mad. We always joke about how he’s always happy. He just responds well to pretty much anything that’s thrown at him.”
Ferentz believes he has a QB with a Big Ten arm, a cool head and the resiliency of bacteria. He’s all-in with Stanzi, but he’s not declaring him QB emeritus, not quite yet. There’s that turnover thing.
“He’s working his tail off; he’s got all the attributes you want,” Ferentz said. “I just know that we can’t expect sustained success if we keep turning the ball over like that. That’s one statistic we’re not handling really well.”
Tuesday, Stanzi showed his sense of perspective and humor. He was asked what the Penn State victory meant for his career. His career has been eight starts after winning the job over Jake Christensen.
“It was nice to get the victory. We were happy about that as a team,” he said. “As far as my career goes, I’m not really worried about that. It’s still going on.”
It is still going on. There doesn’t seem to be any looking back now.
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(Brian Ray/The Gazette)
Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi (12) recovers his own fumble during the second quarter of Iowa’s game against Penn State last Saturday at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.