By Pete Ruden
It was the question on everyone’s mind coming into the season.
Who would be Iowa’s quarterback and how would he be able to perform with so much change going on in the program?
Through six games, we have our answer.
Nate Stanley was named the starting quarterback about five days before the Hawkeyes took on Wyoming in the opener, and he has had a solid first half of the season in his first year behind center full-time.
Stanley is second in the Big Ten with 15 passing touchdowns, behind only Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett, who seems as if he has been a Buckeye for eons.
From an NCAA standpoint, he’s tied for eighth in the country in passing touchdowns. That’s pretty good for someone who has only started six games in his college career.
His quarterback rating of 149.3 is fifth best in the conference, behind players who have all had consistent experience.
He has also only thrown 2 interceptions, which has been important in order to maintain long drives down the field.
However, he hasn’t been free of mistakes: Fumbles have been a problem for the Menomonie, Wisconsin, native.
The one that sticks out the most came against Michigan State, when the Hawkeyes were threatening in Spartan territory. Stanley attempted to throw the ball after escaping what would’ve been a sack, but he lost the ball in his windup. Michigan State recovered, snuffing the scoring opportunity.
Stanley has also had a habit of missing wide-open receivers on deep passes. There have been numerous potential touchdowns Iowa did not cash in on because the ball floated just inches (or sometimes yards) past the receivers’ fingers.
That inaccuracy has shown in Stanley’s completion percentage, which sits at 57.7 percent, eighth in the Big Ten.
“You get that done in practice, and we missed them in practice, too, so there is usually a correlation,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said about the deep ball inaccuracies after Iowa’s 44-41 overtime win against Iowa State. “We’ll keep throwing them. At some point, we hope to bring them in.”
No matter how the performance looks, though, Stanley always seems to put up good numbers when he plays.
Against Iowa State, he missed some deep plays but put up monster stats, throwing for 333 yards and 5 touchdowns.
After a rough first half against Wyoming in his first career start, Stanley ended up tossing 3 touchdowns on just 8 completions. Still, with only 15 attempts, he finished with a quarterback rating of 176.0, his highest of the season.
The offense has certainly struggled at times this season, and Iowa didn’t really open up its passing game when the ground attack was not doing damage.
The sample size isn’t incredibly big, but Stanley has shown he can be successful when given the chance. He has already proved he can hang with the Big Ten’s best when it comes to certain stats, and with more experience, he will likely be able to do even more.
“Right now, I think we have a pretty efficient young quarterback who’s exceeded our expectations and really has done a fairly good job for us,” offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz said. “You look at the touchdowns, interceptions, you look at the completion percentage, he’s right at about 57 percent. So just his efficiency numbers have been impressive.”