Iowa Hawkeyes First Quarter Analysis: A Different Ricky Stanzi

20 09 2010

Ricky Stanzi, Iowa Hawkeyes“Be careful what you wish for.”

How many times have you heard that?

“Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.” That’s been the warning for as long as I can remember.

Since January 6, the number one key to the Iowa Hawkeyes’ success has unanimously been that Ricky Stanzi must decrease the interceptions, especially the “pick-6s”. That has come from fans, media, coaches and even Ricky himself.

Preseason magazines, college preview shows, every article written on the promise of the 2010 Hawkeyes building on their success of 2009, and water cooler conversations among fans have all shared the same view; “the Hawkeyes cannot continue to win if Stanzi keeps throwing interceptions.”

So in the offseason, Ricky has had that mantra running through his head mixed in with all of the patriotic songs and verses, play calls and defensive reads he needs to work on to take that next step in his senior season as the Iowa quarterback.

Some pundits mentioned Ricky in the preseason Heisman talk, “as long as he cuts down the interceptions.” He was placed on the Davey O’Brien preseason watch list, “but he needs to reduce the number of interceptions.”

So Kirk Ferentz and Ken O’Keefe spent the offseason drilling into Ricky’s head, “don’t take the big risks, check down, hold on to the ball, run with it if you have to, throw it away, don’t gamble deep.” And it showed on opening day against Eastern Illinois.

Ricky looked afraid to throw the ball more than 10 yards down field. But when he tried, it worked (all three times). He looked anxious to hit the check-down receiver or the running back out of the backfield. He passed on wide open receivers (Marvin McNutt and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos) at least six times in the first two games, opting for either the tight end or running back instead. He definitely did not look like the Ricky Stanzi with the Captain America swagger he carried in the Orange Bowl, or in the fourth quarters against Indiana and Michigan State, or even late against Penn State in 2008.

Ricky Stanzi is now just Steve Rogers.

I wish the stats would show what is clearly evident by watching Stanzi version 2010, compared to Stanzi version 2009, but they don’t. They actually support the efforts of Ferentz and O’Keefe, except one major stat, and prove you can’t measure swagger with numbers.

After the first three games in 2009, Ricky was a clean 60 of 100 (60%) passing attempts for 644 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions. He was sacked only eight times behind a veteran offensive line against teams like Northern Iowa, Iowa State and Arizona, and had 12 official rushing attempts.

In comparison, after the first three games in 2010, Ricky is 47 of 74 (63.5%) for 711 yards with six touchdowns and only one interception. All marked improvements from a year ago. He has been sacked nine times with 21 official rushing attempts. All of these numbers can easily be attributed to the new philosophy designed to reduce turnovers and interceptions.

But the most glaring statistic of them all is not the reduced interceptions or increased rushing attempts and sacks, it’s the record.

After the first quarter of the 2009 season, Iowa was 3-0, on their way to a school-record 9-0 start, ending with a BCS victory in the Orange Bowl. In 2010, the Hawkeyes are 2-1 (ranked 18 in both polls) with more questions than answers and seemingly lacking an identity to claim for the 2010 season.

This could easily be just like 2002, when Brad Banks led the Hawkeyes to an undefeated Big 10 conference run and an 11-1 regular season record. But in order for that to happen, the swagger of the Iowa Hawkeyes must return, and that begins with their leader, Captain America, Ricky Stanzi.

There is definitely a different feeling with this year’s Hawkeyes. But the teams have switched sides of the field and the Hawkeyes come out in the second quarter starting with Ball State, Saturday (Sept. 25), and then Big 10 conference play with Penn State and then to the Big House against whatever Michigan team decides to show up. The Parade to the Roses starts now.

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