The Takeaway: Indiana

Sure, Iowa just beat Indiana, 18-13. But what was so important about beating Indiana? How much do we really know? What does it all mean, Basil? The Takeaway has the answer.

It can go away just like that. The specter of Damario Belcher's dropped pass on 4th down will haunt the Indiana program for a long time to come. It's the type of play that never leaves a fan's psyche, much less a player's. Belcher makes that catch 90-95% of the time, and even that might be unnecessarily conservative. For whatever reason--and Belcher himself probably couldn't tell us, which gives you an idea of how seriously to take the armchair psychologists on this one--he didn't make the play with the game on the line on Saturday. Fortunately, Bill Lynch had the good sense not to send Belcher out for interviews immediately afterward.

It would be overly critical of Iowa football to point out the sheer improbability of Belcher's failure (and thus, of Indiana's loss, lest we think Stanzi had another 3-play touchdown drive left in him) and not the equally improbable confluence of events that led to Wisconsin's 31-30 win at Kinnick just two weeks prior. This stuff just happens sometime, and no matter how good the coach or the quarterback or the entire team is, sometimes you're the dog, and sometimes you're the hydrant. That's why it's so insane to pin one's hopes and expectations on the highest of goals any year, much less year after year. There's too much instability and too much luck involved in the course of a season for any of that.

This running game might not have missed Adam Robinson this week, but Kirk Ferentz apparently did. Marcus Coker had himself a whale of a weekend, going for 129 yards on 22 carries. He ran over tacklers on multiple occasions and looked Big Ten-ready as of, well, now. Doubtless, he's got some learning to do in terms of blitz pickup, blocking schemes, general playbook what-have-you, but that's true of just about any true freshman, and we don't have any reason to doubt Coker's capability of progressing there.

But the thing of it is, Coker didn't rush for any touchdowns, and that's because he didn't exactly get much of a chance. Ross did a perfectly cromulent job of running down Iowa's playcalling in the red zone, but it's just worth reiterating: Coker had three rushes at the 10-yard line and inside (and none inside the 8), while Ricky Stanzi went 1-6 for no touchdowns and one whole yard in that same area (blood red zone? or is that too emo/shitty metal?). Nobody else had any rushes in that area, either. Indiana had to be happy about that development.

Then again, that's not exactly a surprise; recall that when Northwestern knocked Shonn Greene out of the game back in 2008 and Iowa had a first-and-goal with the game on the line, Ferentz called four straight passes en route to the loss. He clearly doesn't trust backup running backs when he doesn't have to, and while it didn't cost Iowa the game this time, it certainly could (and should) have. Coker's a really big dude. He deserved at least more than a third of the looks inside Indiana's 10.

At any rate, unless Robinson's concussion is worse than anyone's letting on, this is a one-week problem. Yes, we're leery about bringing back a kid from a concussion after he only sits one game out, but this appeared to be a minor concussion and A-Rob's probably going at least 10 days without any contact at all. Ideally, he'd sit another week, but if trainers can't find any symptoms, Ferentz isn't going to keep Robinson on the bench against Northwestern. We can debate the long-term logic of this later.

If you need a drive, The President Of The United State Of Iowa can give you a drive. For the seventh time in his college career, Ricky Stanzi led the Hawkeyes on a fourth quarter drive that either tied the game or gave the Hawkeyes the lead. Granted, not every one of those games resulted in an Iowa victory, but most did, and it only further solidified his status as one of the best 4th quarter QBs in Iowa history. Stanzi's drive on Saturday--15 yards to Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, 21 to DJK again, then a 52-yard post bomb to Marvin McNutt--was likely his magnum opus, except for the fact that it was so efficient, Indiana had time to retaliate without desperation. Tough problem to have, right?

It's something of a shame that Stanzi's sophomore season had to be split with Jake Christensen and that his freshman year went by without so much as a completion. Selfishly, when we see things like Adam Weber overtaking Chuck Long in career passing yards, after all, it sucks, because we know Stanzi's a better quarterback and, barring 1,000-yard games from here through the bowl game, Ricky won't even touch those career totals.

And yet, perhaps Iowa wouldn't be 17-3 in Stanzi's last 20 starts, and perhaps Stanzi wouldn't be 3rd in the nation in passing efficiency today, if it hadn't been for what challenges he faced to get behind center full-time in the first place. Perhaps he just plain wasn't ready as a freshman. Perhaps no quarterback could endure what Jake Christensen did in 2007 without having his timing and instincts permanently scarred. Whatever. It just sucks that Weber's going to go down as one of the most prolific quarterbacks in Big Ten history when he wasn't even the best BXI quarterback west of the Mississippi since the first half of 2008.

But again, tough problem for us as Iowa fans to have. Let's just enjoy the last four games of Stanzi's career in Iowa City and hope he and the rest of the seniors give us just as good of a season as the historic campaign last year. It's still within reach; time to go get it.

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