's our Nard Dog. Thomas Nardo, Iowa's newfound starter at defensive tackle and owner of the porn-iest name in the starting lineup with Shane DiBona on the sidelines, was named the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts against Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday. Nardo had himself a pretty monster day for a defensive tackle: 12 tackles, 2.0 TFL, and 0.5 sacks. He doesn't do much to help our problems keeping contain on the outside, but he's exactly the sort of plugger we need to keep from getting gashed up the middle. Hopefully he's able to produce a few more games like this in Big Ten play and enable Mike Daniels to spend more time getting pressure on the quarterback from the other defensive tackle position. That would be nifty.
But who is this international man of mystery, this "Thomas Nardo?" Morehouse has the answers: he's a fifth-year senior from Lancaster, PA who spent his first four years in the program as a walk-on and barely saw the field. The fact that an out-of-state walk-on hung around for four years, paying his own way, is pretty remarkable. His career stats prior to this year: 3 tackles and 1 QB hurry, mainly against Iowa's squishy cupcake opponents last year (Eastern Illinois, Iowa State, Ball State, Michigan State). To say he's been a pleasant surprise would be an understatement. He's not going to make anyone forget Karl Klug or Christian Ballard (or Mitch King, or Matt Kroul, or... you get the picture), but he's added a bit of solidity to an Iowa defensive line that was looking woefully porous earlier in the year. For that, we applaud his efforts and hope for more occasions to exclaim "NARD DOG!" in the future.
Bizarro Iowa football. An Iowa team with a dodgy defense? Led by a prolific passing attack? If Kirk Ferentz shows up for the Penn State game in two weeks with a neatly-trimmed goatee, we'll know that we've truly stepped into a parallel universe. In the meantime, we're left trying to figure out what the hell is going on here. One thing that's clear, through? James Vandenberg is off to a start as good, statistically speaking, as Ricky Stanzi's boffo start last year:
It all starts with quarterback James Vandenberg. The no-huddle fits his skill set, which is accuracy first and foremost. Through four games, Vandenberg has completed 62.8 percent of his passes. Ricky Stanzi’s 2010 was the best statistical season by an Iowa QB since Brad Banks in ’02. Through four games last year and going into the Big Ten season, Vandenberg’s and Stanzi’s numbers are nearly identical.
Stanzi completed 66 of 99 for 999 yards, nine TDs and just one interception with a pass efficiency of 179.41. Vandenberg is 81 of 129 for 1,095 yards, 10 TDs and one interception with an efficiency of 158.12.
Stanzi's numbers declined precipitously in November, which was a contributing factor in Iowa's hideous collapse at the end of the 2010 season. If Vandenberg's numbers suffer a similar fate, we'll almost certainly see a similar November record to 2010's mark, only without the heartbreak of so many close losses since the 2011 Hawkeyes don't have a defense that can keep games close on their own like the 2010 team. Long live the Mandenberg, the no-huddle offense, and the 2011 Bizarro Hawkeyes.
* Phil Steele's mighty computers have crunched the numbers and spat out projected results for conference play, with Iowa going 5-3 and losing to Penn State, Michigan State, and Nebraska. Which sounds pretty plausible (it's not too dissimilar from my own preseason projection), but clearly Steele's cold, unfeeling machines were unable to account for the dark magick that will be on display in the jNW game.
* The Big Ten understands that fans hate weekends with a terrible slate of games like last weekend... but it's unclear if they're going to do much about it. Or if they're going to add a second permanent rival when the schedule expands to nine conference games (although Delany seems against it, so don't bet on it happening).
* So despite the Franimal's awesome recruiting, the snazzy new renovations to Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and the general good vibes surrounding the men's basketball team, season ticket sales are stagnant. Maybe Fran needs to have a good post-game cry to goose ticket sales.
* In terms of injuries, Nolan MacMillan is practicing again, but B.J. Lowery's return has been delayed by a few weeks.
* Iowa's Oct. 8 game with Penn State is officially set for a 2:30pm CT start, to be televised by ABC/ESPN.