On Saturday afternoon during a 42-16 win over Indiana, Nate Stanley completed 21-of-31 passes for 320 yards and six touchdowns. He averaged 15.2 yards per completion.
In Kirk Ferentz’s 246 games coaching at Iowa, the Hawkeyes have had an average of 15.2 yards per completion or higher 38 times (in case you’re wondering the highest, it was 25.9 in 2009 against Indiana).
Of those 38 times, just six of them have been 300+ yard games: this week, 2014 Wisconsin, 2009 Indiana, 2005 Minnesota, 2005 Purdue, and 2001 Northwestern. Of those games, just three have featured at least 20 completions.
And until last Saturday, none of them had reached more than 20. So, Nate Stanley actually did something no Iowa quarterback (or combination of QBs) had done under Ferentz: He completed more than 20 passes and kept a yards per completion of at least 15.2.
Stanley’s six touchdown passes is also something that’s never been done under Ferentz.
Check 'em all out: pic.twitter.com/DgZ3dJZZg8— The Iowa Hawkeyes (@TheIowaHawkeyes) October 13, 2018
What I’m trying to say is that against the Hoosiers, Stanley actually made a little bit of history. We very well might be watching a historically good quarterback who’s two favorite targets are tight ends, which is a thing in and of itself.
The big-armed junior quarterback was certainly dealing on Saturday, completing touchdowns to five different receivers and passes to nine. It was an impressive display of air superiority and deep ball prowess.
I think it’s finally safe to say this passing attack is for real. In fact, this might be the best passing attack Iowa’s had since — Ricky Stanzi? Drew Tate? *gulps* Brad Banks? You can argue all you want about this in the comments, but perhaps it’s the best under Kirk Ferentz.
Or, maybe, just maybe, Nate Stanley might be the best quarterback Iowa’s had since Chuck Long.
I’m trying not to overreact, since JPinIC has the market cornered on that, but it’s impossible to not be excited. Now, you might say, weren’t we worried about passing at the beginning of the season? And you’d be exactly right.
But get this: Over Stanley’s last four games, he’s 81-of-123 passing for 1199 yards and 14 touchdowns. Now, to be fair, they came against an FCS team and the 53rd, 37th and 50th ranked Division I passing defenses. Not exactly the greatest competition, but also — at least with the major college teams — not in the back half of the country, either.
Iowa has come out guns blazing after its loss to Wisconsin and the result have been superb. Two weeks in a row Iowa’s scored touchdowns on their first two possessions. This immediately put Minnesota and now Indiana in holes to begin the game. It gave the Hawkeye defense plenty of room to work with and allowed both sides of the ball to take control of the game early.
The Gophers and the Hoosiers aren’t particularly spectacular teams, but something seems to be clicking for Iowa right now. They’re playing well, offensive plays are hitting and the defense hasn’t had much issue keeping opponents at a distance on the scoreboard.
With the notable exception of Wisconsin — a game you can argue Iowa could and should have won — there really hasn’t been a team that’s played the Hawkeyes close. Yes, the Cyclones were in that game the entire time, but did it really ever feel like they were actually threatening, especially looking back?
I don’t think we’re exactly in uncharted waters here, but this Iowa team... they just might be good. A win next week against Maryland, a team they should be able to handle without too much trouble at home, will put them at 6-1, setting the table for a huge game with Penn State the week after.
With the Wisconsin losing to Michigan, there’s now four one (conference) loss teams in the Big Ten West. After Penn State, Iowa’s final three opponents are currently a combined 9-12 with a 6-8 record in the conference.
It’s certainly manageable.
Oh, and want to know one other fun tidbit about the final six regular season games Iowa plays? Those six teams national passing defense ranking averages out to 86.6. Only Penn State, at No. 34, ranks better than 70th.
Buckle up. This just might be fun.