Handing Off a Highlight

Dec. 17, 2009

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi completed 154 passes this season for 2,186 yards and 15 touchdowns, including a game-winning 7-yarder to Marvin McNutt while time expired at Michigan State.

But Stanzi, voted the most valuable offensive player by his teammates, said one of his biggest plays was a handoff…to redshirt freshman running back Adam Robinson in the third week of the season.

“There were a bunch of little plays that stick out,” said Stanzi as he prepared for practice Thursday evening. “We were backed up against Arizona…it was third-and 23 and A-Rob had that draw play for 43 yards. That play got us to the other side of the field. If anything, it changed the field position and changed the momentum of the game.”

Two plays after Robinson’s 43-yard pickup, Stanzi connected with McNutt on a 34-yard pass play that took the ball to the Wildcat 1. Robinson then scored and the Hawkeyes overcame a three-point deficit and never trailed again during a 27-17 victory on Sept. 19 in Kinnick Stadium.

Stanzi is working his way back into game shape after suffering a regular-season-ending high ankle sprain against Northwestern in the 10th week of the season. The Hawkeyes led 10-0 at the time, but the start of the second quarter wasn’t kind for Stanzi or the Hawkeyes. On the first play, Stanzi was intercepted by Northwestern’s Jordan Mabin. Iowa’s defense held, but a Wildcat punt was downed at the Iowa 6.

On first down, Brandon Wegher was stopped for no gain. On second down, Stanzi rolled to his right into his own endzone. Northwestern defensive end Corey Wooton had an unimpeded, direct shot at the unsuspecting Hawkeye.

“It happened so quick that there wasn’t a whole lot to remember,” Stanzi said. “I roll out and a guy’s in my face. I tried to juke him, but Wooton’s about 6-foot-9 and you’re not going to really get around him. He has a huge wing span and he covered all sides of me. Once I was stuck and the way he was pulling me…it was an awkward tackle and from there it was very painful. I thought it was broken. All of the sudden it got numb down there.”

While Hawkeye fans held their breath and hoped for Stanzi’s return, the junior from Mentor, Ohio, realized he was done for the day.

“I knew I wasn’t going to come back in the game. That was pretty evident from where I was from a pain standpoint,” Stanzi said. “I knew I had to sit this one out and hope that it wasn’t broken.”

Stanzi had surgery on a high ankle sprain, but he will be 100 percent by the time No. 10 Iowa scuffles with Atlantic Coast Conference champion and No. 9-ranked Georgia Tech in the FedEx Orange Bowl on Jan. 5.

“I feel good,” said Stanzi. “Things are a lot better and things have sped up pretty quick because of the surgery. The training staff has done a great job getting me into position where I can do all practice now pretty-much pain free.”

In the absence of Stanzi, backup redshirt freshman James Vandenberg led the Hawkeyes to a 12-0 victory against Minnesota after falling in overtime to eventual Big Ten Conference champion Ohio State in Columbus. By the time the FedEx Orange Bowl begins, Stanzi will have gone nearly two months without taking a snap in a game.

“I’m getting back out there, back in the heat of the game,” Stanzi said. “All the little things you take for granted when you’re out there week after week and nothing ever breaks your stride. Then when you do get hurt, you realize how much you miss it and how bad you like to be involved with the team. Now I’m getting back in the flow of things a little bit, which I’ve gotten to do with practice which has helped.”

This will be Iowa’s eighth bowl appearance in 11 seasons under head coach Kirk Ferentz. Last season the Hawkeyes defeated South Carolina, 31-10, in the Outback Bowl.