Oct. 24, 2010
- Iowa Football Game Day Central
- Cast Your O’Brien Quarterback Award
- Vote for R. Stanzi as a Premier Player
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
By MICHELE DANNO
IOWA CITY, Iowa — A football team that plays together stays together.
Keeping with the theme of family weekend on Oct. 23, this was the attitude team captain Ricky Stanzi tried to reflect on his discouraged teammates after a disheartening 31-30 loss to Wisconsin.
Despite the defeat, Stanzi’s leadership was crucial both on and off the field Saturday. Just one week after being named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week for his performance at Michigan, the senior quarterback kept his poise throughout the tough rivalry for the coveted Heartland Trophy.
With three touchdown passes and 258 yards without a turnover, Stanzi’s statistics exceeded those of Badger quarterback Scott Tolzien, who threw for 205 yards and one touchdown, but also had an interception.
Stanzi entered the matchup ranked first in the conference and third in the nation for pass efficiency with 180.5. At Iowa, he ranks third overall for starting quarterbacks with 23 career victories and only six losses.
Still, pure numbers aren’t good enough for the leader of the Hawkeye offense, who insisted he was “outplayed” but Tolzien.
But Stanzi isn’t taking the blame, as he recognizes the Wisconsin matchup — and all matchups for that matter — are a team effort.
“We’re not going to play the `what if’ game right now. We’re going to keep looking forward because that’s the only way you need to keep your eyes in this type of environment in the Big Ten. If you’re going to look back, you might as well just stay there.”
“There are ups and downs in ball games that you have to work through as a team,” Stanzi said in a postgame press conference. “We’re not putting any blame on any certain play or anything like that. Overall, they played a better game than us.”
While some point fingers at special team’s miscues, the missed extra point, the excessive penalties, or the failed final drive for the loss, UI defensive end Adrian Clayborn took responsibility as the leader of the defense, saying it was his squad that just didn’t play hard enough.
Although Stanzi admired Clayborn’s humility, he did not agree.
“AC is his own toughest critic,” Stanzi said. “He’s a great player and a great teammate. While it’s great leadership for him to say that, I’m going to go ahead and say there’s plenty of plays we left out there on offense, so it can go either way. It’s a team loss. It always will be.”
Despite a somber walk back to the locker room and an emotional postgame press conference, Stanzi is confident his teammates would “be fine” and “shake it off” before getting back to work to prepare for their next matchup against Michigan State.
As captain, he recognized his responsibility to keep his team’s morale up and to focus on the future instead of the past.
“We’re not going to play the `what if’ game right now,” Stanzi said. “We’re going to keep looking forward because that’s the only way you need to keep your eyes in this type of environment in the Big Ten. If you’re going to look back, you might as well just stay there.”
Stanzi’s move-forward attitude is reflective of head coach Kirk Ferentz’s similar post-defeat mindset. Ferentz also called attention to the fact that the Hawkeyes still have five games left and a lot of room for improvement over the next few weeks.
“A lot of things are going to happen and can happen,” Ferentz said. “It’s like after a win, you just turn the page after you study what happened, turn the page and move on.”
So the No. 18 Hawkeyes will hit the practice fields hard this week, watch plenty of film, and keep “doing what they’ve been doing” to prepare for the fifth-ranked Spartans on Oct. 30.