What really happened in Hawkeyeland this past weekend?
Look at the dude bottom right of the pic: Sweet pose, bro!
The Hawkeye defense is finally dominating the way we thought they would from the start. Adrian Clayborn was the best player on the field Saturday, and it wasn't even close. He played so well that the only thing to slow him down all day was a whistle he thought he heard while chasing down Arizona running back Nic Grigsby for the 42nd time. This is the kind of game Hawkeye fans have been waiting and expecting from him for awhile now. Not to say he hasn't been impressive, but he took over the game single-handedly. ESPN blogger Adam Rittenberg named him the Big 10 Defensive Player of the Week. He also has a sweet beard. Here's to hoping that Clayborn's dominating performance wasn't just an anomaly.
The other dominating component of Iowa's D is safety Tyler Sash. I said in my season preview podcast with Gazette sportswriter Marc Morehouse that Sash could be comparable to former Hawkeye safety Sean Considine. In fact, I felt that might have been a touch of exaggeration. I was wrong. He's well on his way to be the second best safety of the Kirk Ferentz era, behind the incomparable Demond Sanders. Sash has 7 picks in his last 5 games, the most return yards on interceptions in Hawkeye HISTORY, and he's just a true sophomore. Sure, it's true Austen Arnaud was throwing the football to Sash like he was his own kin. However, if you saw Sash's INT on the tele against 'Zona, you said something to the effect of "Man, that Scott kid from Arizona sucks. He just lobbed it up there." But if you were lucky enough to be in Kinnick, you were saying, like me, "OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG." Because trust me, Sash was on his horse (not literally, that's a bit illegal) and came across the entire field.
Quick question: Has anyone thrown at Amari Spievey yet this year? I know the Hawks play a ton of zone, but seriously. He's shutting down one person/area for the ENTIRE game.
Do something crazy, Marvin.
Gameday in Happy Valley
The crew is going to be at the Big 10 opener at Penn State. Unfortunately, that means Desmond Howard will still be there, on television, and think himself to be funny. This is good and bad for a couple reasons. The good news is that Iowa will receive plenty of coverage throughout the day, will be nationally televised, and every Hawkeye fan in any podunk town can watch it on ABC. Even I got the three most basic channels (ABC, CBS, PBS) when I was in elementary and lived on a farm in the middle of nowhere. Though PBS was in black and white for me, so the whole purple dinosaur got sorta lost on me. The point of the story is this: public universities and their football teams, like Iowa, are absolutely, 100% a brand. If you don't believe this, you're a complete moron. The more frequently we're on national television, the better. Better for recruiting, better for a local and national fan base, better for everything (The key exception being Oregon's LeGarette Blount. Whoopsie). I'm convinced that it's much less how we play and much more that we're on the nation's televisions.
The bad news: Happy Valley was already gonna be completely and utterly APESHIT. This makes it worse; much worse. It was already a WhiteOut (which is undeniably both impressive and cool). Penn State is still fuming after 24-23 and Murray's ensuing seizure. Stanzi won't be able to audible, we have two freshmen running backs, and again, 110,000 caucasionly-clad people screaming. Good luck.
Throw it away, please
Dick Stanzi comes to play in the first half. He chucks it around like he's Brett freakin' Favre only with Jake Christensen-style accuracy. Dick Stanzi is only completely 49 percent of his throws and there is an feeling of discomfort everytime he throws into triple coverage. Dick Stanzi is a bottom-tier Big 10 QB.
Rick Stanzi is the QB of the second half. He works drives, completes passes, converts third downs, and does everything anyone wants from their quarterback. Rick is completing 73 percent of his passes and playing above even Hawkeye fans expectations. Rick might be the best quarterback in the Big 10.
The key is to put it all together. Now I'm not one of those crazy types of Hawkeye fans who cut out their father's pacemaker and always want the back-up quarterback to get a chance. But I'm not an apologist either. Stanzi needs to play better in first halves, otherwise the Hawks will be looking at a 17-0 hole. The Hawkeyes are not climbing out of a 17 point hole in Happy Valley against Penn State's defense. Not happening.
Let's not forget that Stanzi's top players have been out for at least some time at every major offensive position. Offensive Line: Bryan Bulaga, Kyle Calloway, Julian Vandervelde. Running Back: Jewel Hampton. Wide Receiver: DJK. Tight End: Tony Moeaki. These aren't just starters out with injuries, these are all-Big 10 quality players that are out. It's not possible to take all the major parts away from a unit and not feel it. Perhaps this lack of cohesiveness is all falling on Stanzi's numbers. Perhaps he just needs to play better in the first half. I have a feeling both the first half and second half numbers will improve/regress to the mean eventually.
Either way, the Big 10 season will be very interesting. I have a feeling that the Hawkeyes are going to be right in the thick of things come November