Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
MADISON, Wis. -- Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi has been a black-and-gold piñata for much of the season, taking whacks from both fans and critics seemingly every time he steps on the field.
It isn't easy to find faults with an Iowa team boasting a perfect record, a never-quit attitude and a playmaking defense, but Stanzi has been an easy target. He plays the most visible position on the field and has made the most visible mistakes, namely eight interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns.
Quarterbacks are judged on wins and losses, but Stanzi had caveats attached to his record. Iowa won games in spite of him, many claimed.
But on Saturday, the piñata struck back, and Wisconsin's defenders absorbed the blows in a 20-10 loss. Stanzi turned in his cleanest performance of the season and certainly his best half, rallying Iowa from a 10-0 deficit to maintain the nation's second-longest win streak.
"He probably broke the streak of having something easy to pick on," head coach Kirk Ferentz said, before adding, "but I'm sure we'll find something."
There was a third-quarter fumble and a few errant throws, but for the most part, Stanzi was the Manzi for Iowa. He converted four huge third downs in the second half, including a third-and-13 and a third-and-7.
Stanzi completed 17 of 23 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown in the game. Most importantly, he didn't throw an interception for the first time since the season opener Sept. 5 against Northern Iowa.
"I guess the pick-sixes are overshadowing his performances," said wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, who led Iowa with eight catches for 113 yards. "But the kid, he's so poised. He understands the importance of maintaining his poise throughout the game."
Ferentz has called poise Stanzi's best attribute, but the junior is getting pretty good at long passes, too. On third-and-7 from Wisconsin's 24-yard line, Stanzi avoided a defender, rolled to his right and lofted a perfect pass to tight end Tony Moeaki in the end zone to tie the score at 10-10.
"We thought they were coming on a full-out blitz, and they only brought one of the guys," Stanzi said. "I was looking for a hot route, it wasn't there, so I rolled out and Tony was running down the field. It was a one-on-one situation and you'd like to think he can make the play."
Forget about pick-six-Rick. After Saturday's performance, Stanzi deserves to be viewed in one way only -- as the starting quarterback of an undefeated Iowa team that has shown more resiliency than any team in America, rallying from deficits in six of its seven victories.
"He represents Iowa football," Johnson-Koulianos said. "He's not a flashy guy, doesn't talk much, but he works hard behind closed doors and he wins ballgames.
"That's what this program's all about."