Big Ten: Joe Conklin

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

A few afternoon nuggets for you.
  • As expected, Iowa junior quarterback Ricky Stanzi doesn't appear on this week's depth chart for the Ohio State game. Head coach Kirk Ferentz will address Stanzi's status Tuesday, but said Saturday that he expected the quarterback to miss the final two regular-season games. Redshirt freshman James Vandenberg is listed as the starter and classmate John Wienke is the backup. Safety Brett Greenwood (neck) also doesn't appear on the depth chart, as Joe Conklin likely will make his second straight start.
  • Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema expects star running back John Clay to play against Michigan after the sophomore suffered a head injury in the Indiana win.
  • Bielema has indefinitely suspended reserve wide receiver Maurice Moore after his arrest for operating while intoxicated early Sunday. Moore was involved in a one-car accident near Camp Randall Stadium and was hospitalized with minor injuries. He played in Saturday's road win against Indiana.
  • Bielema wants the Big Ten to review a bizarre muffed punt from the Indiana game. Wisconsin return man David Gilreath signaled for a fair catch, only to have the ball hit his helmet. Indiana's Collin Taylor then caught the ball before it hit the ground, which by rule impedes Gilreath's chance to make a legal fair catch.
  • Michigan running back Brandon Minor continues to be bothered by injuries. The Wolverines senior re-aggravated an ankle sprain against Purdue and also sustained a bruised shoulder. Head coach Rich Rodriguez isn't sure how healthy Minor will be for the Wisconsin game.
  • Juice Williams is still listed as the starting quarterback on Illinois' depth chart even though he's questionable to play against Northwestern because of an ankle injury.
  • Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald said X-rays were negative on the throwing hand of backup quarterback Dan Persa, who sustained an injury in the second half at Iowa. Fitzgerald lists Persa as day to day, while starter Mike Kafka (hamstring) is improving.
Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Iowa defenders have talked all season about putting out the fire.

Starting quarterback Ricky Stanzi put his teammates to work quite a bit, throwing 13 interceptions through the first nine games. Almost every time, the Hawkeyes defense extinguished the flames, buying enough time for Stanzi to generate his fourth-quarter magic and turn the water cannons on the opposing team.
 AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
 Iowa will likely be without quarterback Ricky Stanzi Saturday against Ohio State.

Stanzi's interceptions were mostly brush fires for Iowa's defense. His absence from the field because of a sprained right ankle is unquestionably an inferno.

As redshirt freshman quarterback James Vandenberg prepares to make his first career start Saturday against No. 11 Ohio State, the 10th-ranked Hawkeyes need their defense to step up now more than ever.

"We've got to keep doing our job," senior linebacker Pat Angerer said. "We shouldn't let teams score, and we did [against Northwestern]. That game's on us. We've got a lot of improvement we need to make."

Iowa's task this week is far from impossible. Ohio State ranks 62nd nationally in total offense (373.8 ypg) and 98th in passing (183.1 ypg). The Buckeyes are running the ball well, but Iowa's strength on defense remains its front seven. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor has been more prone to turnovers this year, and Iowa leads the Big Ten in takeaways (26).

Pryor and the Ohio State offense gained a major boost in a blowout win against Penn State. Pryor ran the ball well, committed no turnovers and connected on several big pass plays, including a 62-yard touchdown to DeVier Posey. Iowa's defenders have never faced the dual-threat sophomore because the teams haven't played since 2006.

"Coach [Kirk Ferentz] talks about, ‘Whatever happens, wherever the fire’s at, we’ve got to put it out,’" said senior safety Joe Conklin, who has stepped in nicely for the injured Brett Greenwood. "That’s the truth. It doesn’t matter what the heck happens on the field. You've got to go out and take care of it."

Conklin felt a greater sense of urgency throughout the defense as soon as Stanzi went down against Northwestern. Though the Wildcats scored a quick touchdown to take a 14-10 lead, Iowa surrendered only three points the rest of the way. Northwestern finished with only 239 total yards.

The margin for error will be even slimmer in Columbus, not because Ohio State is an offensive juggernaut, but because the Buckeyes are a dominant defense. Ohio State easily could have held Penn State scoreless at Beaver Stadium, which would have been its fourth shutout in 10 games. As it turned out, the Buckeyes allowed only seven points, nine first downs and 201 total yards in the victory.

Iowa's offense went nowhere after Stanzi's injury, crossing into Northwestern territory just once and racking up only 132 yards. Facing the Buckeyes at full strength would be a tremendous challenge. Facing the Scarlet and Gray with an all-freshman offensive backfield (Vandenberg and running back Brandon Wegher) could be disastrous.

The Hawkeyes will lean on their defenders, who are ready to answer the bell again.

"If somebody goes down or we have a problem on offense or a problem on defense, the other side has to step up," Conklin said, "We have to move on."