Consistency the next step for Iowa's Stanzi

July, 15, 2009
7/15/09
12:05
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Kirk Ferentz calls them Ricky Stanzi's Kodak moments, and Stanzi had an album full of them last season for Iowa. 

 
  Stephen Mally/Icon SMI
  Consistency and limiting mistakes will be key for quarterback Ricky Stanzi this season.

Stanzi made his share of mistakes in his first year as the Hawkeyes' starting quarterback, but he also showed impressive poise to bounce back virtually every time.

After committing a total of five turnovers (two interceptions, three fumbles) in consecutive losses to Northwestern and Michigan State, Stanzi steadied himself in wins against Indiana and Wisconsin. The sophomore endured a miserable performance at Illinois (2 INTs, lost fumble returned for a touchdown), only to lead Iowa to a season-defining win against then-No. 3 Penn State the following week.

The Penn State game brought out both the worst and the best of Stanzi. He had an interception and a lost fumble turn into 10 points for the Nittany Lions, but responded to lead three Hawkeyes scoring drives in the final 25 minutes. 

"The interception against Penn State was about as ugly as you can throw," Ferentz said. "I guess you could kind of see one of our guys in there, but it was through three or four of their guys. And then the Illinois thing, I've seen those situations just implode negatively for you. But both those instances, he just came right back and played and did a good job.

"That's something that's hard to teach anybody or give anybody. He really has that gene, that trait. That's a good starting point."  

Iowa knows Stanzi can bounce back when things go south, but whether he can avoid difficult situations in the first place will largely shape how the team performs this season. Stanzi no longer has Shonn Greene in the backfield, and with wideout Andy Brodell and tight end Brandon Myers gone, the junior quarterback will face increased pressure to make plays.

Though Stanzi must limit turnovers and become more consistent in the red zone -- Iowa came up empty nine times last year, the second-highest total in the league -- he has no plans to overhaul his approach.

"It's just being conscious of what you're doing out there," he said. "I know there's been times when I've turned the ball over too much. That's obvious. You can write that down as a stat. At the same time, it's not going to change my style of play because if I start doing that, you're pulling back from something that helps you make some plays."

Stanzi not only can feed off of Iowa's strong finish to the 2008 campaign, but the way he evolved from week to week and, in some cases, quarter to quarter. 

"I've tried to tell myself that before we go into each game, 'You're not going to play perfect, even though you'd like to. Mistakes will be made, but the most important thing is how you're going to respond to those,'" Stanzi said. "At times, you expect things to go bad. Like one thing goes bad, it's a slippery slope, everything's just going to fall apart.

"But when you're able to respond and you've got great guys around you on offense and a heck of a defense to back you up, it makes it a lot easier."

Stanzi split time with returning starter Jake Christensen for Iowa's first four games before taking over the top job for good in Week 5 against Northwestern. Greene's dominant running and the nation's fifth-ranked scoring defense eased the burden on the sophomore signal-caller, who had his share of growing pains

Such a luxury no longer exists for Stanzi, but he's comfortable with the leadership load this fall.

"Last year, he was battling it out for the first couple games and the first half of the season, really, so he didn't really step up and become that leader," left tackle Bryan Bulaga said. "But from when he stepped in during the winter and now, he's the true leader of the team. He's doing a great job taking that role

"When Rick steps in the huddle, all eyes are on him."

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