By Tyler Devine
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Even before he was named Iowa's starting quarterback, sophomore Nate Stanley already had earned the trust and respect of his teammates.
Stanley showed the feeling was mutual during Iowa's 44-41 overtime victory at Iowa State this past Saturday by getting many of teammates involved, including true freshman receiver Ihmir-Smith-Marsette, who caught two touchdown passes, including the game winner in overtime.
Nine different Iowa receivers had at least one reception against the Cyclones as Stanley completed 27-of-41 passes for 333 yards and five touchdowns.
“I think that’s a big thing,” Stanley said Tuesday. “That just goes back to having trust in the coaches. They made great play calls the whole game and especially in the fourth quarter and overtime. Just having trust in your teammates and everybody on the field helps to be more confident and even keel out there on the field.
“I think just being able to put different guys in there and get them playing time and playing experience is not just going to help for them to grow individually but it’s going to help build throughout the year. Especially being able to spread the ball around just goes back to the different play calls the coaches made. Obviously they made great play calls the whole game and we just went out and executed them.”
Stanley’s performance against Iowa State has earned him lots of praise and recognition. He was named Big Ten co-Offensive Player of the Week, thanks partly to the protection provided by the Iowa offensive line as Stanley was sacked just once and hurried only four times.
The 6-foot-5, 235-pound Stanley now owns the spotlight, but is quick to deflect praise to his teammates, particularly the offensive line. Their protection allows Stanley to go through his reads and not settle on one target.
“I think the offensive line did a great job all day,” Stanley said of the Iowa State game. “Obviously, there are things here and there that we can improve and work on, and like I said we’re in practice working on those things and just trying to get better.
“I think the relationship between the quarterback and offensive line has to be pretty good. I feel like they’ve worked super hard to keep me safe back there and obviously I really appreciate it. It’s pretty awesome to go through and game and maybe only get hit when you scramble or something like that. Having that protection is pretty sweet.”
Senior offensive lineman Boone Myers thinks the offense as a whole may have turned a corner against Iowa State, but acknowledges that there still is room to improve.
“I think it’s a multitude of things,” Myers said. “I think the line played very well for the most part. There’s always ups and downs, there’s always stuff you can get better at. But overall I think the line played very well. And, you know, Stanley is settling into his role.
“Some of the wide receivers are settling into their roles, wide receivers are calming down and making plays. There’s just a lot of things. It’s good team football.”
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said the offense still is very much a work in progress, but he is encouraged by Stanley's demeanor on the field and by the way he handles pressure situations.
"We have a lot of work to do right now," Ferentz said. "A lot of things that we've got to get better at and more proficient at. But a positive for sure was Nate Stanley, he looked a lot more comfortable out there. He had some beautiful throws. The guys helped him out which always helps too. So, you know, looked like we have a chance maybe to function, but we're not there yet."
Senior receiver Matt VandeBerg said part of the reason Stanley is so comfortable with the offense is because he trusts his teammats to make plays. That trust goes both ways, and helps to build eam chemistry.
“I think that’s part of it,” VandeBerg said. “If he’s able to go through all of his reads. I think that shows trust in anybody he’s throwing to. He trusts that we’re going to be able to make the play, whether it’s a running back, tight end, receiver or a fullback for thirty yards. That just shows a lot of different guys can step up when their number is called.”
To go along with his never-say-die attitude, Stanley also has a short memory as a quarterback. The Wisconsin native doesn't dwell on the good or bad. Stanley committed three tournovers in the season opener against Wyoming, but it had no effect on his performance against Iowa State.
"I think a better word would be composed,” VandeBerg said of Stanley. “He doesn’t really get too high or too low. Even after a touchdown, I mean he’ll get excited, but then it’s what do we need to work on next drive so we can do that again.”