Hawkeye Insta-analysis: Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley finds plenty of new faces in passing game
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley has a lot of new toys to play with in the passing game, and Oliver Martin isn’t the only one.
Just the most visible.
Martin, the Iowa City native who learned Wednesday that he would be able to play for the Hawkeyes this year after transferring from Michigan, provided the thrill of the night in Iowa’s 38-14 win over Miami (Ohio) on Saturday. He was on the field for all of two plays when he ran a fade route to the left corner of the south end zone and leaped to grab a well-placed Stanley pass for a 9-yard touchdown.
You couldn’t script a better homecoming, and the sellout crowd of 69,250 ate it up.
But Stanley established early on that he was going to spread the ball around, finding six different receivers on his first six completions.
In all, Stanley completed 21 passes to 10 receivers, good for 252 yards through the air. And none of them was his starting tight end.
There was a 45-yard pass to freshman slot receiver Nico Ragaini.
Tyrone Tracy Jr., the other freshman slot man, picked up 22 yards on his lone reception.
Shaun Beyer, the backup tight end to Nate Wieting, had his first three career catches, good for 30 yards.
Stanley’s most experienced receivers, Brandon Smith and Ihmir Smith-Marsette, each hauled in touchdown passes.
But the biggest development had to be the use of running back Mekhi Sargent as a third-down option in the receiving game.
In Iowa’s second-quarter touchdown drive, Stanley found Sargent for 6 yards on a third-and-5 to move the chains once. The two then connected for the biggest play of the half, a third-and-16 screen pass that Sargent took 41 yards to the Miami 9-yard line. Smith scored on the next play.
Miami cut Iowa’s lead to 24-14 in the fourth quarter. Again, Sargent kept a scoring drive alive. On third-and-4, with Stanley about to be sacked, he drilled a pass to Young, who turned around and scampered for 10 yards.
The Hawkeyes were out of danger again, thanks to Sargent.
Sargent had 17 catches a year ago, but had said this offseason that offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz was looking for ways to get him more involved in the pass game. Sargent said he appreciated the trust.
And then he repaid it three times over on Saturday.
This is not to suggest that Sargent will be Iowa’s leading receiver this season. But he is capable of that.
And it could be a key for an offense that is minus tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant, plus slot receiver Nick Easley.
Iowa will need to find different ways to go on the attack through the air. The tight ends will be de-emphasized.
The fresh faces, particularly Martin, will get plenty of chances.
But Sargent, a dual-threat menace out of the backfield, could be the biggest find for Stanley.
Stanley found him three times Saturday when it mattered most.
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.
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