Nate Stanley will have to try to bounce back from an awful afternoon in Madison

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

MADISON, Wis. — It was a humbling homecoming for Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley on Saturday, who had his first flat-out poor performance in a 38-14 loss at Camp Randall Stadium.

But the sophomore’s big test comes this week. How quickly can he move on from a forgettable afternoon and focus on this Saturday’s home finale against Purdue?

Kirk Ferentz was quick to offer the calming perspective gained from 19 years as Iowa’s head coach. Asked about Stanley’s play against the No. 3 Badgers — 8-of-24 passing for a mere 41 yards and three turnovers — Ferentz left no doubt the he maintains confidence in the first-year starter.

“Nate is such an impressive guy,” Ferentz said. “It’s part of sports, and if you’re a quarterback — not that you want to get used to it, but — it’s going to happen to you. That’s just the way it goes sometimes. It was a tough night for him — really, nothing was flowing at all. He probably didn’t play his best game. But I tell you he’s a quality guy. I’m so glad he’s our quarterback. He’ll learn from this.”

Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley narrowly averts a safety as he is sacked by Wisconsin's Olive Sagapolu in the second quarter Saturday. Stanley was sacked four times and had three turnovers in a 38-14 loss. He'll look to turn things around against Purdue this Saturday.

Stanley was the toast of the college football world after throwing five touchdown passes and helping the Hawkeyes (6-4, 3-4 Big Ten Conference) demolish mighty Ohio State 55-24 on Nov. 4.

The Wisconsin native found out Saturday how quickly an athlete’s highest of highs can descend to the lowest of lows.

Iowa generated no offense against a terrific Badgers defense — its 66 yards was the worst showing of Ferentz’s tenure. Stanley was harried by blitzes and sacked four times. He could find no open receivers downfield — his longest completion totaling 10 yards.

He was intercepted for only the fifth time all season and lost a fumble when the ball just inexplicably fell from his grip.

In the most telling play of the game for Iowa’s besieged offense, Stanley saw the football glance off his hip and to the turf when center James Daniels snapped it early. Wisconsin turned that muff into a touchdown and a 24-14 lead.

Stanley, who was signaling to his right when the ball arrived, called it a miscommunication. Daniels put the blame on himself.

“We were not playing well at that point, offensively, and the game was still within reach,” Ferentz said. “So that made it tough.”

Stanley repeatedly said that Wisconsin’s plan of attack was exactly what Iowa prepared for.

“They brought stuff that we thought they would, and they just did a great job of executing it,” was his typical response.

Wisconsin took Iowa’s tight end tandem of Noah Fant and  T.J. Hockenson out of the game. The duo saw nine catches, 125 yards and four touchdowns against Ohio State last weekend. Saturday, Fant couldn’t hang on to the only pass thrown his way; Hockenson had just one catch for six yards.

“They did a great job of slowing them down,” said Stanley, admitting his disappointment at having such a bad showing in front of so many family members and friends.

And now it’s on to Purdue (4-6, 2-5), a team the Hawkeyes have beaten four years in a row. The game will kick off at 2:30 p.m. and be televised by the Big Ten Network.

The Boilermakers, under first-year coach Jeff Brohm, are allowing 230 passing yards per game. There will be more openings in the secondary than Stanley witnessed Saturday.

“We all know what we need to do to move on and learn from it,” Stanley said.

This week will reveal the truth in that statement.

Stanley can take comfort in knowing he won’t be alone in his self-examination. Star middle linebacker Josey Jewell was also pointed in his critique of Iowa’s performance, putting the burden on himself to spur some needed improvement.

"I think we need to stack up leadership, and I think it's both sides of the ball,” Jewell said. “So I can do a better job of that, and I think all our seniors can do a better job."