Inconsistent? Definitely. But Iowa's Ricky Stanzi Defines Clutch

Kevin TrahanAnalyst IOctober 31, 2009

STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Head coach Kirk Ferentz of the Iowa Hawkeyes talks with Ricky Stanzi #12 while playing the Penn State Nittnay Lions  on September 26, 2009 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. Iowa won the game 21-10. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

It was exactly the way Iowa drew it up. Well, maybe not exactly.

"I hope I don't ever [do that] again... We'll take the win, but there has to be an easier way," Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi said.

I'm sure Kirk Ferentz would agree with his quarterback and settled for an earlier blowout of the Indiana Hoosiers. But, once again, the Hawkeyes didn't care how they got it done. Simply put, they just won.

And while most of Iowa's victories have come due to improbable comebacks, this one was the most magical.

Despite throwing five interceptions, four of them in the third quarter, digging his team into a 24-14 hole, Stanzi perhaps deserved to be named the player of the game.

His poise is outstanding. 99 percent of quarterbacks would give up after throwing four interceptions, in one quarter nevertheless, but not Ricky Stanzi.

In dramatic fashion, he rallied his Hawkeyes back with consecutive touchdown passes of 92 and 66 yards to take a 28-24 lead. He never looked back, leading his team to a 42-24 win, accumulating 28 unanswered points.

While Stanzi certainly isn't a Heisman caliber quarterback, he has rallied his team back in eight of nine games this season, something that possibly even Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy wouldn't be able to do.

Excluding today, Stanzi has orchestrated seven comebacks this season, including a fourth quarter comeback against number five Penn State, a second-half domination of Wisconsin, and a touchdown pass as time expired to beat Michigan State. More impressively, those three wins came on the road.

After those games, I thought about writing this article, but needed proof one more time. And after the first three quarters in Iowa City, I doubted that this article would ever be written. Boy, did he prove me wrong.

In the three road games, Stanzi didn't struggle nearly as much as he did today, hence the five picks. And though I rarely doubt coach Kirk Ferentz, I began to wonder if Stanzi should be benched.

But benching his starting quarterback "never entered his mind."

"I'm not alone in this one," Ferentz said. "We all believe in Rick Stanzi. The guy has done a hell of a job."

And Ferentz's brilliant decision proved me, and most of the country, wrong.

Stanzi has been inconsistent this year, to say the least. He started out the season with slow starts in each game, but rallied his team back in every one.

He seemed to finally have turned the corner against Wisconsin, but turned in an awful game the next week against Michigan State. That is, until the final drive.

I know SEC fans will go crazy on me for this, claiming Stanzi is lucky and isn't close to Tebow caliber.

I know Stanzi isn't close to Tim Tebow caliber. And luck may be a big part of his success. But nobody orchestrates that many game-winning drives based on luck alone.

Stanzi may not be pretty, and he may catch a few breaks now and then, but his 17-3 record speaks for itself. As does the fact that, come tomorrow, the Iowa Hawkeyes will have gone an entire year without a loss.

While Stanzi isn't the only reason Iowa stands at 9-0, in fact more credit may be due to the Hawkeyes' opportunistic defense, he certainly has paid his dues.

It may not always be pretty, but Ricky Stanzi knows how to win games. The junior quarterback from Mentor, Ohio continues to define clutch with each Iowa win.

"No matter what happens, he keeps on playing," Ferentz said. "If there's one thing I can say about Rick, it's resiliency. He's done a great job of leading our football team."