November 10, 2009
Statistically, Ricky Stanzi has been the definition of mediocrity as Iowa's starting quarterback -- in 19 career starts, he's averaged more than an interception per game, slightly worse than embattled conference mates Juice Williams or Adam Weber, and generally failed to shed the dreaded "within-the-offense" label.
In fact, he's really only been good for one thing:
He may throw four interceptions in one quarter against Indiana, but the kid cleans up his messes: In Iowa's 13-game winning streak between last November and last Saturday against Northwestern, Stanzi brought the Hawkeyes out of fourth-quarter holes four times, memorable comebacks to beat Penn State, Northern Iowa, Michigan State and Indiana, and was key in the Hawkeyes pulling away from Wisconsin in a 20-10 win in Madison last month, a 10-10 game at the start of the fourth. With the game on the line, Stanzi has indeed been the Manzi, on a consistent basis.
So it's no small hit to the Hawkeyes' BCS hopes -- for the Rose Bowl or otherwise -- that they'll definitely be operating in crucial games against Ohio State and Minnesota without Mr. Clutch:
Iowa junior quarterback Ricky Stanzi is expected to have surgery on the ankle he injured in last Saturday’s 17-10 loss to Northwestern, according to HawkeyeReport.com. Stanzi would be out for the rest of the regular season but may be able to play in a bowl game.
Coach Kirk Ferentz is expected to confirm the news momentarily, at which point the astonishing 16.5-point line in Ohio State's favor could jump even higher. It's not even so much that the offense will miss Stanzi's knack for pulling it from the fire as it is that the offense already looks like ashes from the start without him: Backup James Vandenberg came in to complete 9 of 27 passes with a long completion of 16 yards and led the Hawkeyes to zero points in a little under three quarters of action, and that was at home against Northwestern. Saturday Vandenberg goes to Columbus for his first career start, against a defense that ranks in the top six nationally in total, scoring, rushing and pass efficiency D and has forced more turnovers than any Big Ten defense except Iowa's. The number of takeaways the Hawkeye D would have to force to level the playing field against Terrelle Pryor and Co., off the Buckeyes' best win in three years, is too high to contemplate.
[UPDATE, 1:52 p.m. ET] Ferentz confirmed Stanzi's surgery and classified his quarterback as "doubtful" for the next two games; Vandenberg is officially No. 1 on the depth chart this week, as expected.