Hensley: Hawkeye football’s offense in uncharted territory

10 passing touchdowns and 90 points in the past two games – what sort of Hawkeye offense is this? One that’s set up for success.

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Hensley: Hawkeye football’s offense in uncharted territory

Iowa running back Mekhi Sargent carries the ball during Iowa's game at Indiana at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. The Hawkeyes beat the Hoosiers 42-16.

Iowa running back Mekhi Sargent carries the ball during Iowa's game at Indiana at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. The Hawkeyes beat the Hoosiers 42-16.

Katina Zentz

Iowa running back Mekhi Sargent carries the ball during Iowa's game at Indiana at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. The Hawkeyes beat the Hoosiers 42-16.

Katina Zentz

Katina Zentz

Iowa running back Mekhi Sargent carries the ball during Iowa's game at Indiana at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. The Hawkeyes beat the Hoosiers 42-16.

Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor

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Think back to the last time an Iowa quarterback won Walter Camp Offensive Player of the Week recognition. Still thinking?

Let’s make the question broader. When was the last time any offensive player received Walter Camp Offensive Player of the Week honors?

Never.

Never in the history of Hawkeye football has an offensive player, let alone a quarterback, received the title of Walter Camp Offensive Player of the Week until Nate Stanley did on Sunday.

This right here, my friends, is a new breed of Iowa Hawkeye football — welcome to uncharted territory for a Kirk Ferentz team.

Stanley threw 6 touchdowns in Iowa’s 42-16 beatdown of Indiana on Oct. 13, and I can say that his performance was the best I’ve seen out of a Hawkeye quarterback in a long, long time. I’ve seen some outstanding quarterbacks in Hawkeye uniforms, such as Brad Banks, Drew Tate, Ricky Stanzi. But those teams thrived on a strong running game.

This Hawkeye team doesn’t.

Ferentz and the rest of the team will tell you Iowa is — still — a grind-it-out, run-first team. And that’s fine in theory, because a solid running game sets up the passing game for success.

But this season, Iowa averages just 3.94 yards per carry. Technically, that mark is a step up from last season, in which the Hawkeyes averaged 3.8 yards per touch. But in the past 10 seasons, Iowa’s averaged 4.1 yards per carry.

During that same span, the Hawkeyes averaged 26.8 points per game. In 2018, the Hawkeyes are averaging 5 points more, coming in at 31.8 per game. That’s the highest scoring Iowa team since 2002 (37.2 points per game). Only three Iowa teams have scored more than 30 points per game in the past 15 seasons.

The secret — well, it’s not really a secret anymore — to Iowa’s offensive success lies in the man behind the center.

Really, during Iowa’s last four games, the offense has flipped a switch. First, it was Northern Iowa. The passing game looked sharp for the first time all season, and honestly, the first time since Iowa hung 55 points on Ohio State on Nov. 4 last season.

Then it was on to Wisconsin. Stanley threw for 256 yards, a pair of touchdowns, and (at the time) put up his best passer rating of the season (155.3).

Then the bye week happened, and questions surrounded the offense — would it be rusty or come out swinging?

Stanley and Company came out with a knockout punch, putting up 48 points and 420 yards of offense against Minnesota.

Now, a week later, the offense hasn’t skipped a beat. Hawkeye fans haven’t seen this sort of offensive strength consistently, especially under offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz’s helm.

But here we are.

Point being, this offense hasn’t stopped moving the ball and putting up points in the past four weeks, and it starts with Stanley’s play.

Sure, Stanley’s had a few head-scratching mistakes (his interceptions in the last two games were poor decisions), but aside from those two plays, he’s been throwing the football better than ever — he did win the Walter Camp Offensive Player of the Week award after all.

Running an offense that’s averaged 31.5 passing attempts over the last four games isn’t exactly Iowa football per se, but it works, and it gives Iowa all its momentum heading deep into conference play.

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