By the numbers: Hawkeye quarterback Nate Stanley playing at a record pace

Nate Stanley’s Hawkeye career is still in the early stages, but he’s on pace to go down as one of the greats.

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By the numbers: Hawkeye quarterback Nate Stanley playing at a record pace

Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley throws on the run during Iowa's game against Indiana at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington on Saturday, October 13, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Hoosiers 42-16.

Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley throws on the run during Iowa's game against Indiana at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington on Saturday, October 13, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Hoosiers 42-16.

Nick Rohlman

Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley throws on the run during Iowa's game against Indiana at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington on Saturday, October 13, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Hoosiers 42-16.

Nick Rohlman

Nick Rohlman

Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley throws on the run during Iowa's game against Indiana at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington on Saturday, October 13, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Hoosiers 42-16.

Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor

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During the 2016 season, the Hawkeyes scored 14 points or fewer on six different occasions. Five of those games were in conference play, and the final abysmal-offensive outing came in a 30-3 Outback loss to Florida.

Fast-forward two years. Iowa’s offense isn’t where many people expected it to be — it’s better than advertised. Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz has dialed up his play-calling, especially this season, and the offense has made notable strides.

But the Hawkeye offense, especially this season, starts and ends with quarterback Nate Stanley, and he’s making a case for himself as one of, if not the, best signal callers to line up behind center during head coach Kirk Ferentz’s tenure.

What Stanley did against Indiana (320 yards, 6 touchdowns) is virtually unheard of from a quarterback under Ferentz’s command.

Traditionally, Iowa thrives on the run; opponents know exactly what they’re getting. However, this season is different. Yes, Brian Ferentz deserves plenty of credit. He’s revived a once-lifeless offense and thrown in touches of a spread offense, igniting a scoring explosion recently.

But to run an offense to the best of its potential, the coaching staff needs a solid quarterback. Iowa has more than that — one of the best to ever suit up in a Hawkeye uniform.

Stanley’s name jumped into that conversation last season when he passed for 2,432 yards and 26 touchdowns, which ties for second-most in a single season in Hawkeye history.

No Hawkeye quarterback under Kirk Ferentz has thrown for 5 or more touchdowns in a single game. Not Brad Banks. Not Drew Tate. Not Ricky Stanzi. None.

That is, until Stanley threw 5 scores in just his second college start. Since then, he’s thrown for at least 5 touchdowns in a single game twice more — once against No. 3 Ohio State and then for a third time this past weekend.

Stanley’s career touchdown count rose to 41 after the game against Indiana, which ties Matt Rodgers for fifth all-time in program history. (Context: Rodgers was the 1990 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, led the Hawkeyes to the 1991 Rose Bowl.)

It’s worth noting that Rodgers’ 41 touchdowns came during the course of three seasons as a starter, or 33 games. 

RELATED: Hawkeye offense shows improvement halfway through season

Stanley matched that total in just more than half that many contests.

College football is a different game than it was in the early 1990s — the passing game and the spread offense has opened the field up more than ever — but no Hawkeye quarterback has come close to touching that record in just 19 games.

C.J. Beathard, James Vandenberg, and Jake Rudock each started for at least two full seasons, and Stanley sits ahead of them.

Tate and Stanzi, the only Ferentz-coached quarterbacks sitting ahead of Stanley, had 35 and 37 starts, respectively. Tate averaged 1.74 touchdowns per start, while Stanzi averaged 1.5. Stanley has averaged 2.16.

Anything can happen. Stanley can leave early for the NFL Draft after this season, or the injury bug could bite. However, barring anything of that nature, if Stanley finishes this season (plus a bowl game) and continues his passing trends into his senior year (plus a bowl game), his career total sits at 84 passing touchdowns.

Or, take out the bowl games if you’re not optimistic on the future of Iowa football. That’s still 37 career games, and with an average of 2.16 scores per game, Stanley’s touchdown count would be 80.

The what-if game isn’t a logical one to play, especially in football, a sport that’s incredibly unpredictable. However, he’s on pace for history, and playing at a historic level. 

RELATED: Point-Counterpoint: Will Nate Stanley break Iowa’s passing touchdown record?  

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