Ruden: Stanley’s new weapons take Hawkeye offense to new level

The weapons surrounding Nate Stanley only spells positives for the Hawkeyes.


Katie Goodale

Katie Goodale/The Daily Iowan Quarterback Nate Stanley throws a pass during Iowa’s game against Miami (Ohio) at Kinnick Stadium on Aug. 31. Iowa defeated the Redhawks, 38-14.

Pete Ruden, Pregame Editor

Iowa’s 38-14 season-opening win over Miami (Ohio) on Aug. 31 wasn’t the cleanest game the Hawkeyes will play all year. 

The RedHawks posted a couple explosive plays to move the ball down the field, and Iowa made its fair share of mistakes, including a fumble on a fullback dive when Brady Ross tried to pitch the ball back to quarterback Nate Stanley.

But mistakes are expected for the first game of the season. 

Other than the few errors that kept the game close for the first half, the Hawkeyes showed how good they can be and how many weapons they boast.

Stanley completed passes to 10 different receivers, and half of them hauled in more than one pass. Three different receivers scored a touchdown as well.

Seven players also recorded a carry, showing how many playmakers’ hands offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz wants to get the ball into. 

That’s a good thing for Iowa. 

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The wide receivers’ room is the deepest Stanley has been paired with since he took over the starting role in 2017, and there are at least four running backs who figure to get some meaningful carries at some point during the season.

It would be wonderful if we could keep doing [spreading the ball around],” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Makes us a better football team. Last year, I know there’s a lot of focus on the tight ends for obvious reasons. Those guys were exceptional players and talents. We weren’t as good at the other spots, but I think we’re a little stronger just overall right now.”

There were questions entering the season about how the Hawkeye offense would respond after losing its three leading receivers in T.J. Hockenson, Noah Fant, and Nick Easley. 

It didn’t help that Oliver Martin’s status was up in the air until last week, either.

Now with Martin, Brandon Smith, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Mekhi Sargent, and Toren Young all available, those questions have more or less been erased.

“It is hard on the defense for them to key in on one guy,” Stanley said. “I think it allows us to get some one-on-one matchups that maybe we weren’t getting in the past. I think it allows the defense to play a lot more honest and not be able to double cover people.”

If things continue to shake out that way, the Hawkeyes will be in good shape as they gear up for conference play. Iowa hosts Rutgers on Saturday, and while the Scarlet Knights aren’t a Big Ten juggernaut by any means, they will provide a conference measuring stick.

It’s always nice to see fresh faces get action in a season-opener, but conference games are far more telling about the role they will play for the rest of the season. This season’s conference schedule begins far earlier than in years past, so new faces will need to prepare for the season to take a quick jump. 

There’s no denying that Iowa possesses talented players on both sides of the ball. Now, the focus will be on looking at how they do when the games start to matter more.