BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Nate Stanley looked like Ben Roethlisberger.
The big, young, healthy, Super Bowl-winning Ben Roethlisberger.
(And Iowa’s traditional uniform set fits that Steelers comparison, too).
Iowa junior Stanley finished with a robust 199.0 quarterback rating Saturday, hitting 21-of-33 passes for 320 yards and six touchdowns as the Hawkeyes defeated Indiana’s host Hoosiers, 42-16, Saturday afternoon.
It helped make for a very dispiriting Hoosier Homecoming.
“Disappointed in how we performed, absolutely,” Hoosier head coach Tom Allen said in opening his post-game remarks. “But just weren’t good enough today, and that’s all on me.
“It’s my responsibility to get our team ready to compete and play at the highest level and, based upon how we performed throughout the game, it wasn’t to our standard. I’m the head coach. It’s on me.”
Given how dominant Iowa proved on both sides of the ball, and given how Stanley played, once the game commenced there probably wasn’t much chance for IU coaching to further influence the outcome.
After a good opening Indiana drive, on which the Hoosiers settled for a 29-yard Logan Justus field goal, it was pretty much exclusively a Hawkeye show for the duration.
An interference call on Raheem Layne during Iowa’s first series negated a Jonathan Crawford interception and, coupled with an unsportsmanlike call on a protesting IU bench, the Hawkeyes ended up with a 1st-and-goal at the Hoosier 9. Stanley hit T.J. Hockenson for the TD on the next snap.
A picture-perfect Stanley pass to tight end Noah Fant, who beat Marcelino Ball by a step in the end zone for a 28-yard TD at 1:21 of the first, made it 14-3, capping a 70-yard march.
And after the Indiana offense’s second straight 3-and-out, the Hawkeyes were moving again when Allen’s son Thomas temporarily reversed the momentum.
The IU redshirt freshman linebacker – wearing No. 10 rather than his customary 44 to help honor late Indiana great George Taliaferro – dropped into the left flat to pick off a Stanley pass and returned the ball 30 yards to the Iowa 34.
“We went over that during the week – they were showing times, when they get in empty (set, with nobody joining the QB in the backfield), that’s kind of what they tend to do. So we repped that all week.
“So I was to stay there, stay locked on the center and then pop out at the last second, and it worked. It was huge momentum for our team. The offense took advantage.”
It did. Two snaps later, Indiana redshirt sophomore quarterback Peyton Ramsey found sophomore Ty Fryfogle for a 33-yard TD down the west sideline that cut the deficit to 14-10 with 12:17 left in the half.
“Peyton threw a great throw, first of all,” Fryfogle recalled. “He kind of looked at me, and I knew it was going to come to me when Coach made the call. I just had to go up and make a play.
“It was my first touchdown since high school. So I felt great about that.”
The Hoosiers didn’t feel so great about subsequently allowing a 60-yard kickoff return to Imhir Smith-Marsette, who initially had bobbled the ball all the way back to his own goal line.
That set up perhaps Stanley’s most Roethlisberger-like moment of the day.
The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Roethlisberger is renowned for using his physical stature to keep plays alike.
The 6-4, 242-pound Stanley faded to pass on a 1st-and-10 play from the Hoosier 12. Ball came free on a blitz and looked primed for a sack as he got both hands around Stanley’s midriff. He tried to pull Stanley down.
Stanley had other ideas. He shook his hips rid himself of Ball, rolled right and threw a laser just above the ground to a diving Nick Easley for a TD to make it 21-10.
“Painful memories right there,” Coach Allen recalled. ” … Marcelino is one of our better players and, nine times out of 10, he’s going to finish that play.”
Instead the Hawkeyes, who took that 21-10 lead into intermission, essentially finished Indiana by scoring touchdowns on their first two second half possessions.
Thomas Allen had just broken up a pass but, on the next snap, couldn’t keep up with Hockenson as the sophomore tight end turned a crossing pattern into a 30-yard gain on the third quarter’s first series. That set up an 11-yard TD pass to Toren Young as IU’s Bryant Fitzgerald
missed a tackle in the flat.
Another missed tackle, this one by fellow redshirt freshman safety Juwan Burgess, let Hockenson rumble 54 yards for the TD that made it 35-10 with 9:19 left in the third.
Allen said his team had more missed tackles Saturday than he could remember.
“I’m really disappointed in that,” Allen said. ” … We take so much pride in that, work so hard on that … those (Iowa) guys are big and physical and we kind of bounced off them a few times, and that’s disappointing.”
IU senior safety Crawford, asked to grade his team’s tackling on the day, was succinct: “Bad. D. The worst.”
A 12-yard Ramsey run brought Indiana within 35-16 at 5:55 of the third, capping an eight-play, 75-yard drive – and the Hoosiers had glimmers of a rally when they moved back to a 2-and-2 from the Iowa 6 early in the fourth quarter.
But Geno Stone’s leaping interception in the end zone snuffed out any such notions.
“Geno’s pick down in the end zone was a big play for us, and that helped us gain control of the game again,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
Ramsey’s verdict: “Maybe I just forced one in there, trying to make a play.”
A 58-yard bomb to Fant subsequently set up Stanley’s sixth TD pass, a 4-yard swing to Austin Kelly that forged the final margin. Indiana’s final threat ended when Jake Gervase intercepted Ramsey at the Iowa goal line.
Even with the two picks, Ramsey’s final QB rating was 124.5. And Indiana (4-3 overall, 1-3 Big Ten) finished with decent offensive numbers, 330 yards and 22 first downs, against the nation’s No. 4 defense.
“It’s the first time we really had a really good dual-threat quarterback (against us), with being able to use his feet or his arm,” Ferentz said. “He’s just a really tough player to play against … I’m happy about the way we responded and came up with some big plays.”
Iowa (5-1, 2-1) finished with 479 yards and averaged 5.0 yards per rush compared to Indiana’s 2.7. The Hawkeye defense came in ranked No. 5 nationally against the run and Stevie Scott was IU’s leading rusher with 29 net yards on eight carries.
Indiana’s defense never consistently showed it had the capacity to stop anything Iowa’s offense wanted to do.
“I think we were hurting ourselves, most of all,” Crawford said. “Missing tackles. Our coverage wasn’t good at all … I thought it was the worst game we’ve played, as a defense.
” … We gave up a lot of big plays … all around, just not a good game for us.”
The challenge doesn’t get any easier, with No. 8-ranked Penn State and standout senior quarterback Trace McSorley coming to town next Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff.