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Harty: Arizona game won’t define 2010 season

[ 21 ] September 16, 2010 |

You shouldn’t have to be reminded after all this time, but I’ll do it anyway:

Don’t assume the worst if the Iowa football team loses to Arizona Saturday night.

It’ll be a huge letdown for the fans who believe this Iowa team is on the verge of doing something special. But one loss won’t ruin the season, especially a loss to a nationally ranked opponent on the road. It would almost certainly eliminate Iowa from the national title hunt, but that’s about it.

If we’ve learned anything after watching Iowa play for the past 11 seasons under head coach Kirk Ferentz, it’s to not get carried away with your emotions, either positive or negative.

Just because Iowa took Iowa State to the woodshed last Saturday doesn’t mean it’s time to make your BCS bowl reservations.

It also wouldn’t be time to give up on a BCS bowl bid or a Big Ten title should Iowa lose to Arizona.

Let this thing play out on a game-by-game basis, and remember what happened to the 2004 Iowa team that looked inept during a 44-7 loss at Arizona State. That team went on to win 10 games, a share of the Big Ten title and the Capital One Bowl, and did so with a nearly non-existent rushing attack.

Also remember that an Iowa team hasn’t won a game played west of the Rocky Mountains since 1987. The closest Iowa has come to winning during that stretch was a 13-13 tie against Brigham Young in the 1991 Holiday Bowl in San Diego.

As dominant as Iowa looked in the first two games, Ferentz’s teams still have a tendency to be a work in progress.

The same goes for senior quarterback Ricky Stanzi.

Although his statistics from the first two games are very impressive, particularly his 70.7 completion percentage and zero interceptions, this is the same Ricky Stanzi that threw 15 interceptions last season, four of which were returned for touchdowns, including one against Arizona. And that was despite him missing two and three-quarter games because of an injury.

Or maybe it isn’t the same Ricky Stanzi.

Sure, he looks the same with his Justin Bieber haircut, his five-o’clock shadow and his slender frame.

But perhaps he is through being careless with the football and has taken his game to the next level.

What’ll help Stanzi more than anything is Iowa being able to run the football. Too much of Adam Robinson and Jewel Hampton is never a bad thing.

If Iowa has success mixing in the run with the pass, Arizona will have its hands full on defense.

Three members of the Iowa offensive line will be starting their first road game, however, so it’s hard to say how they will handle the challenge, both on and off the field.

Junior receiver Marvin McNutt has picked up where he left off last season as a big-play waiting to happen. But senior receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos was quiet in the first two games, at least by his standards.

Don’t be surprised, though, if Johnson-Koulianos does something spectacular Saturday night. He seems to raise his level of performance to the level of the competition as evidenced by last season’s game against Ohio State, when he returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown with the Big Ten title on the line.

As for the heralded Iowa defense, it’ll face a different challenge tonight compared to a year ago when it held Arizona to 94 yards offense in the second half.

Arizona is more balanced now with Nick Foles starting at quarterback. Last year, Matt Scott started for the Wildcats and struggled.

The combination of Foles, running back Nic Grigsby and receiver Juron Criner makes Arizona dangerous on land and in the air.

“Last year we were more concerned with the run from the quarterback position,” Ferentz said. “And Foles, not that he can’t run, he’s not looking to run. He’s looking to throw the football and does it very well.”

Foles, who transferred from Michigan State, completed 83.1 percent of his passes in Arizona’s lopsided victories over Toledo and The Citadel in the first two games. He also shredded Stanford with 416 passing yards last season.

It now seems obvious that Arizona coach and former Iowa defensive back Mike Stoops made the right decision to start Foles because the team has been soaring ever since.

Stoops is in his seventh season as head coach and many feel this is his best team. Signs also point to this being Ferentz’s best team at Iowa, even better than 2002 squad that won 11 games and featured several future NFL players.

By around midnight Saturday, we’ll still be saying that about one of these teams.

Reach Pat Harty at 339-7368 or pharty@press-citizen.com

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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