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QB Stanley steps up in pocket for Iowa

(Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

(TSX / STATS) -- Iowa came into the season with one of its biggest unsolved mysteries at the quarterback position, but Nate Stanley changed the question mark into an exclamation point at least for one Saturday and possibly moving forward.

The sophomore turned in one of the best performances by an Iowa quarterback in 30 years, passing for 333 yards and five touchdowns against Iowa State in a 44-41 overtime win last Saturday on the road in the annual rivalry game.

Stanley was clutch with the game on the line, hooking up with Akrum Wadley on a 46-yards touchdown pass that tied the score with just over a minute remaining in the fourth quarter.

Then in overtime, Stanley connected with freshman Ihmir Smith-Marsette for the walk-off winner, a 5-yard strike just beyond the goal line.

With Stanley running the offense, Iowa had four scoring drives of 89 yards or longer against Iowa State. He hooked up with nine receivers, and Wadley ran for more than 100 yards for the second straight game.

"They threw the kitchen sink at us," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said of the Iowa State defense. "They did a lot of different things to try to stop the run early and that opened stuff in the passing game. To Nate's credit, he did a good job finding the guy who the ball should have gone to and that helped us have a successful attack."

But can Stanley continue to be as impressive as he was against Iowa State? Hawkeyes coaches and fans will learn more Saturday when Iowa (2-0) plays host to North Texas (1-1) at Kinnick Stadium (3:30 p.m., ESPN2).

Iowa is a prohibitive favorite this week ahead of an anticipated early prime-time Big Ten showdown with No. 5 Penn State on Sept. 23 in Iowa City.

The question marks for Iowa now are not Stanley, but a reshuffled offensive line because of injuries and the Hawkeyes' defense.

Offensive tackle Ike Boettger suffered an Achilles injury that caused Iowa to shift players around. The senior is expected to be sideline for four to six months.

Guard Sean Welsh moved to tackle, Boone Myers is recovering from an injury and playing left guard, and true freshman tackle Tristan Wirfs might be pressed into service.

"So right now we just have to plan like he will play at some point because we're really running out of depth," Ferentz said.

The Iowa defense didn't play as well as it did in the opener against Wyoming. Iowa State accumulated 467 yards and 41 points, but there were bright spots for the Hawkeyes, including an interception by defensive end Parker Hesse that set up a tying field goal with about six minutes to play.

"A lot of the defensive guys were down on themselves," middle linebacker Josey Jewell said. "I should be down on myself for what I did. It was pretty dang bad. But we have to understand, we got the victory."

North Texas will present a different challenge for the Iowa defense this week. The Mean Green run an up-tempo offense that produced 493 total yards in a 54-32 loss to SMU last Saturday.

Iowa's secondary in particular will be bear watching after struggling at times last week at Iowa State.

"That's where our focus has to go," Ferentz said. "The mental errors where we might have taken the cheese or just done some things that weren't sound enough, that's the stuff that you've got to go through."

--LB Josey Jewell added seven tackles last Saturday against Iowa State to the 14 he had in the opener against Wyoming. His 21 tackles after two games rank third in the Big Ten. The senior has led the Hawkeyes in tackles the past two seasons.

--RB Akrum Wadley rushed for 118 yards on 28 carries and a touchdown and had four receptions for another 72 yards and a touchdown in Iowa's overtime win over Iowa State last week. Wadley's 46-yard touchdown reception with 1:09 left in the fourth quarter sent the game to overtime. The senior is three yards from becoming the 15th player in Iowa history to reach 2,000 career yards rushing.

--QB Nate Stanley became the first Iowa quarterback since 1987 to pass for 300 yards and five touchdowns in a game when he led Iowa to a 44-41 overtime victory at Iowa State last weekend. Stanley, a first-year starter, has a Big Ten-best eight touchdown passes in two games. The sophomore completed 27 of 41 passes for 333 yards against the Cyclones. He led four touchdown drives of 89 yards or longer.

--Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz won his 137th game in his 19th season with the Hawkeyes. He moved into sole possession of sixth place in career wins as a member of the Big Ten.

Updated September 12, 2017

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