Barfknecht: Sophomore quarterback Nate Stanley proving great for Hawkeyes | Iowa Hawkeyes

IOWA CITY — To borrow the words of a former Nebraska athletic director, “if I were to evaluate where Iowa is” — in this case, quarterback play — the guy doing the job now gives the Hawkeyes mighty good feelings for the future.

Sophomore Nate Stanley outdueled Ohio State fifth-year senior and Heisman Trophy candidate J.T. Barrett in Saturday’s 55-24 rout of the No. 3 Buckeyes.

Against an OSU defense ranked 12th nationally, Stanley threw for more yards than Barrett (226-208), more touchdowns (5-3), fewer interceptions (0-4) and a better completion percentage than the supposed first-team All-Big Ten shoo-in who operated against an Iowa defense ranked 46th.

Quietly, Stanley has put together a strong season. The 6-foot-5, 235-pounder from Menomonie, Wisconsin, has the second-most touchdown pbades (22) and the fewest interceptions (4) of any full-time Big Ten starter.

Emphasize the word “quietly” because the only time Stanley looks at all spooked is in the interview room. He doesn’t say much. And what he does often parrots the company line about team football.

But Saturday, after Iowa pulled the stunner of the year as a 20-point underdog, Stanley let us in on what has been an interesting first season as a starter.

“You play best when you’re having fun,” he said. “I’m not saying I haven’t had fun. I’ve had a great time all year. But being able to go play without repercussions and people talking negatively about us really allowed us to play to the best of our abilities.”

That’s as close as you’ll ever hear Stanley say quarterbacking Iowa hasn’t been easy this season.

The Hawkeyes’ trademark power-run game has struggled, ranking 99th before Saturday. Both senior starting offensive tackles have been lost to injury. And there’s a new offensive coordinator and quarterback coach.

Considering those three issues, Stanley deserves more credit than he’s received. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has been a regular supporter.

“He’s done a lot of good things this year, and had some tough plays,” Ferentz said. “But the way he just keeps coming back … is impressive.”

Iowa senior guard Sean Welsh said he’s enjoyed watching Stanley progress from his first game, in which he threw an interception and lost a fumble in the first quarter against Wyoming, to beating Ohio State.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” Welsh said. “He’s shown he can handle pressure before. At Iowa State, he was our ace in the hole. And in this game, he showed a lot of maturity.”

Iowa (6-3, 3-3) plays at Big Ten West leader Wisconsin (9-0, 6-0) this Saturday. It’s likely too late to win the division as the Badgers need one victory in their final three games to clinch.

But Iowa, which comes to Nebraska on Nov. 24, looks ready for a much stronger finish than the school it once was compared to.

Moos in the Big Ten

New Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos said he’ll approach things in the Big Ten the way he has his first few weeks in Lincoln.

“I want to observe it,” he said, “and get a feel for it.”

That mission will start soon after Moos connected with Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany.

“I had a very good conversation with Jim,” Moos said. “He called me on my first day. I’m going to go up there and spend a day and have dinner — at his request — just to get me up to speed with the lay of the land in the conference.

“It’s a great, great conference. Part of it is their academic reputation. Same as the Pac-12, not everybody gets to come to the party.”

“Name the sport, and there are traditional powerhouses,” Moos said. “I’m thrilled to have a chance to participate in the Big Ten.”

Moos said he knows Ohio State A.D. Gene Smith and Penn State A.D. Sandy Barbour from when they were in the Pac-12 — Smith at Arizona State and Barbour at Cal — and Moos was at Oregon.

“I have a lot of respect for them,” he said, “and I’ve met some of the others.”

Do you think the Big Ten will have a team reach the College Football Playoff?

With Iowa’s upset of Ohio State and Michigan State’s victory over Penn State, Wisconsin seems to be the only Big Ten team left with a chance to reach the College Football Playoff. Do you think the conference will have a representative?

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