Know Thy Enemy: Wadley, Stanley form 1-2 punch for Iowa offense
Know Thy Enemy is a weekly Q&A where the perspective changes, from the eyes of the Spartans to the eyes of MSU football’s next foe. The State News asks the opposing team's student newspaper a few questions and see football through a different lense.
It’s been a minute since the Spartans and Hawkeyes met in the 2015 Big Ten Championship game. But just like in college football, there have been some major changes between the two programs.
Iowa, despite the rough start to last season, had a pair of wins to massively boost confidence against Nebraska and Michigan. While the Hawkeyes lost in their bowl game, head coach Kirk Ferentz’s squad produced a solid 8-5 season in 2016.
On offense, Iowa features a pair of talented players in Nate Stanley and Akrum Wadley.
To better understand Ferentz and Iowa, The State News interviewed Courtney Baumann, the football editor for The Daily Iowan, and asked her four questions about the visiting Hawkeyes.
1. Starting off, two years ago, MSU and Iowa met up in the Big Ten Championship game in Indy. While the Spartans were abysmal in 2016, Iowa still had a solid year, going 8-5 with wins over Nebraska and Michigan. Since the last time the two teams met, what are some of the biggest changes among the personnel and other areas?
A: The main thing I would say is definitely the offensive coordinator position. So Greg Davis is out, Brian Ferentz is in. This year, I think that we’ve really seen it over the past four games. Iowa has always been a run-first offense. But with Nate Stanley now at quarterback, this year he has been passing a lot. It seems to be working for them right now, so that’s kind of interesting. Another thing is obviously the new quarterback, Nate Stanley. Kirk Ferentz he even said he didn’t really know what to expect from him, but he’s been really impressive so far. The defense is a little bit young, other than the linebacker position — they’re all seniors. But the secondary is really young. Before the season started, only one person had started a game.
2. Obviously a tough, brutal loss late to Penn State last Saturday. I don’t want to throw around “quality loss,” but it was still an impressive game for the Hawkeyes. Looking holistically, what are some key takeaways that you learned about this Iowa team?
A: I think (the game) really showed what kind of resilient team Iowa is. They’ve had this “bend, but not break” defense all throughout the season. Their defense really, really showed up in this game. … Just the fact that Iowa was able to keep the score so low was impressive to me. The way that the offense came alive when it needed to. Stanley held his composure throughout that fourth quarter. And how Akrum Wadley bounced back after having a really tough first half. I thought that was impressive how the offense just held their composure and how strong the defense was the entire game.
3. On offense and defense, who are the team’s X-factors? Where their play will largely decide if the Hawkeyes walk away from Spartan Stadium with a win or not.
A: Defense I will always go with Josey Jewell. The middle linebacker is just so important he’s the team captain there. And he is really the person that everyone looks to on the defense. His leadership and the way he plays. It always seems the better he plays, the better the defense as a whole plays. On offense, it’s hard to pick between Nate Stanley and Akrum Wadley, but I’m still going to go with Wadley. It was that 70 yard touchdown that kind of ignited the offense I think in the Penn State game. And he’s just handed the ball so often that he is really a playmaker. People just kind of expect him to make plays.
4. What is your prediction for the game Saturday and why?
A: I’m going to take Iowa in this one because I think that the loss to Penn State it really showed them what kind of team they are. And they talked about that too. They’re like a loss is a loss, and there are moral victories, it really showed that we’re a strong team and that we can compete with anyone. I think that they’re going to come out pretty hard against Michigan State.
Prediction: 31-28 Iowa.