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Iowa RB poses bigger concerns than QBs

| Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008

Kirk Ferentz swears he's not being coy by refusing to name a starting quarterback for Saturday's game against Pitt at Heinz Field. The Iowa coach just doesn't believe that it matters, considering the Hawkeyes plan to use junior Jake Christensen and sophomore Ricky Stanzi.

"We're not a different offense with either one of them in there, as far as our play-calling," Ferentz said. "That one guy is a runner and one guy is a thrower - it's not one of those deals. It's a good, competitive situation."

Phil Bennett caught the act while watching a Ferentz interview on the Big Ten Network, and the Pitt defensive coordinator laughed at the absurdity of whether it mattered if the Hawkeyes (3-0) used the right-handed Stanzi or the left-handed Christensen against the Panthers (1-1).

"They were asking him questions like they were relief pitchers," Bennett said, using a baseball analogy. "Are you going to go with the left-hander or right-hander• ... It became comical. They do the same things.

"I think that Kirk's thinking is that, going on the road in probably a game that is as balanced as they've played, he'd rather go with the guy (Christensen) that has had some experience. If we see Stanzi, to me, I think that's a good thing. That means we're playing good."

Christensen started all 12 games last season, but was replaced by Stanzi in the starting lineup after the 46-3 victory over Maine in the opener. When Stanzi struggled against Iowa State last Saturday, Christensen entered late in the third quarter to lead the Hawkeyes on a six-play, 65-yard drive that resulted in the game's only offensive touchdown in the 17-5 victory.

"When they put Christensen in Saturday, it was 3-3 and they ended up winning the game," Bennett said. "From our vantage point, Kirk's right. They don't change much. The things that they do well and they believe in are their run game and their play-action pass. You can do that with a right-handed quarterback or a left-handed quarterback."

What the Panthers are more concerned about is the player who scored that touchdown. Iowa running back Shonn Greene, a 5-foot-11, 235-pound junior, has averaged 6.5 yards per carry in rushing for 359 yards through the Hawkeyes' first three games.

"The running back, because of the way things have unfolded, is a guy that gets your attention," Wannstedt said. "He's as physical a running back as we've seen in a while. This guy does not come down with an arm tackle. You need to find a way to get him to the ground."

Iowa was just happy to find a way to get him back in school. Greene rushed for 116 yards against Ball State as a freshman, becoming the school's first rookie to break the century mark since Tony Stewart in 1987.

Going left or right
Iowa has rotated two quarterbacks this season, using sophomore right-hander Ricky Stanzi and junior left-hander Jake Christensen. Here is a comparison of their passing statistics:
Player GP-GS Comp.-Att.-Int. Pct. Yds TDs
Stanzi 3-2 22-38-2 57.9 347 3
Christensen 3-1 21-32-1 65.6 248 2

But he played mostly special teams after that, and academic difficulties forced him to spend last year at Kirkwood Community College. He returned to the Hawkeyes in mid-June.

Greene rushed for 109 yards on 22 carries against Maine, had 101 yards on nine carries in the first quarter alone against Florida International - the first time an Iowa back had done so since 2002 - and is coming off a 120-yard performance against Iowa State.

"You always talk about backs running with their pads down. He delivers blows. If you don't bring the wood, you're going to get the wood," Bennett said. "In each game, he's had what I call decisive runs that set the game and put other teams at the break point."

If that happens against Pitt, no one will care who is playing quarterback.

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