IOWA CITY — Things didn’t go as planned the first time Nate Stanley took the field in his home state of Wisconsin in an Iowa football jersey.
He shared his struggles with plenty of teammates, but what transpired during the Hawkeyes' 38-14 loss at Camp Randall Stadium two years ago pretty much played out as “Nate’s nightmare.’’
Iowa’s senior quarterback remembers it all too vividly and plans to take a different approach into the 18th-ranked Hawkeyes’ 3 p.m. game Saturday against the 16th-ranked Badgers.
“Now, I think I understand that all I have to do is do my part,’’ Stanley said.
Nothing more. Nothing less.
“I’m going back there with more experience and I think I’ll be better prepared this time,’’ Stanley said. “I learned a lot that day.’’
In the midst of his first season as a starter, he felt unprecedented weight on his shoulders. With dozens of family members and friends looking on, it was a struggle from the start for the Menomonie, Wis., native.
“I think I put too much pressure on myself for that game,’’ Stanley said. “Now, I know that if I just do my part, my teammates are going to do their part, too.’’
The start was statistically the worst performance Stanley has had among the 34 games he has opened under center for the Hawkeyes. About the only thing that went right that day for Iowa was cornerback Josh Jackson returning a pair of interceptions for touchdowns, accounting for the only scores the Hawkeyes mustered.
Stanley completed just eight of the 24 passes he attempted and was intercepted once while throwing for a career-low 41 yards. He was sacked four times and finished with losses on the ground totaling 35 yards.
As a team, Iowa totaled just 66 yards of offense, a statistic that remains as the poorest offensive showing for the Hawkeyes in coach Kirk Ferentz’s 21 seasons.
“Our offensive execution, it wasn’t very good. Wisconsin’s defense was good, and that combination put us behind the chains a lot,’’ Stanley said. “They dictated the tempo right from the start. It was a rough game.’’
Ferentz points out that it was a rough day for more than just the Hawkeye quarterback.
“Hopefully all of us around him will handle things better, too, and help him a little more because there wasn’t much good that we did up there a couple years ago,’’ Ferentz said. “We’ll find out if it was either an aberration or a trend, hopefully not a trend.’’
Stanley, who takes the field Saturday with a 23-11 career record as Iowa’s starter, remembers the feelings of playing his first college game in his home state all too well.
“I was very nervous, not really knowing what to expect as far as the environment,’’ Stanley said.
He always understood that Camp Randall Stadium has been known in recent years for its raucous surroundings, but until he experienced it he didn’t fully appreciate just how rowdy things can get when the Hawkeyes and Badgers renew acquaintances in Madison.
“It was louder than I expected, but we’ve been in those situations a few more times since,’’ Stanley said.
Ferentz believes Stanley is better prepared now to deal with all that than he was two years ago.
“He’s so much more veteran, been through a lot. Good, bad or indifferent, that helps a player,’’ Ferentz said. “He’ll still be antsy out there, and it is a tough road game in a tough environment, but he’s played in those now.’’
Stanley points to games this season at Iowa State and Michigan as preparation for the environment he and the Hawkeyes can expect at Wisconsin.
“We’ve been in those situations. We know how tough it can be and how to deal with them,’’ he said.
Stanley feels better prepared to compete in the match-up between two 6-2 teams looking to keep their title hopes alive in the Big Ten West Division.
And he’s had reasonable success against Wisconsin, although a win remains elusive. Stanley threw for 256 yards and two touchdowns a year ago when the Badgers pulled away late to secure a 28-17 win at Kinnick Stadium.
Stanley has matured and gained experience that positions him just 77 passing yards shy of moving into third place on Iowa’s career passing charts, trailing only Chuck Long and Drew Tate.
Unlike two years ago, Stanley senses a different vibe as he prepares for the final four-game stretch of the regular season.
“This feels like any other week,’’ Stanley said. “The plan is to handle it like I handle any other game, prepare the best we can and get ready to go out and perform well on Saturday.’’