NW Week: 12 Rounds with Rick Stanzi

Iowa quarterback Rick Stanzi has been told that the Northwestern game is his, from start to finish. Stanzi spoke about that and much more in this 15 minute interview session from Tuesday's media gathering...

Q: Did Coach Ferentz come to you and tell you that you would be starting this week?

Rick Stanzi: Coach O'Keefe told me and then I talked with Coach Ferentz a bit. He said that we are going to let you go on Saturday . It's great, it's an opportunity and now I have to execute all week with the offense and get ready to go and when Saturday comes go out there and play and help the team win.

Q: Did you and Coach O'Keefe have words at halftime?

Stanzi: What kind of words? We talked about the game plan. No hostile words.

Q: He looked mad about the last play, like hew as trying to get your attention.

Stanzi: He might have looked mad. The dialogue wasn't anything like that.

Q: We were under the assumption that was why you didn't play second half.

Stanzi: That's not true. I know it was a mistake that I made. It was a correctable mistake, but that wasn't the reason why I wasn't out there in the second half.

Q: Do you know why you weren't out there?

Stanzi: I think Coach Ferentz wanted to go with an experienced player, someone that has been in a big game before, someone that had been there and done it, a little more experienced. That is what he felt would help our offense.

Q: After seeing the way you played in the second quarter and Jake's play in the first quarter, do you think you should have been the guy out there that gave the team the best chance to win?

Stanzi: Coach's decision to go with an experienced player is a good one. Jake did a good job of leading the second half. There was good momentum. A few plays here and there it's a different game. He got us downfield and we have to finish our plays.

Q: What do you have to do to finish off drives?

Stanzi: Execution. All 11 of us have to do our thing in order for it to work. If one guy makes a mistake it will show up. It will happen each game, but the more you are into a season we have to be able to execute more and have less mistakes

Q: Do you feel like you are one really good performance away from nailing it down? You had your chance against Iowa State and it didn't work out and now this is your second audition?

Stanzi: Possibly, that makes sense. Every game is an opportunity to get out there and help the team win. I am excited about it. I can't tell you how I will play, hopefully I will play good. I will prepare wall week the best I cant to give our team a chance to be in a position to make plays and when they come up to actually execute and finish them and hopefully put points on the board.

Q: Are there any plays you would like back from Saturday? That pass to DJK in the endzone?

Stanzi: I wish I could have gotten that our a little bit further. It as a yard too short and that is six. You look at those little things and next time they bring the rush you settle your feet down more. You work on those things and you are better the next time and you finish it and the result is big for you, another touchdown.

Q: Talk about using more tight ends now with Tony getting healthy.

Stanzi: We have a great group of tight ends. Allen, Brandon and Tony, they are all good athletes in general. Playing multiple sports when they were younger, and they make plays with their feet and not just blocking and running in a straight line and fall down, they can move around and get yards after the catch. That is something that is a weapon at tight end, you get them the ball in the flat, or short passes and let them be able to run with it. They are a bigger target. In the run, they bring more power to the game and it helps. It would be like getting Shonn the ball in the flat, he can run people over. You try to get the ball to your playmakers and we have a great group of tight ends and that is nice. There will be pressure on the receivers at times, and tight ends can get in seams. If you can hit those guys, they can be game breakers.

Q: What was it like watching a 250 pound guy (Moeaki) tip toeing the sideline and outrunning people?

Stanzi: What is more great is to see him come back and run like that after being injured, the things he has had to deal with and the mental toughness he has shown has impressed a lot of players. He just wants to win. If you get him the ball, he runs and makes people miss.

Q: You seem to know where Brandon Myers is. Is that because you trust him or is it the called play?

Stanzi: It is a combination. Brandon does a great job getting open, and you see that as a quarterback, who will be open. There are match ups sometimes. When you have a guy like him, you look for that match up. He is athletic, with great hands. You know he will make moves and get out of the first tackle and get extra yards.

Q: Do you feel this quarterback competition has helped or hindered your growth?

Stanzi: It definitely builds mental toughness. Competition is a great thing and it makes players better. Anytime you are in the middle of it at quarterback, it is frustrating because you are so worried about making a little mistake or something, but in the big picture, it's great because all it does is push you. You don't have any time to relax and you have to get better. Jake is a great player and he is a fiery competitor and he wants it. When you have that, it makes you try harder and want more and concentrate better. It's interesting. It's the first time I have been through it and I have learned a lot from it. It will make me a better football player.

Q: How will this be different this week, since you have been told this is your game?

Stanzi: You have a chance, another opportunity and I am blessed, honored and excited to have that and I will go out there trying top play football and not worry about politics or what else goes on outside of the complex. Just go and play with the team. Go out and try to win a ballgame and have some fun on Saturday.

Q: Sure that is easy, right? Deal with the grind and have fun at the same time?

Stanzi: That is part of it. Everyone thinks its like that, and it is a bit, but you have to stp and take a breath and remember you are just playing football. It could be overwhelming, but its what you make of it. Wins take care of that, and I just want get there.

Q: Do you have a personality built for this? You seem even keeled in your interviews.

Stanzi: I try to be the same guy day in and day out.

Q: You know that people care more about this competition (at quarterback) than they do the kicker or the left guard.

Stanzi: This is going to be more publicized, we know that. I have played quarterback in high school; I have never been in this kind of a position when there is more media. But you learn from it, you have to be the same person. Coach O'Keefe just says to be yourself on the field. When I can do that, that is when I am more effective. When I am trying to do too much, I will hurt the team and make mistakes instead of just commanding an offense and be a quarterback.

Q: What do you think splitting reps has done to the timing in the passing game?

Stanzi: Not a whole lot. The timing of the passing game depends on how quick our feet our moving, how quick our arm is moving. It's all about speed. It's developing good relationships and understand how each receiver runs their routes, and the timing we are looking for and what we want to get. A lot of the things are moving your feet quicker so you can get set earlier and throw the ball. You are working off the receivers because they will get jammed. It's not routes on air on Saturdays. You will be getting rushed, they will be getting pressed and you still have to make the plays. The better relationship you can have during routes on air will help when you do hit the field and that pressure is there. If you can be perfect in routes on air, you will be good on the field.

Q: Have they been 50/50 in practice?

Stanzi: For the most part. Last week Jake was the starter and he got more reps. I took reps with the two's. Coach gets us in there for most part. It's your duty as a player to be taking mental reps at all times whether you are in or out. That is something you have to take responsibility for and go out there and do, understand what is going on.

Q: What was the percentage split last week?

Stanzi: I am not good at math. He took more reps because he was starting, and I took a little bit less. That is how it goes when you are getting ready for the game, the starter will take more.

Q: Are you more aggressive than Jake? It seemed like a couple of plays against Iowa State, you forced some throws but some of your throws threaded the needle, and you were not going to dump offs.

Stanzi: Being aggressive is good at times if you are feeling it that day. If things are going your way you will hit those tight throws. You try to be the same player at all times. The Iowa State game wasn't. how I like to play. I felt a little uncomfortable out there, I was trying to make plays and not let them come to me. You make a few, but you will make more mistakes than you make plays. You have to take risks, which is the only way to have game breaking plays. Nothing will be perfect, and you have to go with things and hope things turn out well. Coaches understand that, we are always taking risks, whether or not it looks like it. The way plays are called, the way7 you throw the ball or what hole you choose to run through. If you have confidence things will turn out alright.

Q: Are you always poised in the pocket or do you still feel overwhelmed?

Stanzi: You try to have poise, that is important for this position. It's a word that goes with the job, poise and confidence. Either a quarterback has it or he doesn't. It's not something you try to go out and show poise, you just try to play football. If you have it you have it. You try to feel pressure with your feet, instead of look at the rush. I think just having confidence in your ability to play, knowing what you have to do out there. That will make it easier to show poise and confidence.

Q: It seems like you are thinking less in the pocket than Jake, and you look more confident.

Stanzi: That is your opinion. I take it as a compliment. I think it comes with preparation, how prepared you are for a game, whether your watch enough film and be confident when you hit the line, knowing what is going to happen. That is easier to go out there and drop back and play as opposed to dropping back trying to think and play.

Q: Did you have trouble reading the Pittsburgh defense?

Stanzi: There were a couple miscommunications with coverage I was seeing, as far as the way the corners turned their hips in man or zone. It's easy to see on film, but when you are under center, it's harder. It's something you work on in practice and you can fix those things.

Q: Kirk was asked if he was ready to take his lumps with you. I took that as a euphemism for you being inexperienced and that you will make mistakes, and if he is willing to put up with that.

Stanzi: That is true. Young quarterbacks will make mistakes. If coach has confidence in me and I have confidence in myself, that is all that matters. If he believes I can go out and do the job, I have to go out and have confidence that I can do the job. I need to relax and play and not be afraid to make a few mistakes. If you try not to, you will make more. You don't think about making mistakes, you fight through it and become better.

Q: Were you looking over your shoulder against Iowa State?

Stanzi: Yeah, I was not playing comfortable, I felt like I was stiff out there, not relaxed and letting the game come to me. I will work on that and hopefully shore those things up for Saturday.

Q: Is it hard not to do that because you are competing against a guy that has 15starts, and he has that on you?

Stanzi: Yeah, when you are playing against a guy with experience, you want to show that you have experience, but you don't have it and you have to work at in and make plays and be yourself. Just play football, the way you want to play and not like anyone else, because that won't work. You have to play football the way you feel comfortable and play within yourself.

Q: How much better do you feel you can get?

Stanzi: A lot. You can make drastic improvements every week, and you have to understand that just because preseason and camp is over, you make some of your biggest improvements during the season than you will outside. This is it, the real stuff, the games, against the opponents. This is when you are going to see what kind of strides you can make as a player and how you improve. Good teams do that, and you can see it happen and it's wonderful to see.

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