Keeler: It's not Christensen's fault his coach has too much faith in him
Pittsburgh, Pa. — Let’s make one thing clear: This is not Jake Christensen’s fault. He is what he is. He’s short. He’s inconsistent. He’s inaccurate. The next pass he throws with any touch will be his first.
It’s not for lack of effort. Or toughness. Or heart. Christensen is a stand-up kid. He’s faced tough questions from the media. He’s been booed at home by his own fans. He’s taken it like a man.
But, by God, if he’s the quarterback that gives Iowa the best chance to win, I’m Brad Pitt.
“I just thought that Jake had more of a feel for what they were coming at us with defensively,” Hawkeye coach Kirk Ferentz said of Christensen after Iowa fell today at Pittsburgh 21-20. “And what we needed from our quarterback to win the game.”
“Just a feeling I had,” Ferentz continued.
No, this one wasn’t on Christensen. It’s on the coaching staff that kept trotting him out there, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.
The Hawkeyes’ other quarterback, Ricky Stanzi, had completed 7-of-10 passes against the Panthers in the first half, including a 48-yard strike to tight end Tony Moeaki. Christensen in the first half? Two-of-six. Conventional wisdom says you ride the hot hand in the third quarter, right?
He had a feeling.
Stanzi never played again.
Hey, if it works, you’re a genius. If it doesn’t, you lose to Dave Wannstedt. And you have to live with it for the rest of your life.
“This game could be a blessing or a curse for us,” said Christensen, who was sacked four times. “We can either get better or fold. I think everybody in our locker room thinks we’ll get better.”
They might. He won’t.
It’s time to turn the page on Christensen. Isn’t it? For his sake and yours. It’s time to cast your lot with Stanzi, the skinny sophomore from Ohio. It’s time for him to get his feet wet in the Big Ten Conference, to see what you’ve really got.
“Going with only Jake Christensen in the second half,” Ferentz explained, “was more of a gut thing than anything else.”
Don’t trust your gut, coach. Trust your eyes.
Yes, there will be roller-coaster moments. Stanzi forced some throws against Iowa State that nearly cost the Hawkeyes dearly. Yes, he’s prone to the occasional brain cramp. At the end of the second quarter, time running out, he completed an 8-yard pass to tight end Brandon Myers on third-and-9. That forced the Hawkeyes to punt the ball back to the hosts with 17 seconds left, and offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe looked none too amused.
Still, sitting on the young man isn’t going to speed up his development. Is it? He’s not going to get any wiser standing on the sideline watching Christensen throw balls at his receivers’ ankles.
It was there. There for the taking. That’s what should gnaw at the Hawkeyes. Iowa had the ball three times in the last 9 minutes. When Pitt punts the ball to your 1-yard line with 2:19 left and no timeouts and all you need is a field goal to win, it shouldn’t smell like the game is over. It shouldn’t smell like 2007.
And yet it did. A short pass on first down, a sack on second down, a third-down fumble and good night, nurse.
Another 100-yard game by Shonn Greene, wasted. Another chance to make a statement on national television, to nab a marquee nonconference game on the road, gone.
Somewhere, an Insight Bowl scout is crying. Again.
He had a feeling.
So did you. Deja vu.