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Hawkeye win against ULM sends message: We’re getting better

[ 1 ] September 24, 2011 |

Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz wants to clear up what he considers to be one big misconception:

“I’m not as hard-headed as you guys think I am,” he said after the Hawkeyes again let loose during a 45-17 stroll past Louisiana-Monroe at Kinnick Stadium Saturday.

The 13-season coach who admitted in July that he Skypes (but that he doesn’t use text message), said Saturday that he really doesn’t have anything against a no-huddle, quick-paced offense the Hawkeyes have used the past two games.

“I’m not against anything that works,” he said after quarterback James Vandenberg and Co., ran it to near perfection for Iowa’s third win in four non-conference games.

They used the rare — for Iowa — up-tempo style while setting the early tone against the 1-3 Warhawks of the Sunbelt Conference. Whether it works when the Hawkeyes next play — Oct. 8 at Penn State — that remains to be seen.

“We didn’t know we were going to run it (Saturday) until Friday,” left tackle Riley Reiff said after Iowa improved to 3-1. “I can’t say what we’ll do against Penn State. Nothing surprises me.”

Vandenberg completed 21 of 32 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns – a Saturday after his 399-yard performance against Pittsburgh.

Marvin McNutt caught seven passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns, leaving him one touchdown catch shy of matching the school’s career record, which is 21.

Tailback Marcus Coker rushed 18 times for 113 yards in becoming the first player to exceed 100 rushing yards against the Warhawks this season – and that includes backs from rateds Florida State and Texas Christian.

“Won’t go there,” Louisiana-Monroe coach Todd Berry said, when asked to compare the Hawkeyes to the other biggies his team played – and lost against.

He didn’t have to. Iowa’s point total exceeded what Florida State (34) and TCU (38) scored against the Warhawks.

“We’ve sent a message that we’re getting better,” safety Jordan Bernstine said.

An attachment to that memo must include no huddle – which Iowa brought out so early that some among an announced crowd of 70,585 might not have been settled into their seats.

The Hawkeyes’ first possession consisted of the same offense that quickly enabled them to rally from a 21-point third-quarter deficit against Pittsburgh.

Saturday’s worked, too, as Iowa set the tone during a 9-play, 74-yard drive that Vandenberg capped with a 1-yard dive into the end zone.

“I can’t tell you what we’ll do against Penn State, but I can say that we feel comfortable doing it – at least we have the past two weeks,” said Vandenberg, who enters Big Ten play having completed 52 of 80 passes for 669 yards and six touchdowns the past two games.

“It’s all about communication between me, coach Ferentz and coach (Ken) O’Keefe,” Vandenberg said. “It’s like a three-way triangle among us. I’ve got the freedom to call any pass plays I want.”

He called plays to McNutt. He called plays to Kevonte Martin-Manley. He called them to Keenan Davis, who caught a touchdown pass.

“Don’t forget the line,” Vandenberg said when passing out credit for his big day. “I haven’t been sacked in five quarters. For five quarters, they’ve been flawless. It hasn’t even been close.”

Iowa scored all six times it had the ball in the red zone. It’s the first time since 2002 the Hawkeyes have exceeded 30 points during the initial four games of a season.

And it happened against a team that runs an unusual defense that consists of three defensive linemen, three linebackers and five others positioned at various places throughout the field.

“The fact that we went three-wide made the defense spread out,” Coker said of the three-receiver offensive sets. “With those guys out there catching the ball like they were, the running game was bound to be there.”

And now there’s two weeks to prepare for Penn State, considering Iowa doesn’t have a game next Saturday. Now it’s the big time.

“Big Ten football is totally different than anything we’ve played so far,” Coker said. “We’ve played good teams, but Big Ten Football is clearly another level.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football, Uncategorized

About Randy Peterson: Randy Peterson covers college football, college basketball and the Iowa Cubs for the Des Moines Register. Randy can be reached at randypeterson@dmreg.com or on Twitter via @RandyPete View author profile.

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