IOWA CITY, Ia. – James Vandenberg was prepared.
He had a hunch on the way to meeting reporters this week that someone would bring up touchdown passes while trying to pry from him the perfect quote about the Hawkeyes 2-1 start.
He didn’t wait long.
“I’m on pace for zero,” the quarterback responded to a question he knew was coming.
The senior has 59 completions – but none have landed in the end zone for a team with just four touchdowns – all rushing.
“It’s not something I’ve really thought about, actually,” Vandenberg said. “It’ll happen.”
It could be during Saturday’s 11 a.m. game against 1-1 Central Michigan at Kinnick Stadium. Maybe Vandenberg and his receivers will save up for when they open the Big Ten Conference on Sept. 29 against Minnesota, considering today is also about running backs Michael Malloy and Jordan Canzeri possibly be getting their first rushes this season.
“It’ll be sometime,” receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley promised of the drought. “Sometime soon.”
Vandenberg threw 25 touchdown passes last season, the second-most among conference quarterbacks, and that included seven through the first three games.
The last Iowa team to go this far into a season without one was in 1999, until Randy Reiners connected with fullback Rob Thein on a 40-yard play in Game No. 5 against Penn State.
“We’ve got it down to the (1-yard line) on several passing opportunities,” Vandenberg said. “As long as we keep putting points on the board, it’s not a big deal.”
While seemingly most of the outside concern this week was about the lack of touchdown passes, Vandenberg wasn’t asked much about passes that were dropped in the end zone. No one seemed to care about muffed opportunities in the open field.
“It’s something we’d like to see improve,” Vandenberg said of the overall passing game. “It will come over time.”
Even Mark Weisman, the player everyone sought after last Saturday’s surprising 113-yard rushing performance against Northern Iowa, has baggage – he dropped a fourth-quarter pass at the goal line during a 9-6 loss against Iowa State.
“I could have made the play,” Weisman said after the game. “It just didn’t happen.”
Iowa is the only team in the conference without a touchdown pass – and to some, that’s understandable, considering Iowa averages only 17.0 points a game.
Vandenberg has been sacked six times – all in the opener against Northern Illinois. He has been throwing against good defensive backs.
“Most of the (defensive) backs have played off us,” receiver Don Shumpert said. “They’ve been trying to take away the long ball.”
And touchdown passes.
“I had a feeling that topic might come up,” Vandenberg said. “If we go 11-1, and I throw zero touchdown passes, nobody is really going to care.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football