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Vandenberg, UI need to get back on track

[ 0 ] September 24, 2012 |

On the opening drive Saturday, Iowa senior quarterback James Vandenberg led the Hawkeyes right down the field and finished the drive with his first and only touchdown pass of the season.

“I don’t think there’s ever too easy,” Vandenberg said. “If I don’t overthrow by a couple inches, maybe we go 80 on the first play.”

Vandenberg and Iowa (2-2) are trying to right the ship after being upset by Central Michigan 32-31 on Saturday.

The Hawkeyes have no time to feel sorry for themselves, with arch-rival Minnesota (4-0) bringing the pig to Kinnick Stadium.

“We can’t focus on the noise,” junior linebacker Anthony Hitchens said. “Just focus on what’s in our locker room, our household. Got to flush it and get better.”

Iowa has to turn the page quickly. Everything being equal, Vandenberg might want to turn the page back to 2011.

The senior quarterback currently ranks 112th among FBS quarterbacks in passing efficiency with a 111.07 rating.

Granted, passing efficiency isn’t a perfect measurement for a quarterback. Nothing but wins and losses is a proper measurement, if you ask one.

Passing efficiency takes completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdowns and interceptions and mixes them together in a blender and spits out a number.

And Vandenberg’s number after four games is lower than any Iowa quarterback of the past decade. That includes Jake Christensen, who was replaced in 2008 with a 117.2 rating.

“We’re always going to have something to work on,” senior receiver Keenan Davis said. “Just focus on us. Don’t let anybody get down. We have a big week.”

Vandenberg, who had a 138.4 passer rating as a junior, has to get on track. With a third of the season over, he is 30th in FBS with 128 attempts, but just 88th in completion percentage (58.6) and 100th in yards per attempt (6.3).

Against the Chippewas, he also had the benefit of having a 200-yard rusher. Mark Weisman ran for 217 yards.

“Ask any quarterback in the world, when you rush for 200 yards, the passing game is pretty simple,” Vandenberg said last Tuesday.

In the end, numbers are just numbers. Nathan Chandler had a 122.0 passer rating in 2003 leading Iowa to 10 wins.

And the senior from Keokuk had a 149.4 efficiency rating Saturday.

“Offensively you can look at the numbers and say it was an OK day, but it wasn’t because we didn’t score enough points to win,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.

Ferentz praised the running game and the improved play of receivers Keenan Davis and Kevonte Martin-Manley.

But Iowa was just 1-of-8 on 3rd-down conversions. And Minnesota ranks 11th nationally in pass efficiency defense (93.2).

“We have got a lot of work to do right now, a lot of things to improve upon and we are going to have to do it fast,” Ferentz said.

DEPTH CHART: Freshman running back Greg Garmon was back on the depth chart Monday after sitting out the Central Michigan game with an elbow injury.

Mark Weisman remains the first string running back. Sophomore Damon Bullock, who sat out the past week with a head injury, was not listed.

True freshman Teavum Smith, who played for the first time Saturday, is listed on the depth chart for the first time as a back-up receiver.

TV: The game will be shown on ESPN2. The announcers are Beth Mowins, Joey Galloway and Lewis Johnson.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Ryan Suchomel: Reach Ryan Suchomel at 339-7368 or rsuchomel@press-citizen.com. View author profile.

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