IOWA CITY, Ia. – Kirk Ferentz went to bat for his quarterback Tuesday.
Look beyond James Vandenberg, Ferentz said, when searching for reasons why Iowa enters Saturday’s Big Ten Conference football opener against 4-0 Minnesota with a 2-2 non-conference record.
Look at attention to detail — like penalties at bad times and indecision by the coaching staff, he said. Look at poor onside kick coverage. Look at dropped passes and missed tackles.
Don’t, however, verbally swing away at Vandenberg for being the only reason Iowa lost two non-conference home games for the first time since the 2000 team was beat by Western Michigan and Iowa State.
“To just look at the quarterback, which I understand is what everybody does on offensive analysis, it’s not quite as simple as that,” Ferentz said during his weekly press conference. “I’ll just say this: I’m glad he’s our quarterback, and I’m glad he’s going to be our quarterback the next eight games.
“I think he’s a heck of a player, and I think he’s a heck of a young man.”
Some talk radio and Internet chatter after Saturday’s 32-31 loss against Central Michigan was directed toward the senior from Keokuk. Tuesday, Ferentz had Vandenberg’s back.
“That makes me feel good,” Vandenberg said when told what his coach said. “I don’t think I’ve lost any confidence, or (that) this offense has lost any confidence. I think we’re a pretty confident bunch right now.”
Vandenberg has completed 75-of-128 passes for 808 yards and one touchdown after four games. He was 81-of-129 for 1,095 yards and 10 touchdowns while leading the Hawkeyes to a 3-1 record at this time last season.
“James is being asked to do a lot, and that’s to be expected as a senior leader,” said former Iowa player Ed Podolak, who provides his perspective on radio broadcasts. “He’s the lightning rod. He needs to go out there and block out everything around him, but sometimes that’s easier said than done.”
Ferentz knows that, and that’s why he checks on players’ psyche when he sees them on Sundays.
“When you lose a game, it’s very possible that you are going to hear negative reaction,” Ferentz said. “Believe me, I don’t go into chat rooms — or on chat rooms — and I don’t listen to talk radio.
“I can just imagine — I think I could probably write the script on those. What would you expect? Just like if we won a big game — I know how it goes the other way.
“We being coaches, we’re not out there every day. Players are out there seven days a week. I’m always thinking about what they’re thinking, be it wins or losses.”
Ferentz said the .500 start has been a collective effort, including a coaching staff that includes new offensive and defensive coordinators.
“I’m happy with our staff,” he said. “But I’m not happy we’re 2-2. Nobody is.”
That includes critical fans.
“You get what you deserve out there,” center James Ferentz said. “We were flat at times (Saturday). We stalled out at some critical moments. I understand for the fans. It’s frustrating. It’s frustrating for us as players, too.
“I stand by it: We have the best fans in this nation. We love their passion and loyalty. I know last week was a rough one.”
A senior, the coach’s son has learned the art of blocking out negativity.
“You put your headphones on, you put your head down, and you put your hat down low,” James said.
“You have to do your best to understand that the only talk that matters is what happens inside of our (football) complex. As seniors, we need to step up and show the younger guys that outside noise doesn’t affect what happens inside (the football complex.)
“We need to go out there Saturday and keep (fans) energized — give them something to cheer about.”
Randy Peterson will host a live chat on Wednesday at HawkCentral.com, beginning at 12:30 p.m.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football