Iowa senior quarterback James Vandenberg is aware of the criticisms.
His footwork is bad.
He’s locking on to receivers.
He’s missing open receivers.
His mechanics are off.
“I just need to execute better,” Vandenberg said. “That’s what it comes down to. I don’t care if I’m tip-toeing on one leg, as long as I complete it, who cares?”
Vandenberg heads into the second half of the season having led Iowa to a 4-2 record over the first six games. That includes a road win last Saturday at Michigan State and a 2-0 start in the Big Ten.
But he only threw for 134 yards at Michigan State, and his interception set up the only Spartan touchdown.
Still, his 35-yard pass to Keenan Davis sparked the game-tying drive and Iowa won it in two overtimes.
“He doesn’t listen to the noise,” Davis said. “He knows that the people who are giving him criticism don’t really know. To us, he is playing well. He’s being a leader, that’s what we need.
“And we’re winning games. The more he keeps leading like that, the more it is going to show up.”
Penn State (4-2, 2-0) comes to Iowa City with a defense that isn’t terribly different than the one that held Vandenberg and the Hawkeyes to a season-low 3 points and 253 offensive yards last season.
“That was frustrating,” Vandenberg said. “They beat us in about every facet of the game last year.”
And with Mark Weisman — Iowa’s top offensive weapon with 631 rushing yards and eight touchdowns — expected to sit out with an ankle injury, the burden falls even heavier on the passing game.
True freshman Greg Garmon — who has 35 yards on 14 carries — is expected to start.
“The pressure is on us,” junior receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley said. “We have to be really detailed making catches, making plays.
“The run game, we won’t go to it as much, maybe. If they call our number, we’ve got to produce.”
Vandenberg continues to do OK in the win column, but his other statistics aren’t quite as good.
“I need to be better,” Vandenberg said. “As an offense, as a whole, we need to be better.”
So far this season, Vandenberg is ranked 118th in quarterback efficiency. Of the six quarterbacks rated lower, one has been benched, two are in competition for their job, and one is sharing snaps.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz never hesitates in backing his quarterback.
On his radio show Wednesday, Ferentz said: “I”m worried about a lot of things; (Vandenberg) isn’t one of them right now.”
Vandenberg is hurt by only having two touchdown passes. No other quarterback with more than 80 completions has that few.
He also ranks 118th in the country in yards per pass attempt (5.8).
“It’s kind of whatever it takes with all 11 guys,” Vandenberg said. “Whether that is throwing it, running it, we’ve just got to score more points than they do.”
Surrounded by reporters Tuesday, Vandenberg took the questions of his abilities in stride.
“Things are so close,” Vandenberg said. “You can look at my numbers … and yeah, I haven’t played as well as I could have, I’ll be the first one to say that. And I need to play better.
“But there’s so many things that are so close. It maybe skews things a little bit.”
Vadnenberg sees a couple screen passes last week that could have gone for huge gains. He sees missed opportunities on a lot of offensive snaps.
“I don’t think anything is wrong with him,” senior center James Ferentz said. “We need to do a better job of establishing the run game. It opens up the passing game and allows that to really blossom out there.
“That’s how our offense is built.”
Like his father, James Ferentz has complete confidence in Vandenberg.
“Anytime he’s on the field, I think we have a chance to win,” Ferentz said. “We’re fortunate to have him out there.”
5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT PENN STATE
1. Senior Matt McGloin is leading the Big Ten in passing with 249.8 yards per game. He is 136-of-221 (61.5 percent) with 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
2. Penn State has out-scored teams 52-0 in the first quarter this season.
3. Senor linebackers Michael Mauti (57 tackles) and Gerald Hodges (50 tackles) lead the team in tackles and both were named to the Phil Steel Mid-Season All-American team.
4. The Nittany Lions like going for it on fourth down. Penn State has gone for it 20 times over six games and have converted 13 times.
5. Sophomore Zach Zwinak has emerged from a group of Nittany Lion running backs with back-to-back 100-yard efforts. Zwinak had an ACL tear last season.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football