IOWA CITY, Ia. – Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz went to bat for his coaches Tuesday, specifically offensive coordinator Greg Davis.
“I think first of all, I’ll say this,” Ferentz said during his weekly press conference. “Greg is a tremendous coach, tremendous person, (and) really outstanding coach.
“Everything starts with what your players can do.”
Fans have blamed the transition from former coordinator Ken O’Keefe to Davis as the reason quarterback James Vandenberg’s statistics are down from last season.
Iowa is 112th nationally in pass efficiency, 104th in total offense, 103rd in scoring and 95th in passing offense. Additionally, 14 Big Ten Conference players have thrown between 18 and five touchdown passes. Vandenberg has tossed only four — after throwing 25 in 2011.
Not so fast, Vandenberg said Tuesday.
“It’s not a coaching situation,” he told reporters. “It’s about execution on game day — and we as players haven’t done that as much as we would have liked.”
The senior enters Saturday’s 11 a.m. home game against Big Ten Conference-winless Purdue having completed 174 of 303 passes for 1,786 yards while leading his team to records of 4-5 overall and 2-3 in the league.
Vandenberg completed 154 of 246 passes for 2,089 yards after nine games last season.
He averages 198.4 passing yards a game, under the 232.1-yard average and 18 touchdown passes he had after last season’s first nine games.
“We were able to do some things in the passing game last year that we haven’t done last year, but the numbers don’t really worry me,” Vandenberg said.
There have been dropped passes, poorly-thrown passes and no big-play replacement for
Marvin McNutt, who re-wrote the Iowa record book last season as a senior.
A sub-par rushing attack that continues to be minus its top performer, Mark Weisman, has
allowed opponents to concentrate on pass coverage.
“You realize when you go back and watch the films, it essentially goes back to how five or six plays can change the complexion of a game,” Vandenberg said. “For one reason or another, we haven’t made some of those plays. Our margin for error is extremely small.”
It’s not coaching, both Vandenberg and Ferentz said. It’s the players.
“We’re all confident in what we’re being told to do,” Vandenberg said. “The players — we’re just not doing it well enough.”
That was a message Ferentz also made on the Big Ten teleconference Tuesday, calling his team’s offensive struggle an “execution problem.”
“We’ve got to get better in sync,” the coach said. “We’ve got to execute better in the critical situations, especially. It’s a team thing.”
Davis isn’t immune to criticism, coming to Iowa after spending 13 seasons as offensive coordinator for Mack Brown at Texas.
He has been either a college head coach or assistant coach for 35 seasons.
“It goes with the territory, but after all these years in the business, it continues to be an amazing phenomenon to me,” Davis said during a summer interview. “If Team A throws a long touchdown pass over Team B, the response is, ‘Can you believe Johnny got beat?’
“If a play doesn’t work, the response is, ‘Can you believe he called that play?’
“It’s not going to change. One thing that helped me was having played quarterback — I’m kind of used to criticism.”
SATURDAY’S IOWA GAME
WHO: Purdue (3-6, 0-5 Big Ten) at Iowa (4-5, 2-3)
WHERE: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City
TIME, TV: 11 a.m., Big Ten Network
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football