Iowa's 'Fragility' Goes on Full Display

Nov. 7, 2009

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Fans of the University of Iowa football team have heard Kirk Ferentz talk for weeks about how “fragile” the nationally-ranked Hawkeyes were. Saturday at Kinnick Stadium they learned just how smart their head coach is.

The home team raced to a 10-0 first quarter lead on a 74-yard touchdown strike from Ricky Stanzi to Marvin McNutt on the game’s third offensive play. Four minutes later, Daniel Murray nailed a 39-yard field goal and it looked like Iowa’s day was going to be as sunny as the sky over Kinnick Stadium.

Then, the world crashed in on the 70,000-plus that had filled Kinnick in anticipation of Iowa reaching double-digits in the victory total for the fourth time under Ferentz – and with three more games left to play.

On second and 10 from his own 6, Stanzi rolled to his right into the endzone where he was greeted by Northwestern defensive end Corey Wooten. It wasn’t the fumble that was recovered for seven by the Wildcats that took the fans’ breath away.

No. It was the unnatural twisting of the right ankle that took the offense out of the Hawkeyes. Stanzi was helped off the field and to the lockeroom. He didn’t return until midway in the third quarter when the junior who has guided Iowa to victory after victory reappeared in sweats with crutches and a boot.

James Vandenberg entered the biggest stage of his young college football career and, while the red-shirt freshman gave it a valiant effort, the `Cats scored 10 unanswered points and consumed minute after minute after minute. 40 minutes of football later, they walked out of Kinnick with their third straight victory, a 17-10 win that gave Iowa its first blemish of the year.

“This doesn’t end the season. It’s disappointing certainly. This team has worked hard and has been a tremendous group to be around daily,” said Ferentz. “This is going to hurt today, hurt tomorrow, but we’re going to have to move on quickly.”

Ferentz gave a nod to Northwestern, but also said Iowa, this time, dug a hole too deep to climb out of.

“Four turnovers and the called back touchdown run – which you might as well consider a turnover – was just too much to overcome. Two weeks now where we’ve pushed the envelope and, this week, we didn’t have enough gas in the tank.”

Iowa’s head coach was awfully impressed with his team’s start. The Hawkeyes were sharp and attacking on offense from the opening kick.

“We really came to play and got those quick 10 points. It looked like we were going to add to it,” he said. Instead, Stanzi threw a pick that didn’t result in points, but it changed the field position dynamic.

“You can’t hang it on one play but that did change things,” he said.

Stanzi left the game with four completions in nine throws, 134 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Vandenburg, in his first action since the Iowa State game, completed nine of 27 for 82 yards. He was also intercepted once.

“Unfortunately, the way the season has unfolded, James hasn’t had much of an opportunity to play. He’ll be much better player the next time he takes the field,” said Ferentz.

That next time is next Saturday when Iowa travels to Columbus, Ohio for a 2:30 p.m. Iowa time date with the Ohio State Buckeyes. “It will be another tough ball game,” said Ferentz.