Ferentz Was Right: Vandenberg was Better, Much Better

Nov. 14, 2009

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Kirk Ferentz said his red-shirt freshman was going to be better in Game 2 than he was in Game 1.

The Hawkeyes’ veteran head coach was right. Boy, was he right.

James Vandenberg, a red-shirt freshman from Keokuk, Iowa – a city, er, town, whose population is about one-tenth of the capacity of Ohio Stadium, took command of an 18-point underdog Iowa team and passed it into overtime, an overtime that it lost by a field goal but made a statement, a big-time statement.

Vandenberg completed 20 of 33 passes for 233 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He connected with nine different receivers. He was sharp from the opening snap until the game’s end. The college football critics – and there are many, including one national television pundit who gave Iowa two chances to win in Saturday Columbus: “slim” and “none” – will focus on his three interceptions and a sack in overtime that probably took Iowa out of field goal range.

Let the record show, however, that the red-shirt freshman was the real deal. He completed long ones – a 55-yarder to Derrell Johnson-Koulianos. He completed short ones – nice yardage-gaining screens to Adam Robinson and Tony Moeaki.

And, of course, he completed big ones, two of them to Marvin McNutt in particular: A 9-yard strike with 3:31 left in the third quarter that tied that game at 10-all. Then, in the face of 100,000-plus cheering against him, he show his touch with a soft 10-yarder that McNutt reached over his defender to tie the game at 24-all and set up overtime.

“He played with great poise, great mental toughness and great physical toughness,” said Ferentz of his rookie.

He played with great poise, great mental toughness and great physical toughness.”
Kirk Ferentz on red-shirt freshman quarterback James Vandenberg

“We’ve had the benefit of being around him for the last 18 months. He just give you a good vibe. He gave us a chance to success and that’s all you can ever ask.”

Vendenberg left a big-time impression of former NFL player and general manager, Matt Millen, who was working the game for ABC.

He’s a cucumber out there…as cool as you can be,” Millen said after Vandenberg fired a strike between to OSU defenders to find McNutt, who ran a perfect slant route.

“Man, Sean (McDonough). This kid looks like a fifth-year senior,” Millen added during Iowa’s game-tying drive, an 8-play, 70-yard march into an Ohio State defense that is routinely heralded as the very best in the Jim Tresell-era at OSU, a collection of year that has had its share of great defenses.