From Spectator to Starter

Sept. 10, 2011

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — When quarterbacks Brad Banks and Seneca Wallace were squaring off inside Kinnick Stadium on Sept. 14, 2002, a fifth-grader from Keokuk, Iowa, was getting his first taste of the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series. Today, that kid — James Vandenberg — will be the University of Iowa football team’s starting signal caller.

“All my memories stem back to that Brad Banks-Seneca Wallace game,” said Vandenberg, now a redshirt junior. “I was in fifth grade, watching them (Wallace and Iowa State) come back. It was so intense, and we (Banks and Iowa) had the lead. Then Wallace started doing that crazy stuff.

“From then on, you always had to pay attention to that game. That’s the first time I remember seeing it and realizing how important it was.”

Iowa built a 24-7 halftime lead in that `02 game before Wallace led the Cyclones to a 36-31 come-from-behind victory. The Hawkeyes went on to finish the season undefeated in the Big Ten and 11-2 overall, including a berth in the 2003 Orange Bowl against Southern California.

Since arriving on campus in 2008, Vandenberg has helped the Hawkeyes claim the Cy-Hawk Trophy three times. Iowa beat the Cyclones 17-5 in 2008 before posting dominating 35-3 and 35-7 victories in 2009 and 2010.

He saw has first collegiate action against Iowa State in 2009, completing 2-of-3 passes for 38 yards. Last season, he gained 18 yards on the ground and had one incomplete pass.

“The three games I have been a part of were awesome,” said Vandenberg. “From (Andy) Brodell’s punt return (in 2008) to the last two years. Every time we win is great for us, and they think of it the same way. It is an important game for both teams.”

Vandenberg knows it’s going to be a test for the Hawkeyes heading into Jack Trice Stadium for the “big game”.

“It’s rowdy,” said Vandenberg of the 55,000-seat venue. “It is a different type of crowd. There is a lot of hostility, and I remember that from going up there two years ago.”

The junior experienced a different type of raucous crowd inside Ohio Stadium during his redshirt freshman season, when he made his first career start for the Hawkeyes against Ohio State.

“I was lucky enough to have that experience a couple of years ago in a hostile environment on a big stage,” said Vandenberg. “It’s something that never gets easy, but you get used to it. You know it’s going to be tougher going in, and the coaches kind of expect you to know that.”

Vandenberg was oblivious to the chatter surrounding the Cy-Hawk Trophy in August. Regardless of what the trophy is, or looks like, on Saturday, he is hoping to give his team the chance to hoist it for the fourth straight season.

“I didn’t know of the controversy with the trophy,” he said. “Whatever it is, I know each team is going to look forward to grabbing it. Winning this game and being able to claim that for a year is big for us.

“We know it’s going to be a challenge. They’re a quality team, and we know that every year.”

Today’s game is slated to begin at 11:10 a.m. It will be televised to a national audience on FOX Sports Network with Joel Meyers, Joel Klatt and Jim Knox calling the action.