Iowa Gets Quality Win, Repetitions

Sept. 24, 2011

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Games like that played by the Iowa Hawkeyes Saturday at historic Kinnick Stadium before yet another sellout audience are put on the schedule for several reasons.

Obviously, the home team is zeroed in on putting another notch in the win column. The coaching staff also is eager to get through the game without an injury and, in a perfect world, to give their first-team student-athletes an opportunity for quality repetitions before giving way to the second stringers after the game is comfortably in hand.

That plan came together perfectly for Kirk Ferentz’s squad.

The Hawkeyes used a mix of “hurry-up” with hard-nosed Big Ten Conference football to race to a 28-3 halftime margin over Louisiana-Monroe of the Sun Belt Conference en route to a 45-17 victory, a win that pushed Iowa’s overall record to 3-1 heading into its bye week. Iowa won’t play another game until Oct. 8 when it opens its 2011 Big Ten season against Penn State in Happy Valley.

Quality reps? Well, consider these first-half numbers for important pieces of Iowa’s starting offense: student-athletes:

  • Quarterback James Vandenberg employed the Hawkeyes’ two-minute offense in the game’s opening drive and sporadically during the rest of the first 30 minutes. Along the way he completed 15 of his 25 attempts for 198 yards and a pair of touchdown tosses to wideout Marvin McNutt.
  • Speaking of McNutt, the lanky senior from St. Louis had five catches by halftime for 80 yards. Included in that mix were pretty touchdown catches of 13 and 17 yards. The latest big name in the Hawkeyes’ receiving corps – Kevonte Martin-Manley – added four catches for 60 yards.
  • Running back Marcus Coker added 80 yards of offense via the ground game. Coker and Vandenberg also each contributed rushing touchdowns, Coker’s from four yards out and Vandenberg’s from one.

Defensively, defensive lineman Tom Nardo, defensive back Jordan Bernstein, and linebacker James Morris all had their moments during the first two quarters. Bernstein also contributed on special teams, averaging 24 yards on kick returns and a big block on a punt return.

“Bullock just needs game experience. He needs repetitions. He has the skills and the desire, he now needs the carries and the contact.”
Ed Podolak

During the second half, the focus of attention on the offensive side of the ball became quality reps for the back-up ball carriers and, in Iowa’s case in 2011, that means rookie running backs Damon Bullock and Jordan Canzeri. All counted, 10 true freshmen have now seen action for the Hawkeyes thus far in

Bullock, a rookie from Mansfield, Texas, collected seven carries for 18 yards. Canzeri, a newcomer from Troy, N.Y., gained five yards on 30 rushes.

“Bullock just needs game experience. He needs repetitions. He has the skills and the desire, he now needs the carries and the contact,” said Ed Podolak of the Hawkeye Radio Network when the 6-foot, 190-pounder became the primary running back in Iowa’s offense.

“We also tend to forget that James Vandenberg is also a newcomer. This is only his sixth start,” Kirk Ferentz suggested during his halftime interview with Rob Brooks, the sideline reporter for the Hawkeye Radio Network.

The 6-foot-3, 212-pound junior from Keokuk completed the game with 21 completions for 270 yards and three touchdowns. He will enter the 2011 Big Ten season with 10 passes for touchdowns against just one interception and more than 1,000 yards of passing offense.

Iowa now has two weeks to rest and prepare.

“We’ll give the guys that are nicked up and chance to rest, and we’ll take the rest and work hard to get better. Those 10 freshmen, we’re going to need them to contribute in the weeks ahead,” said Ferentz during his post-game visit with Gary and Ed.

“I’m proud of the guys. A couple weeks back they had a decision to make and they chose to work hard and get better. We’ve done that and we’re beginning to see what kind of football team we are,” Iowa’s veteran head coach added.

The Hawkeyes next home game is Oct. 15 against Northwestern when the UI teams with the Iowa Farm Bureau to stage the inaugural ANF Day at Kinnick, a celebration of America’s farmers. That game is scheduled to kick off shortly after 6 p.m. Iowa time and will be televised live by the Big Ten Network.