Staying in the Moment

Oct. 15, 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 — Through the highs and lows of the first five games of the season, University of Iowa junior quarterback James Vandenberg is trying to stay in the moment and stay clear of a roller-coaster of emotions.

The Hawkeye offense was flying high heading into its Big Ten Conference opener at Penn State having racked up 640 yards during a five-quarter stretch against Pittsburgh and the University of Louisiana at Monroe. The offense then ran into a stout Nittany Lion defense in Happy Valley, scoring three points and finishing with 253 yards.

“I go back to what I learned from Rick (Stanzi), coach (Kirk) Ferentz and coach (Ken) O’Keefe,” said Vandenberg. “It’s never as bad as it seems, and it’s never as good as it seems. I am trying to stay even-keeled.

“I go back to what I learned from Rick (Stanzi), coach (Kirk) Ferentz and coach (Ken) O’Keefe. It’s never as bad as it seems, and it’s never as good as it seems. I am trying to stay even-keeled.”
UI junior quarterback James Vandenberg

“I know that we let one slip away (at Penn State), and we didn’t play our best. We’re trying to correct those mistakes and move on this week.”

Some of those miscues came from the wide receiving corps, where the Hawkeyes uncharacteristically dropped passes. Senior Marvin McNutt, Jr., is looking forward to getting back on the field to put the Penn State game in the rearview mirror.

“As receivers you have to catch the ball, and we didn’t do that,” said McNutt, who leads the team with 29 receptions for 486 yards. “We finished some drives ourselves by not catching the ball. We look to do better this week.”

Vandenberg will make his first career start against Northwestern under the lights inside Kinnick Stadium, but it won’t be his debut against the Wildcats. In 2009 as a redshirt freshman, Vandenberg was thrown into the fire when Stanzi went down with an ankle injury. Northwestern rallied to defeat the Hawkeyes, 17-10, handing the team its first loss of the season.

“I don’t recall anything that positive (from the NU game in 2009),” said Vandenberg. “I remember being in a slight panic mode having to go in. This is a different team, they’re a different team, and I am a different player since then.”

All Vandenberg has done in his first season as the starter is complete 98-of-163 attempts for 1,264 yards and 10 touchdowns. He ranks second in the Big Ten with 252.8 yards per game and his 261.4 yards of total offense and 141.8 quarterback efficiency both rank fifth in the conference.

The Hawkeyes look to get the running game going against a Wildcat defense that gives up 439.4 yards per game, including 175.6 on the ground. Iowa is averaging 129.2 rushing yards per game, compared to 258.8 passing yards.

“Any time you can balance it out it makes the defense think a little more, and it makes my job easier,” said Vandenberg. “Some weeks you’re going to have to throw it more, some weeks you’re going to have to run it more. It all depends on the defensive scheme. We know we can do it either way, but balance is something we’re looking for.”

Balance could play a part in helping the Hawkeyes solve the Northwestern puzzle. The Wildcats have claimed five of the last six games in the series, including the last three. That includes a three-game winning streak inside Kinnick Stadium.

“It’s the same thing with us and Penn State; sometimes teams get on streaks,” said Vandenberg. “This is going to be a completely new game. I don’t think we’re looking at the last three years as something to build off of or dwell on. We’re expecting another good game.”

Kickoff is set for 6:01 p.m., tonight at Kinnick Stadium. The game will be broadcast to a national audience on the Big Ten Network with Eric Collins, Chris Martin and Dionne Miller calling the action.