By DARREN MILLER
AMES, Iowa — Iowa’s football team has had Iowa State’s number the past three seasons and perhaps the biggest thorn in the side of the Cyclones has been wide receiver Matt VandeBerg.
VandeBerg, a senior from Brandon, South Dakota, has career-highs of nine receptions in a game (at Iowa State in 2015), 129 receiving yards in a game (versus Iowa State in 2016), and a long reception of 48 yards (at Iowa State in 2015). Even his longest run from scrimmage (25 yards) occurred during Iowa’s 42-3 win over the Cyclones last season in Kinnick Stadium.
On Saturday, VandeBerg added another milestone. The Hawkeyes won their third consecutive game in the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series and VandeBerg contributed a 17-yard touchdown reception that gave Iowa a 14-10 lead in the second quarter. With that, he became the first Iowa player to have three career touchdown receptions against the Cyclones in head coach Kirk Ferentz’s 19-year tenure.
“Coaches put us in a good game plan to be successful,” VandeBerg said after Iowa’s 44-41 overtime victory Sept. 9 in Jack Trice Stadium. “The past years I was able to be the beneficiary of those game plans. Today (freshman) Ihmir (Smith-Marsette) was able to go out there and play really well.”
Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley used nine different receivers Saturday and four caught touchdown passes. Nick Easley led the way with a game-high seven receptions and Akrum Wadley had 72 receiving yards. VandeBerg’s line was three catches, 42 yards, one touchdown. His career totals are 111-1,363-9.
“That is the preparation we put in during the week coming to fruition on game day,” VandeBerg said.
In 2015, Iowa defeated Iowa State 31-17 in Ames. VandeBerg caught nine passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. Five of his catches moved the chains, but his most memorable play occurred when he scooped a fumble by teammate Henry Krieger-Coble and dove into the end zone.
For his career against Iowa State, VandeBerg had 19 receptions for 285 yards and three touchdowns.
“Matt has one speed and he’s had that since he got here,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He was really skinny when he got here and he’s grown into an adult football player now and he’s a good football player.”
VandeBerg’s highlight for the 2016 game against Iowa State followed Iowa’s victory when he proposed to his now-wife Laura. There wasn’t as much postgame excitement this Saturday. VandeBerg was all smiles outside the locker room, talking with friends and posing for photographs, while he waited for the team bus to drive back to Iowa City.
“No proposal or anything, but I’m excited to see my wife,” he said.
The Hawkeyes return to action Sept. 16 against North Texas inside Kinnick Stadium. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. (CT). The only previous meeting between the teams was Sept. 26, 2015, with Iowa winning, 62-16.