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Passing a problem for the Hawks

[ 0 ] September 2, 2012 |

CHICAGO — New Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis is not a fairy godmother. The Iowa offensive pumpkin wasn’t going to turn into a carriage with the wave of his wand.

But there just wasn’t much magic at all in the passing game on Saturday in an 18-17 win over Northern Illinois.

“Things were disappointing at times,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We had a tough time protecting at times, a tough time getting open, it didn’t seem like we were in great sync the entire game.

“But that’ll improve as we go along.”

Finding some magic dust will be key this week as Iowa (1-0) prepares for its in-state rival Iowa State (1-0). The two teams kick off at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Kinnick Stadium.

“I think I’ve got a long way to go,” Iowa senior quarterback James Vandenberg said. “I think we do as an offense as a whole.

“It felt out of sync a lot of times, and that starts with me.”

Vandenberg, who became Iowa’s fourth 3,000-yard passer last season, was 21-of-33 for 129 yards.

He didn’t throw a touchdown or interception and was sacked six times by the Huskies.

“That’s just unacceptable,” senior center James Ferentz said. “If we’re going to have a successful season as an offensive line, we’ve got to do a better job of keeping James upright and giving him a chance to get the ball to the skill players.”

Vandenberg dealt with being hurried at times in the pocket; he also looked downfield many times to see his receivers blanketed.

“We didn’t get a chance to go deep today,” senior receiver Keenan Davis said. “They have a good secondary. They were flying everywhere; getting after it. We took what we could get.”

What Iowa got was a lot of short passes. Of the 21 completions, only three went for more than 10 yards — a 15-yard screen to Damon Bullock, a 12-yard pass to Kevonte Martin-Manley, and a 20-yard catch-and-run by Davis.

Martin-Manley, who led Iowa with six catches for 31 yards, said Iowa should try to go downfield more often.

“Maybe we could get a few more of those; those can be big,” Martin-Manley said. “I really don’t know. Out there playing, you don’t know too much. We’ll find out on film.”

The great resurgence of the tight end never really occurred, either. Junior CJ Fiedorowicz caught three passes for 21 yards and Zach Derby had two grabs for 10 yards.

“Everyone was a little uptight, a little anxious,” Fiedorowicz said. “First game of the season, every team is not going to be perfect.”

Iowa ran 82 offensive plays. It just had to settle for five field goal attempts rather than finishing drives in the end zone.

The Hawkeyes had first-and-10 on the NIU 16, 23, 17, 3, and 26 … and each turned into a field goal attempt.

“We’ve got to score touchdowns,” Vandenberg said. “You’re not going to win very many games scoring your first touchdown with 2 minutes and six seconds left, or whatever it was.

“We moved the ball well. … When we get down there, we’ve got to get 7 points.”

On four of those five failed drives, Iowa got zero yards or fewer on first down.

“We didn’t do much on first down. We didn’t give ourselves a chance playing behind the sticks,” James Ferentz said. “We got down to the red zone, got behind and couldn’t find a way to get things done.”

Davis said the struggles didn’t have anything to do with using the new offense of first-year offensive coordinator Greg Davis.

“I don’t think there was any confusion,” Keenan Davis said. “Once we all put it together and start executing from line to running backs to receiver, … then we’ll start seeing the numbers shoot up.

“Today was a good learning experience.”

And like any good fable, Saturday’s lesson was enjoyed much more with the happy ending.

“We’re going to be all right,” Martin-Manley said. “There’s a big difference between 0-1 and 1-0. That’s good for our confidence. We can only go up from here.”

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Ryan Suchomel: Reach Ryan Suchomel at 339-7368 or rsuchomel@press-citizen.com. View author profile.

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