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Notebook: High percentage passing for Iowa

[ 0 ] September 4, 2012 |

The new Iowa offense revealed itself a little bit in the 18-17 win over Northern Illinois on Saturday.

It wasn’t a perfect roll out.

“Our passing game wasn’t what we wanted it to be, but we’ll get better,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We just have to keep working.”

Senior quarterback James Vandenberg finished 21-for-33 passing for 129 yards. He averaged just 6.1 yards per completion, with only three catches that went for more than 10 yards.

“We knew going into it, just one of those games we weren’t going to be able to throw it down the field,” Vandenberg said. “We were going to have to take the short, under balls.”

The plus side of that is that Vandenberg had a 63.6 completion percentage. That’s a bit better than the 58.7 percent Vandenberg had his junior season.

Looking back over his last 14 starts, Vandenberg is 8-1 when he has a completion percentage more than 60 percent and 0-5 when he dips below.

“It was a good learning experience,” senior receiver Keenan Davis said. “Whatever happens, happens. We go deep the whole game, we go deep the whole game.

“We run hitches the whole game, we run hitches the whole game. We have to execute.”

The passing game under new offensive coordinator Greg Davis seem weighted to short passes and a high completion percentage.

“We’ll continue to take what they’re giving us and getting those completions because completions lead to good things,” Vandenberg said.

It is an old truism. Incomplete passes are worth zero yards.

“The more you can get the ball to your guys … yeah, they did tackle us a lot … but all it takes is one missed tackle and we’re off and running,” Vandenberg said. “The more completions, the better. It’s something we strive for.”

Davis was the only receiver Saturday who showed ability, taking a short pass, making the defender miss and turning it into a 20-yard gain — the longest pass of the day.

“Our motto is catch the ball, get two,” Davis said. “Don’t try to be super human. Get the yards, get as many as you can. The big thing, help the team.

“Really focus on catching the ball. That’s the biggest part.”

High percentage throws and yards after the catch. A good formula for success as long as the receivers can break a few loose.

“One thing watching … they tackled us,” Vandenberg said. “We didn’t get that many yards after we caught the ball. They were right on us, made the tackles.”

Time will tell exactly how good that Northern Illinois defense ends up being. On Saturday, they held Iowa to 268 yards.

The only time the Hawkeyes had less yards last season was at Penn State (253) and Iowa ran 18 more plays in Chicago.

“Coach is going to call what he sees,” Davis said. “We’re going to run and execute what he calls. That’s what he called.”

Vandenberg said the Iowa passing game will change as the season goes along.

“Every defense, if they take away one thing, they’ve got to be giving you something else,” Vandenberg said. “That’ll change from week to week.”

RB ROTATION: Sophomore Damon Bullock kept getting the ball Saturday, and finished with 30 carries for 150 yards. It was a total that surprised even Ferentz.

“We wouldn’t have predicted that certainly,” Ferentz said. “My guess is we’ll spread it around.”

Greg Garmon had four carries for 8 yards and Ferentz expected Garmon and his fellow freshman Mike Malloy to get carries going forward.

“My guess is all three guys will do it and it’s a matter of how much Damon can handle. We’ll see.”

NO OBAMA DRAMA: President Obama is visiting Iowa City on Friday, but Obama won’t be watching the Cy-Hawk battle on Saturday.

Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta is OK with that fact.

“Put it this way, we’re thrilled they are not coming on gameday,” Barta said. “Just because of the fact it would be difficult to maintain an already challenging gameday environment, just with traffic patterns and everything else.”

INJURY UPDATE: Only one player left the Northern Illinois games with an injury. Ferentz said that cornerback B.J. Lowery was “fine.”

Lowery remains on top of the depth chart at left cornerback.

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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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