East Lansing, Mich. – James Vandenberg was right.
The longer his Iowa football offense sputtered Saturday afternoon against Michigan State, the more he knew momentum eventually would turn.
“We’re always talking about keep swinging, keep sawing wood,” Vandenberg said after Saturday’s 19-16 double-overtime victory. “I just knew we’d eventually get a break.”
They got the break, a second-and-26 pass to Keenan Davis that moved possession from the Hawkeyes’ 16-yard line to the 32. It kept alive a drive that would result in the tying touchdown with 55 seconds to play.
“Great time for a great play,” receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley said. “We knew James was going to make a big play. We had confidence.”
That play, and a consistently solid defensive effort throughout the soggy afternoon and four Mike Meyer field goals, are reasons Iowa shares first place with Michigan in the Big Ten Conference’s Legends Division heading into Saturday’s 7 p.m. game against Penn State at Kinnick Stadium.
“It was just a matter of time before James made a big play,” said tailback Mark Weisman, who had 116 yards on 26 rushes before injuring his right foot on the game-tying touchdown run.
Saturday was a tale of two Vandenbergs – the one who completed 8 of 16 passes for 53 yards in the first half, and the one who came back with a 12-of-20 second half for 81 yards.
“We knew it was going to be tough to throw against them long,” Vandenberg said, “so we threw a lot of short routes.”
The 4-2 Hawkeyes had five three-and-outs in the first half. There were incomplete passes, passes that were completed for yardage just short of first downs, and a sack.
Fans blame the offensive leader when things like that happen.
“It’s part of being the quarterback,” Vandenberg said.
Vandenberg doesn’t get down. He doesn’t sulk.
“He’s one of the biggest leaders on this team,” Davis said. “Vandy doesn’t get down on himself. Nobody gets down on this team. If we make a mistake, we learn from it.”
There were plenty of mistakes, especially early in the game against the Big Ten’s best defense. The Hawkeyes had five first-half punts, four first-half first downs, and three first-half points.
“Vandy kept his cool,” Davis said. “That’s why he’s such a good leader.”
Vandenberg kept his confidence, too.
“I liked our chances,” he said.
And he liked the defense.
“The defense absolutely kept us in it,” Vandenberg said. “They made the other offense struggle as well.
“It’s not like they were lighting it up out there.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football