Iowa City, Ia. — IOWA CITY, Ia. James Vandenberg understands the vocal minority of Iowa football fans clamoring for quarterback change. He understands occasional booing.
The senior said Tuesday he does his best to block out negativity and not react angrily when fans express displeasure as they did during last Saturday’s 38-14 loss against Penn State.
“As long as (the coaches) want me in there — the boos and the criticism — none of that really bothers me,” said Vandenberg, whose 23rd career start will be Saturday’s 11 a.m. game at Northwestern.
That’s not the case with his 8-year-old sister. Compared to Isabel, James is the calm one.
The fifth-grader from Keokuk heard a fan booing while the punchless Hawkeyes were in the process of falling to 2-1 in the Big Ten Conference and 4-3 overall — “we just got trashed,” coach Kirk Ferentz said of his team Tuesday.
Unlike big brother, Isabel reacted.
“She likes to throw her fist around at people. I don’t think she’s hit anybody, but I know she had an incident Saturday,” James Vandenberg said Tuesday. “She was wearing a coat and wearing my jersey under it. As this person was yelling behind her, she kind of slid the coat off, let the guy know who she was, and the guy kind of hushed up.
“That’s Isabel for you.”
Ferentz defended Isabel’s brother during his weekly session with reporters Tuesday, emphasizing that backup Jake Rudock, a redshirt freshman, will continue to hold the sideline clipboard.
“(Vandenberg) is our starting quarterback,” Ferentz said. “We all believe in James. I think I speak for everybody involved in our program — team and coaches.”
Iowa averages 189.0 passing yards a game, seventh among conference teams. Vandenberg has thrown three touchdown passes — a season after throwing 25. The only team nationally with fewer is New Mexico, with one.
“We’ll go back to work and see if we can come up with enough points and yardage and that stuff to be successful this week,” said Ferentz, whose team faces a Wildcat defense that allows an average of 279.8 passing yards a game, worst in the conference and 107th out of 120 nationally.
When asked what specifically needs to pick up, he said:
“Protection, route running, throwing, catching — same old stuff.”
Same quarterback, too. Vandenberg is Ferentz’s man — even when trailing 38-0 like last Saturday.
“Generally most of my decisions are made on what’s best for our football team,” Ferentz said, “be it the offense, defense, or special teams. If it comes to a point where I change my mind, we’ll change.”
Iowa, Syracuse and Hawaii are the only teams where one player has received all the center snaps this season.
“I guess you could make an argument that it would give the next player experience,” Ferentz responded when pressed why he doesn’t use another quarterback, especially when last Saturday’s game was beyond reach.
“But at that time, I felt like the best thing to do was keep our offense out there and let them play.”
Ferentz insinuated the main reason he doesn’t change quarterbacks is because of the talent gap between Vandenberg and Rudock. Competition is not as close as when Ricky Stanzi and Jake Christensen both played in 2008 until Stanzi eventually won the job.
“Any time you see players rotating, particularly at that position, would indicate you think it’s really close,” Ferentz said. “There’s usually a reason why you do it.
“At that point (in 2008), we’re trying to determine who our best quarterback was. I think it’s fair to say we weren’t certain at the beginning of that season.”
Ferentz is so certain now, that Vandenberg has played every play — even in blowouts like last Saturday.
“I can totally see an argument for (being replaced), but at the same point, I think we all felt we wanted to get in there and get something positive done,” Vandenberg said. “They never asked us, and until I would have been tapped out, I was going to go back in.
“I knew that’s what they were thinking, too.”
LIVE CHAT ON WEDNESDAY
Randy Peterson hosts a live chat each Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. at HawkCentral.com. Topics this week will likely include Saturday’s game, the upcoming schedule and the quarterback situation. Join the discussion.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football