Sept. 18, 2012
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg called last week's 27-16 victory over Northern Iowa a step in the right direction for the Hawkeye offense, even if it was a baby step.
"We definitely took a step, but after seeing the film, there are definitely things we need to correct to score some points and make sure we get into the end zone," said Vandenberg. "We took a step forward, and we have to continue to get better."
A balanced offensive attack was key to the Hawkeyes success. Iowa finished with 429 yards of total offense with 201 coming on the ground and 228 through the air. It was the first time since Sept. 10, 2010, against Iowa State, that Iowa had more than 200 yards rushing and passing in the same contest.
"A lot of stuff in the passing game was open because of how well we were able to run the ball," said Vandenberg. "When they have to put eight guys in the box to stop our run game, it leaves a lot more one-on-ones out wide for the receivers. Then if you get the big play, you're going to get a lot more cushion."
Sophomore Mark Weisman's 113-yard, three touchdown performance as the "next man in" at running back lifted the Hawkeye offense, but it was his will on a third-and-long in the second quarter that set the tone.
Facing a third-and-15 from the UNI 25-yard-line, Vandenberg found Weisman out of the back field for a 21-yard gain. Weisman showed his toughness and will by putting his head down, and bulling his way to a first down. Iowa ended up kicking a field goal to take a 17-13 lead, but Weisman's toughness on the play set the tone.
"The one play in particular where it took five or six guys to get him down, that was the play that got everyone going," said Vandenberg. "He's a tough-minded guy. He's a guy that goes hard and gets up and does it again."
Vandenberg said the offense was better at adjusting on the fly against Northern Iowa. The Hawkeyes converted 65 percent (9-of-14) of their third-down conversions, and Vandenberg completed 18-of-28 passing attempts for 228 yards. He is 59-of-103 for 593 yards in three games, but he has yet to find the end zone after throwing 25 touchdown passes as a junior.
"I'm on pace for zero (touchdown passes in a season)," said Vandenberg with a laugh. "But we're taking what they're giving us. We've had some opportunities, but as long as we keep putting some points on the board, it's not a big deal.
"It's something I'd like to see improve, and it will over time. If we go 11-1, and I throw zero touchdown passes, nobody is really going to care."
The Hawkeyes host Central Michigan on Saturday inside Kinnick Stadium in their final nonconference game. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. (CT), and the game will be televised by the BTN with Kevin Kugler, Danan Hughes and Tom Helmer calling the action.