Hawkeye Tight Ends Take Flight
Nov. 20, 2012
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Michigan's pass defense, ranked first in the NCAA, was worked over by University of Iowa tight ends Nov. 17, to the tune of 11 receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown.
The Wolverines entered the game allowing 149.2 yards per through the air. By halftime Saturday, Hawkeye quarterback James Vandenberg had completed 11-of-14 passes, with 10 of those connections to tight ends C.J. Fiedorowicz (7-62-0) and Henry Krieger-Coble (3-24-1).
Iowa's first eight pass completions went to either Fiedorwicz or Krieger-Coble.
"(Michigan) was biting down hard on the receivers," said Fiedorowicz, following the loss to the Wolverines. "They were letting us get the short balls to the sidelines and eventually go up the middle. We practiced a lot of seam balls this week, with a lot going to the tight ends. We happened to be open today."
The performance at Michigan continued a trend of receiving production from the Hawkeye tight ends. During the first nine games, UI tight ends averaged 3.7 catches per game. Against Purdue on Nov. 10, Fiedorowicz and Zach Derby combined for eight receptions, 55 yards, and a touchdown.
"I wouldn't say I earned it any way special," Krieger-Coble said of his uncharacteristically high number of touches. "We're all getting our fair share of reps, and one of us is going to go in there and do the job. Throughout the week I practiced a lot with the first and second team."
Tight end is a position of great promise for the Hawkeyes. Fiedorowicz, a junior, is third on the team with 39 receptions for 377 yards and a touchdown; Derby (6-48-0), Krieger-Coble (3-24-1), Jake Duzey (3-16-0), and Ray Hamilton (2-20-0) also have receptions. Derby is a senior, Hamilton is a sophomore, Krieger-Coble and Duzey are redshirt freshmen.
"It's something we always try to do, but the biggest difference (at Michigan) was that we ran the ball after the catch," UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said of getting the tight ends involved. "That's the best I have seen C.J. look out there, so that was encouraging."
Fiedorowicz gained 99 yards on his eight receptions with a long of 37.
"It feels good to be a big part of the offense," Fiedorowicz said. "It's good to know James (Vandenberg) has confidence in us; it makes you want to keep working hard and moving forward."
The big effort against Michigan led to Fiedorowicz earning honorable mention recognition from the College Football Performance Awards. The eight catches are the most by a Hawkeye since Keenan Davis had 10 in a win against Pittsburgh in 2011; it is the most for an Iowa tight end since Tony Moeaki had 10 for 83 yards in a 2009 victory over Northern Iowa.
"I didn't know I was going to be getting that many balls," Fiedorowicz said. "I happened to be open and James saw me. My job is to catch the ball, and he was throwing great balls."
Vandenberg finished the game against the Wolverines by completing 19-of-26 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns. The yardage total is the fourth-most given up by Michigan in a game this season, behind Alabama (199), Michigan State (192) and Northwestern (183).
The Wolverines still lead all NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision defenses by allowing 152.1 yards a game through the air. The team sitting second nationally is Nebraska (157.6 yards per game), and the Cornhuskers are guests in Kinnick Stadium on Friday, Nov. 23.
Iowa tight ends caught four passes for 63 yards last season at Nebraska. They could be a favorite target for Vandenberg again in the 2012 finale.