Hawkeye Game Film


Hawk Stock: James Vandenberg

By HawkeyeGameFilm

Now that we’re through the regular season, lets take a look back at how James Vandenberg did and how he stacks up to his predecessor, the ultimate American, Ricky Stanzi. We’ll compare him with the ‘09 vintage Stanzi to get a good idea of how each player fared in their first year as a full time starter. We’ll use a few categories to break them down: 1) Raw stats 2) Situational Stats 3) Film analysis

The obvious differences here are the interceptions. Despite playing about 1.5 fewer games than Vandenberg, Stanzi had more than double the number of INT’s. A lot of those INT’s were due to poor decisions or misreading the coverage. Some were just due to mechanically throwing passes that just weren’t open. Stanzi didn’t have the arm strength to cover up poor reads, but at times Vandenberg gets away with equally bad reads due to his arm strength. Combine that with Vandenberg’s being a little more cautious than Stanzi and I think you have a pretty good explanation how Vandenberg only threw 6 INT’s.

The other number that sticks out to me is the completion percentage. A full 3% difference in favor of Vandenberg and I’d guess it has a lot to do with mechanics. In ‘09 Stanzi had issues with his footwork and getting his body turned, which caused a lot of off target throws. Vandenberg had excellent mechanics most of the time and also can put more zip on his throws than Stanzi could.

The one statistical category that Stanzi has an advantage is in Yards Per Attempt. Stanzi attacked down the field pretty effectively during the ‘09 campaign and came up with a lot of big plays. He definitely paid for the high risk throws with the INTs at times but he managed to complete a pretty fair percentage as well. Stanzi also benefited from some dynamic receivers making big plays after the catch, but he did his fair share on creating big plays. Vandenberg isn’t far behind in YPA and also threw a lot of nice passes down the field. Finally Vandenberg outpaced Stanzi by a little over 11 points in pure QB rating as well. Looks like we’ll give the nod to Vandenberg for overall stats and move onto some situational stats.

Situational Stats

Overall a pretty even split here. Both were noticeably better at home than they were on the road. The biggest difference here is the TD:INT ratio, but Stanzi’s home numbers are skewed a bit by throwing the 5INTs against Indiana. Overall I’d call this area a push relative to their overall numbers.

Overall a pretty even split here. Both were noticeably better at home than they were on the road. The biggest difference here is the TD:INT ratio, but Stanzi’s home numbers are skewed a bit by throwing the 5 INTs against Indiana. Overall I’d call this area a push relative to their overall numbers.

I think you could make a pretty strong case for saying these were the two worst games for both players (With JVB you could make a case for Nebraska as well). A major difference here is that Stanzi won his games where he performed poorly. Quite frankly his numbers don’t lead you to believe he had a whole lot to do with his team winning those two games. Everyone remembers the big final drive at Michigan St that Stanzi put together, but most forget he was abysmal all night and missed throw after throw until that last drive. While Vandenberg was bad in these two games, Stanzi was worse. Advantage Vandenberg.

Pretty consistent results here with both guys having better numbers against non-conference foes. Vandenberg has the edge here with a significantly better TD to INT ratio, completion percentage and QB rating. Stanzi again holds the edge here in YPA, and by a wider margin than the aggregate. Advantage Vandenberg.

Here we have found an area where Stanzi is the clear victor. Stanzi wasn’t good against ranked opponents but he wasn’t bad. While he was stellar against lesser foes, Vandenberg was pretty awful in his four games against ranked foes. His numbers are all in the tank for those four games with Michigan being the only win. Stanzi really wasn’t much worse vs ranked opponents than he was against non-ranked. Advantage Stanzi.

Both players had their moments on tape and each had some great throws. What separates them is consistency and that is where Vandenberg reigns supreme. Stanzi definitely had some very high moments including his storming 4th quarter comeback against Indiana & the final drive against MSU, but in between all the big moments were some pretty bad throws. Stanzi also benefited from having a loaded defense that helped erase some of his mistakes and kept opponents off the scoreboard. On my film grading scale Stanzi came out +10 for the season with a high game of +5 against Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl. Vandenberg scored +5 twice and +4 four times during the season for a total +22. Advantage Vandenberg.


So after getting an in depth look at the statistics and film I’m led to the conclusion that Vandenberg had a better first year as a starter. The areas where he struggled were clearly on the road and against ranked teams. When it was against ranked teams on the road, it was just a very long day. Stanzi didn’t seem to be affected by being on the road as much as Vandenberg but his numbers suffered on the road as well. As a Senior, Stanzi improved across the board in all statistical areas, though he didn’t come out with as many wins. I expect Vandenberg will improve his game as well and should be ranked among the top passers in the NCAA in 2012. As for how many wins that gives his team, it will be interesting to see what happens.

  • Jhwilsin

    Didn’t Stanzi also have the advantage of playing a few games his sophomore year?

    • Hawkeye Gamefilm

      More than a few. He started 8+ games already before taking over as a full time starter. To be fair JVB had significant playing time in ’09 including 2 starts while Stanzi was hurt. 

  • Coromandel Hawk

    Will the receiving corp improve along with Vanderberg?  Other than McNutt they were pretty unimpressive this year.

    • Larry Flint

      Ferentz had commented before how there were definite concerns about the WRs at the beginning of the year.  On top of that, the TE play only started approaching “acceptable” levels towards the end of the season.

      Thus, the fact that Vandenberg had the numbers that he had despite such inconsistency from his pass-catchers … that’s pretty darn impressive.

      We should see continued improvement from Vandenberg and that will only help the passing game.  Also, I’d anticipate that Davis, Martin-Manley, Fiedorowicz, and Z. Derby will make real strides too.  Those guys will help to bring up the overall level of our pass-catchers.  However, it will be nice to see somebody like Shumpert, Bullock, Cotton, or Hillyer emerge as a legit #3 for us. 

  • Jonesy

    What’s interesting is Stanzi played most of his Sophomore year, so Vandenberg had less experience and still did better according to this analysis. Makes ya wonder just how good they could’ve been with a top ten defense.

  • hawkfan4ever

    I dont think its even close vandenberg might be a better QB now and ricky is in the NFL . stanzi was a winner and he played his heart out for iowa but at the end of the day he had better players around him .

  • Anonymous

    A couple of impressions: (1) When it comes to should-have-been-interceptions that probably would have been Pick-6s if the defender caught them, JVB got lucky a significant number of times this year.  Sometimes multiples in a game. I don’t remember Stanzi having that kind of good fortune. So, the difference in interception stats may not be quite so much quarterback performance related. (2) My second impression is that a nuanced but potentially significant difference between Stanzi and Vandenberg is presence under pressure.  Stanzi was more likely to feel the pressure and flush from the pocket, plus was quicker in the open field and more likely to throw the ball away.  Having a lower completion percentage isn’t such a bad thing if it is caused by productively throwing the ball away. How many times this past season did you find yourself saying about JVB, how could he have let a sack happen instead of throw the ball away–when the game was on the line and we were down by 7 or fewer points. It wasn’t just once or twice.  Of course, DJK could be pretty helpful to Stanzi in high pressure situations, too.

  • Joe3939

    Stanzi’s first year as a starter was 2008.

    This article is based on an extremely faulty premise, but was interesting and informative nonetheless.

    • Hawkeye Gamefilm

      He became the starter half way through 2008 and you could compare ’11 JVB to ’08 Stanzi but ’09 was Stanzi’s first year as a full time starter. JVB started 2 games in ’09 as well. So he had prior experience as a starter. Seemed more appropriate to compare ’09 Stanzi to ’11 JVB.

  • MichHawk

    What was the overall difference in strength of schedule between 2009 and 2011?

  • Johnnylohnson

    7 wins 5 losses.

  • Definogohawks

    simple as this Stanzi had more talent around him last year and did less with it. Vandenberg had a much better first year than Stanzi did but lack of a typically strong hawkeye defense some key drops and bouched fgs cost the hawkeyes dearly this year. it never stops amazing me how people forget how many close games we clawed out of in 09. 2010 and this year we lost all the close ones. If the Hawkeyes ever want to get over the hump and be a year in year out power house they have to take care of the teams they should always beat examples ( ia st, minn, purdue, nw) they are gonna take bumps occaisionally from the wisconsins, michigans, and ohio states of the big ten but they beat the teams they should and your looking at 9+ wins a year consistantly.

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