Hawkeyes Game Film: Vandenberg vs ISU

When a football team loses, people tend to place a disproportionate amount of blame on the guy taking the snaps. Hawkeyes quarterback James Vandenberg made a couple of very big mistakes in this game but also made a number of very good throws. He made a number of good plays with his feet as well. Overall, the passing game definitely wasn’t consistent, but looked several notches better than it did against Northern Illinois.

The two INTs were the big mistakes that everyone focuses on but the critique I have after this game is JVB’s ball placement, especially on short routes. Numerous passes were batted away or knocked loose by defenders due to the ball being too far outside of their frame, especially over the middle. It may sound like a small thing, but in Greg Davis’s catch and run focused system it can really limit plays. It was an issue last season and could be seen even on some of Iowa’s highlight reel plays; Marvin McNutt’s amazing one-handed grab behind him was a good example.

In this game, ball placement issues led to a number of drives stalling. Not all of the issues with the drops and contested completions were on JVB’s ball placement, however. Some of it was timing, some of it was adjusting to the system at game speed and some of it was just flat out receivers dropping catchable passes. There were also good defensive plays from ISU defenders that prevented completions. Add it all up and you have the recipe for a passing game that has issues.

The passing offense was more productive than last week but came up short on numerous drives, especially down the stretch. The pass protection was much improved this week, especially in dealing with blitzes. The pressure they did give up came from guys losing one and one match ups. There were times I felt JVB was a little skittish in the pocket due to the pressure, and it’s something that was an issue last season. It will be something to watch in coming weeks.

+1 Got the ball out quickly here and decisive throw. Kept the ball down and had a lot of zip on it. It was a narrow window and goes for a big play to Keenan Davis. D1 Play 7
-1 Ball placement, Throws it on Bullocks back shoulder, needs to make it easy on his RB. Lead him out in front instead of twisting him around on the screen. D2 Play 3
+1 Hits his TE on the run over the middle and allows him to pick up big yards. Good read and on target delivery. D3 Play 3
-1 Needed to come off the cross read and come back to his dig, KD was open over the middle. D3 Play 4
+1 Nice job driving the throw to a spot on the deep comeback for JVB. Ball was low and away from the defender with velocity on it. D4 Play 5
+1 Nice recognition of single coverage on the outside; throws the fade to KD, only a great defensive play prevents the completion. D4 Play 5
-1 Not able to hit the RB on the front shoulder here. Ball is zipped to hard to adjust to as well. D5 Play 1
-2 Tries to fit in a fade to KD on the short side of the field with a safety over the top. Originally I thought this was C2 but it was Cover 1 after a late break from 2 high shell.  JVB still needed to recognize safety was back there, and the ball was underthrown & lofted as well. He had other options on the play; CJF was underneath and he had beaten his man. D5 Play 4
+1 Quickly read zone coverage and zipped it out on a line to his RB in stride on the simple flare. D9 Play 3
+1 Perfectly timed throw on the seam route up the middle. PA held LBs and JVB zipped it into CJF. D9 Play 5
-1 Ball placement again. Spun his WR instead of letting him catch it in stride. D9 Play 8
+1 Makes a very good throw on the PA roll out on the goal-line to Weisman, it ends up being dropped. Play had broken down and JVB nearly made something out of nothing. D9 Play 11
-1 Tries to hit KMM in tight man coverage and again the ball placement is off; threw this ball out in front where defender could make a play on it. Needs to help his WR out and keep that ball where he can get a clean catch and shield the defender with his frame. D11 Play 3
-1 Threw this ball too early. He’s got a high-low read and tried to fit it in again before his man was open. He’s got two routes in the same zone; got impatient and tried to force it in to KMM, not a good throw. Needed to let play develop and let LB commit to one route, & throw to the other. D12 Play 2
+1 Perfect read on critical 4th down play. Was Cover 3 and JVB put it right in the hands of Shumpert who was in the C3 seam and he just dropped it. D12 Play 4
+1 Spins out of pressure and picks up 6 or 7 and gets out of bounds to start drive. Smart play. D13 Play 1
-1 Led Bullock too much over the middle. Bullock had the LBs split over the middle and would have had room to run if this ball is on target. D13 Play 3
+1 Stands in the pocket and delivered a strike to Davis on the skinny post. CB tipped his hand before the snap and was in outside leverage and bailing out; JVB read it and fired the ball on target and gave Davis chance for YAC. D13 Play 4
+1 Read the zone blitz and dropped it in the bucket to Bullock working against the DE in the flat on the wheel route. Perfectly placed ball. D13 Play 6
-2 Poor decision by JVB here. Tried to squeeze it into CJF and the play just wasn’t there. LB had sunk under the TE and was in the passing lane. Talking to him after the game he knew this was a bad decision. D13 Play 7

Overall: Push


_ Left Middle Right Sub-total
Short 8/11 62y 3/8 37y INT 4/10 31y 15/29 130y 1INT
Medium 1/2 34y 2/3 50y 2/3 22y 5/8 106y
Deep 0/2 0y 1INT 0/0 0y 0/1 0y 0/3 0y 1INT
Sub-total 9/15 96y INT 5/11 87y INT 6/14 53y

Overall: 20/42 236y(5.6YPA) 0TD 2INT
QB Rating: 85.3

  • Judd

    i havent noticed VBerg checking or audibling out of plays this year. is that something new to the offense?

    • Hawkeye Gamefilm

      Most of the change-ups at the line this year have appeared to change ups of run plays or adjusting the blocking scheme on run plays. The WRs have a lot of freedom in terms of adjusting their routes so you aren’t likely to see as many genuine audibles in the passing game. Davis’s system also has a number of route auto-adjustments that are basically silent audibles in the passing game.

  • SRS

    I’m not one to call for a quarterback change with only two games having been played but I do think that a change may need to happen if Vandenburg continues to struggle. It’s not like Vandenburg has gone up against SEC type defenses. He’s struggling against mediocre teams. I don’t know if changing quarterbacks will help things a game or two down the road but I do think it might give Vandenburg time to think and become more motivated to play better.

  • Grady

    Agreed that credit must be given to ISU D-backs for being glued to Iowa’s receivers and breaking up passes — that’s a result of good coaching and knowing where Iowa’s receivers are going…see Knott’s discussion after the game of he and another LB predicting what play Iowa was going to run before his INT. Also agreed that VBerg has not been perfect on his throws — but this sounds a little too much like KF’s ‘all we have to do is execute’ to win. College players will rarely play — or throw — perfectly, and if Iowa continues to count on that they will forever produce 6-6 or 7-5 teams. I think you also underestimate the impact of dropped passes. The heartbreaking thing about Knott’s INT is that RB Bullock was standing uncovered as a release target 5 yds down the center of the field, standing and just waiting for a throw from VBerg ..a sure 5-7 yard gain.

  • Trey

    The problem I have with JVB is that he throws the ball 100mph everytime. If you read the notes above zip or fired is used 6 times. Touch was not used once. I will say the 2nd to last throw he made did have some touch (and a lot of luck if you ask me) but he throws the ball too hard everytime. Sure there are instances where you need to “zip” the ball in there, but if you watched Andrew Luck last year you would see a perfectly thrown ball with the right amount of pace and touch is much easier to catch, thus leading to bigger plays. He also stares down receivers just like Stanzi did. And where’s the new offense? Looks like the same plays KOK was calling. I think this is where the grumblings about same old Ferentz are coming from.

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