Point/Counterpoint: Should James Vandenberg be criticized for his play against Northwestern?

BY DI STAFF | NOVEMBER 10, 2009 7:20 AM

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Hawkeye backup quarterback James Vandenberg receives preferential treatment among students on campus because of his “ability” to throw a football.

But with all the amenities afforded to football players at the university, a performance like the one Vandenberg turned in on Nov. 6 gives plenty of reason to criticize the redshirt freshman.

An interception on his first throw followed by a series of worm-burners that failed to reach even his receivers shoelaces on a fly was an absolute joke.

There is something to say about the pressure on a backup to keep a 9-0 team undefeated, but isn’t that why he’s in Iowa City in the first place?

On a team where roles are followed very closely, Vandenberg seemed to have forgotten his against a Northwestern team that was blowout-bound in the second quarter.

If he were a poor walk-on thrown to the lions, or Wildcats in this case, it would be hard to be critical.

But the fact remains he is a Kirk Ferentz investment, one meant to help the team win games, and on Nov. 6, he failed to do that.

Sure, he was one of the most prolific passers in Iowa high-school football history, but the display against the Wildcats looked more like the part of a bad intramural football player on the Hawkeye Recreational Fields than a Division-I quarterback playing in front of 70,000-plus fans .

The Hawkeyes don’t need another Jake Christensen. They just need Ricky Stanzi back.

— by Jake Krzeczowski


There are numerous questions and concerns after Iowa’s 17-10 loss to Northwestern.

But criticizing James Vandenberg for his play is not the answer.

I understand the “next man in” mentality in sports, in which a player is supposed to pick up right where the last player left off. But this was a different situation for the redshirt freshman signal-caller.

Vandenberg was called upon to replace one of the Hawkeyes’ biggest leaders in Ricky Stanzi and to shoulder the burden of keeping an undefeated season intact.

Northwestern has fared as well as any team at Kinnick Stadium in recent history. Further, the Wildcats had just snatched momentum after scoring on the Stanzi fumble in the end zone.

Very few backup quarterbacks — if any — would perform well under those circumstances.

The Keokuk native’s only collegiate experience came two months ago in the blowout win against Iowa State. He completed two of three passes, including a 35-yard strike to junior Don Nordmann.

The ability is there, but the experience is lacking. He has more than likely spent no time practicing with the first team this year.

Vandenberg has more passing yards and touchdowns than any other quarterback in Iowa high school history, but he hasn’t taken a significant snap since 2007 — the 3A state championship game.

This lack of familiarity puts the offense out of sync. With a full week of practice, and the Big Ten title hanging in the balance, Vandenberg should be better prepared when he’s under center against the 10th-ranked Buckeyes.

And if sports movies are any indication, the Hawkeyes will be just fine.

In Varsity Blues, the backup quarterback played by James Vanderbeek stepped in to lead the fictional West Canaan Coyotes to a state title when the star quarterback, played by Paul Walker, went down with an injury.

After a full week of reps with the first team, James Vandenberg has the ability to do the same for the Hawkeyes.

— by Mitch Smith

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