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Hawkeyes’ 41 points not enough in Ames

BY SETH ROBERTS | SEPTEMBER 12, 2011 7:20 AM

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AMES — Ask any football player in the country, and he’ll tell you he’d be happy to score 41 points in a game.

After all, putting four touchdowns and four field goals on the scoreboard generally means the offense is working pretty well.

But 41 points weren’t enough for Iowa to beat Iowa State.

And while part of that responsibility rests on the defense for allowing the Cyclones to score 44, the remainder sits squarely on the shoulders of the offense.

That’s because, 41 points notwithstanding, the Hawkeye attack often fell flat against the Iowa State defense.

Quarterback James Vandenberg looked good in the first quarter, completing each of his four passes in the period. After the break, though, he was a different passer; he was flushed out of the pocket regularly, and struggled to hit his receivers on the move. He finished the afternoon 16-of-28 for 207 yards, but was a completely different player from the one that methodically picked apart Tennessee Tech just a week ago.

“There are plenty of throws out there that I could have made that weren’t made,” Vandenberg said after the game. “We’re going to correct our mistakes tomorrow, and we’re going to step forward … we’re going to pick up the pieces.”

One aspect that appeared especially broken was the connection between Vandenberg and wide receiver Marvin McNutt. The senior wideout, who made his name by making big plays and passed on the NFL draft to return for a final year with the Hawkeyes, was brilliant against Tennessee Tech but nonexistent against the Cyclones.

McNutt finished with four catches for 61 yards — a far cry from the 140 yards and two touchdowns he collected against the Golden Eagles last week.

“Very frustrating — every play, you want the rock,” he said. “You have to work within the offense and keep things moving. You know there are times where you may want the ball, but you got to work within the offense and just play ball.”

When McNutt did catch the ball, it was generally positive; he had two catches during the fourth-quarter drive that gave Iowa a short-lived 24-17 advantage, one of which went for 29 yards and a first down to rescue the Hawkeyes on third and 5.

But he wasn’t targeted very often, which effectively eliminated Iowa’s most potent offensive weapon. Vandenberg threw his way eight times — all after halftime, six after the third quarter — but didn’t look in his direction in the third overtime when the Hawkeyes stalled and had to settle for a field goal.

“[The Cyclones] have good DBs, good pass coverage,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “People who play us are going to try to take away our most experienced players and our best players and work from there.”

The result was more pressure on Iowa’s younger skill players. Junior wideout Keenan Davis was solid, catching a team-high five balls for 95 yards and a touchdown, but he also had a crucial drop in the third overtime. Redshirt freshman Kevonte Martin-Manley’s first career catch went for 6 points in the first quarter, but he finished with just 23 yards on four grabs.

Marcus Coker was asked to carry the running game essentially by himself — Vandenberg’s seven rushes came when he was running for his life after leaving the pocket, and Davis lost a yard on a single reverse run — and rumbled downfield 35 times. He also fumbled on Iowa’s own 12-yard line, giving the ball and momentum back to the Cyclone offense in the second quarter. Iowa State scored three plays later.

Throw in the four times Iowa had to punt the ball away, and the result is a scoreboard that read 41 points — but should have had more.

“We have to finish some drives a little bit better,” Ferentz said. “We weren’t good enough on offense.”


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