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Hawkeyes still seek offensive balance after no-huddle success

BY JORDAN GARRETSON | SEPTEMBER 21, 2011 7:20 AM

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Iowa's offense was stagnant for most of its game against Pittsburgh on Sept. 17.

Then came the no-huddle, and everything changed.

The Hawkeyes scored touchdowns on four-straight drives and won as James Vandenberg was 17-of-20 for 217 yards over the game's final 18:11.

But despite that success, head coach Kirk Ferentz said fans shouldn't necessarily expect Iowa to fling the ball all over the field for the rest of the season.

Ferentz said Tuesday that Iowa's dire situation — down 24-3 late in the third quarter — forced his hand.

"We didn't have much of a choice," he said. "Part of it, too — we weren't getting open earlier in the game. James had a couple reads he'd probably like to have back. But there were also some times there wasn't really anywhere to go with the ball."

Once in the hurry-up, Vandenberg couldn't miss a target. His receivers couldn't drop a pass. The offensive line was almost impenetrable.

The junior quarterback cited heightened playmaking abilities of his receivers and improved pass protection for the seemingly automatic aerial attack.

And even though the increased tempo facilitated new single-game career-bests in completions, yards, and passing touchdowns for Vandenberg, he said he knows Iowa's offense isn't departing from its perennially even approach.

"I don't think we're going to change to any five-receiver sets anytime soon," he said and laughed.

"We're going to run the ball. We're going to have a good balance. We have to clean up some details to get that going a little better."

Prater and Hyde's friendly wager

For Shaun Prater and Micah Hyde, interceptions are worth more than just getting the ball back to the Iowa offense.

The two cornerbacks are involved in a friendly bet over who grabs the most interceptions, with more weight given to more significant interceptions. The loser takes the winner to a restaurant of the winner's choosing.

An interception returned for a touchdown is worth three points, while a "game-saving" interception — such as Hyde's pick on Pittsburgh's final drive on Sept. 17 — is worth two points. All other interceptions are worth one point.

Prater recorded a pick-six against Tennessee Tech, and Hyde had another interception against Pittsburgh in addition to the game-clincher, so the tally is tied at three points each.

"Let me know what the most expensive restaurant in town is," Prater said. "That's where we're going to go."

MacMillan, Lowery could return in two weeks

The arrival of Big Ten play — which Iowa begins at Penn State two weeks from Saturday after a bye week — could see a couple players return from injuries.

Left guard Nolan MacMillan has been hampered by a sports hernia suffered during the spring.

Cornerback B.J. Lowery has been out since preseason camp with an arm injury.

Both could be back on the field for the Hawkeyes' Big Ten opener.

"We're trying to make it to the bye week and then see," Ferentz said. "I know neither of them are going to play this week, but they're both getting closer. It's been up and down with Nolan. B.J. is just a matter of what the X-rays and the CT scan show this week."


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