Hawkeye receivers drop the ball
C.J. Fiedorowicz bent over and threw his arms above his head. He stared down at the Kinnick Stadium turf for a few moments. Eventually, the junior tight end returned to the huddle, still shaking his head.
Fiedorowicz had just dropped a pass on third-and-10 in the closing minutes of a 9-6 loss to Iowa State. A Cyclone defensive back was running helplessly behind him, but Fiedorowicz couldn’t hang on to the ball. And he couldn’t seem to believe it.
But it was an all-too-familiar sight for the Hawkeye offense on Sept. 8.
Iowa receivers dropped eight passes on the afternoon — including back-to-back drops in a string of seven consecutive incompletions. The drops were a significant factor in the offense’s poor performance.
After the game, Fiedorowicz was still searching for answers. For almost 10 seconds, all he could do was sigh when trying to recount his dropped pass.
“[It] was just an out route,” he said. “I don’t know. I must have taken my eye off the ball.”
Junior receiver Don Shumpert dropped the ball on the very next play as he ran wide open across the middle of the field. The offense had to turn the ball over on downs with just over three minutes remaining in the game. Senior wideout Keenan Davis said the play was just part of the game.
“It happens,” Davis said. “Stuff happens. If you drop a ball, it’s OK; go on to the next one. We all drop balls. It’s human nature. He was looking the ball in and everything. Just stuff happens.”
The offense struggled to move the ball throughout the contest, and couldn’t punch into the end zone when it needed to. But every time the Hawkeyes did find a little momentum, a pass bounced off a receiver’s hands and onto the turf.
Never were the Hawkeyes closer to pay dirt than when fullback Mark Weisman broke free in the end zone at the start of the fourth quarter. Quarterback James Vandenberg threw a bullet to Weisman, but he couldn’t haul it in. Iowa never sniffed the end zone again.
Head coach Kirk Ferentz said it was “fairly obvious” the passing game still wasn’t in sync, despite seeing a few drives where things started coming together.
Some of the drops appeared to be the result of off-target throws from Vandenberg, who was quick to take responsibility for the miscues.
“It has nothing to do with [the drops],” he said. “Collectively as a unit we need to do better, and that starts with me. Everybody knows on this offense he can do his job a little better. They are part of the game. That’s something you just have to roll with. It’s going to happen. They are guarded tight. The windows are small. It’s hard for them.”
Davis, who lost the handle on a deep pass in the first quarter, said he knew Vandenberg wanted to shoulder the blame. But he said the receivers needed to help out their quarterback.
“As a receiver, I’m going to blame it on us,” Davis said. “We’ve got to catch everything. We’ve got to make plays and do our jobs.”
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