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Senior season didn’t go how Vandenberg, Davis ‘drew it up’

BY BEN ROSS | NOVEMBER 26, 2012 6:30 AM

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When a Nebraska defender intercepted James Vandenberg’s final pass in a Hawkeye uniform on Nov. 23, it seemed like a cruel ending. But as the senior quarterback said after the game, it was also a fitting end.

“It’s the way I came in,” Vandenberg said. “And it’s the way I went out. It’s not the way you’d draw it up.”

Vandenberg’s first pass in Kinnick Stadium, in relief of the injured Ricky Stanzi, was intercepted by Northwestern in November 2009.

Vandenberg came into the 2012 season with seven wins under his belt from the year before — along with 3,000 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, and widespread consideration as the Big Ten’s best pure passer.

Iowa finished second from the bottom in the Big Ten with just four wins on the season. Vandenberg didn’t come anywhere near his numbers from a year ago, and Iowa struggled all year on offense. The quarterback’s 7 touchdown passes rank 11th in the Big Ten.

Vandenberg wasn’t the only senior who finished his career on a disappointing note. Leading returning receiver Keenan Davis saw his numbers dip from 713 yards to 571, and he scored just 1 touchdown as a senior.

In their final three games together, Vandenberg and Davis connected just three times for 28 yards.

Davis acknowledged some disappointment in his drop-off in production as his final year came to a close. But the Cedar Rapids native said the things he learned and took away from his senior football experience outweigh that.

“I feel good about just competing,” he said. “I learned a lot this season; that’s why my head is up right now. I learned to keep fighting no matter what, never be negative; that every little detail is important.”

The 2012 season looked bright considering what the two had waiting for each other. Davis had an established passer coming back, and Vandenberg had his leading returning pass-catcher.

But despite all that, Iowa’s quarterback maintained he didn’t have any spectacular expectations this season for him or his receiver.

“I didn’t picture anything between us,” Vandenberg said. “I pictured winning more games, and if that meant running the ball or throwing the ball, either of us could care less. It didn’t go like we drew it up for either of us. He’s a tough guy; I’m a tough guy. We’ll be fine.”

While Vandenberg’s stats took a dive, his head coach said the quarterback’s attitude never did. After Iowa’s season-ending loss to Nebraska, Kirk Ferentz said bad things happen — even to good people such as Vandenberg.

“This didn’t pan out certainly the way James had hoped,” Ferentz said.  “None of our seniors wanted to go out being part of a 4-8 team.  But it can happen. It did happen. There were times where he could have played better, like everybody, and I could have coached better. We all have ownership. But we’ll all be hard-pressed to find better people than James Vandenberg coming through our program.”


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