Hawkeyes Gamefilm: Vandenberg vs Penn State
Last week in East Lansing I thought we had seen rock bottom for James Vandenberg, and that things could only get better. This game against PSU was proof of a glass floor because things reached a new all-time low for Vandenberg. After three quarters Vandenberg was 9/23 for 120 yards and an interception. That is a QB rating of 74.3 through three quarters of play and he also had an unforced fumble. Playing that poorly, you basically give your team no chance to win. Iowa had no offensive points until late in the 4th quarter when Penn St had called off the dogs and was playing backups. Vandenberg got Iowa’s lone offensive score by hitting Davis on a smoke screen against a 5’10 161lb True Freshman corner with around 4 minutes to go.
Which brings up the question of why James Vandenberg is still in the game down 31 points and well past the point of a realistic comeback. My initial thought was they didn’t want to send a very green back-up out to get killed against an excellent defense with two starting offensive lineman injured. In retrospect, that apparently was not it. Based on his post game comments Ferentz left Vandenberg out there to try and get him to work out of the funk he has been in and rebuild his confidence. He did that because I don’t think he has any intention of pulling Vandenberg for performance based motives this season. He appears to be sticking with Vandenberg until the bitter end. Based on what we saw in the 4th quarter of that game, we won’t see another QB this season barring injury. I can’t say I agree with it, but that’s my take on it.
The issues with the passing game were the same things we saw last week against MSU, but this week you couldn’t blame the weather. It was struggling to see the field, off-target throws, not identifying mismatches and letting the defense compress the field. The last point is one that really is obvious to everyone and is something that compounds the other issues. Letting any defense, much less a talented one like PSU, sit on your short passing game pretty much wrecks your YAC chances. Iowa targeted one pass over 20 yards in this game and it was completed to Keenan Davis for 31 yards. They threw 6 more in the intermediate range, but all the rest were targeted under 10 yards; many of which were the under 5-yard variety. By not attacking vertically it also limited Iowa’s ability to run the football. Penn St played more 1 high safety looks in this game than any of the other four games I watched this season. They were able to do that because Iowa simply was not threatening them vertically.
Going into this game it was my perception that Penn State’s front seven was their strength and the question marks were in the secondary, especially at the safety spots. Iowa’s scheme looked very parochial this week and they did not go after match-ups with the Penn St safeties, even when matched with a WR in the slot in man coverage. Iowa continues to run their 5WR set despite having almost no success and they get sacked about every third or fourth snap they run from that set. Every team they have played has done the same thing vs that set; play tight coverage, sit on short routes and send a +1 rusher from one side ensuring someone gets a free run at the QB. Iowa also continues to run their heavy package in short yardage situations with a FB, 2TE, and out wide they send Tevaun Smith who they have yet to target from that formation. They essentially tell the opponent: We’re going to run the football, it’s safe to bring both safeties into the box. Simple math tells you that bringing 10 guys into the box when only 8 blockers are available is not an advantage situation. These were the kinds of things fans used to blame Ken O’Keefe for, but both of these issues survived a change at OC and you have to conclude that Ferentz himself is responsible for these particular schemes. We’ve seen precious few sustained changes to the offensive scheme and right now Iowa’s offensive game-plan wouldn’t worry a high school staff, much less a D1 coaching staff. Iowa has five games remaining and will be battling up-hill with two injuries on the offensive line.
-1 Tried to fit a hide route into Davis on the short side who had an inside shaded hard corner with a linebacker waiting inside. He tried to throw a high bullet into the very narrow hole in the zone and the play had no chance. Iowa had the blitz picked up here and JVB could have looked elsewhere. PSU was in Cover 1 and KMM was matched up with an inexperienced safety running a skinny post. CJF was on check-release and would have been open for an easy first down if JVB doesn’t try to force this ball. D2 Play 3
+1 Makes the right read here and hits the sail route to KMM vs an over-matched safety. Ball was thrown a little deeper than KMM ran the route. Ball had enough air on it to let KMM adjust and make the grab. D3 Play 2
-1 Another poor choice here as he targets Davis on the short side of the field in tight coverage on 3rd and short again. Again he had KMM 1 on 1 vs a safety and he was wide open on a flat route to the wide side. Cotton was open as well on a shallow snag/sit route. D3 Play 5
-1 High and off target pass trying to hit KMM over the middle on the simple stop route. Looked like he threw this ball a touch early and too hard. KMM had plenty of separation and there was no need to try to throw a bullet this far off the the WRs frame. D4 Play 3
+1 Excellent ball on the fade to Davis along the side-line. Dropped the ball in the bucket for a big gain. D5 Play 5
-1 Missed the read here. Had 2 blitzers coming off the right edge and never even looked at the vacated area. The CB had squatted in the flat on KMM, with the safety floating over the top very late and Cotton was totally uncovered 8-10 yards down the field. JVB needs to be able to read the blitz and at least look to where the blitz comes from. D5 Play 9
-2 Steps up in the pocket to avoid pressure and just fumbled the football. He was raising his arm to either pump the ball or throw it and just squeezed it way too tight and ended up dropping it. D6 Play 2
-2 Threw the comeback right into LBs face. Stared down the route and never saw the LB dropping back after he didn’t bite on the play action fake. Can’t make this kind of mistake. D8 Play 1
-1 Telegraphed his intentions here before the snap. Tried to hit the flat route to KMM who had a LB sitting on the route. The LB had safety help over the top and he stepped right in front of the ball and dropped a pick 6. D9 Play 3
-1 Another missed read. KMM was wide open over the middle for a 1st down and it was there well before the blitz got home. The blitz vacated the middle zone and JVB either doesn’t see it, or doesn’t trust the read and eats the ball for a sack. PSU played in inverted C2 on the short side and regular C2 on the wide side. JVB may have been confused by the coverage but needed to just trust his eyes and hit KMM over the middle. D9 Play 5
-1 Back shoulder fade attempt is knocked down at the line. This simply can’t happen if you’re trying to throw a back shoulder fade. You’ve got to elevate this ball enough to clear hands on the interior. D10 Play 6
-1 Throws another back shoulder fade and it’s too far inside. Needs to get this ball back further outside away from the defender so Davis has a chance to bring this in. The CB got away with PI here but it may have been a make-up no call due to the gift they gave Iowa earlier. D10 Play 7
+1 Zeroed in on Cotton on the deep curl route here but waited for him to clear and put the ball right on the spot with zip to get it in the hole in the zone. D11 Play 2
+1 Nice job dodging pressure in the pocket here as a DE was running free at him. Scrambles for 9 yards on the play to keep the drive moving. D11 Play 3
-1 Was off balance on this throw and looked like his back foot was off the ground when he let this ball go. Looked very unsure of himself here. He had pressure around him and this ball fluttered out of his hand and was picked off to add an exclamation point to the day. D13 Play 5
|Short||3/8 28y||6/10 49y||5/9 50y 1TD 1INT||14/27 127y 1TD 1INT|
|Medium||1/2 18y||1/2 13||0/2 0y 0INT||2/6 31 1INTy|
|Deep||1/1 31y||0/0 0y||0/0 0y||0/1 0y|
|Sub-total||5/11 77y||7/12 62y||5/11 50y|
Overall: 17/36 189y 1TD 2INT