Window of Opportunity Slams Shut on Hawkeyes

By Marc Morehouse, Reporter

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By Grant Burkhardt

IOWA CITY — When a game ends at Kinnick Stadium, the assistant coaches take the elevator down to the field and hop on a triple-sized golf cart.

Iowa State’s coaches were greeted to the ISU band playing a victory tune and took what amounted to a victory lap, with Cyclones fans lining the lower few bleachers of Kinnick from the north end zone to the Iowa State tunnel.

The game was horrible, great and in the end it was Jake Knott going legend, leaping in the air to pick off Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg with 1:11 left and seal the Cyclones’ 9-6 victory before 70,585 fans. It was the fewest points scored in the rivalry since 1988 and the second straight victory for the Cyclones (2-0).

Still, it looked pretty great to the ISU fans who turned Kinnick into a mini-VIESHA in the postgame.

Meanwhile, Vandenberg stood in front of the state media and took on all comers. He’s a fifth-year senior. He knew what was coming. And it came.

In a yellow oxford and a dark tie, Vandenberg took question after question after question. He was one of the last ones to leave the interview room.

“It was a dumb decision by me,” said Vandenberg, who it three straight passes to convert a fourth down and move Iowa to ISU’s 32. “It was a ball that can’t be thrown. I moved it all the way down there. We’re right on that line of kicking the field goal . . . It’s a ball that can’t be thrown.

“There was an opportunity for the ball to get there. It was really close. The guy made a good play.”

Good is one thing. Legendary is another. That’s exactly where ISU coach Paul Rhoads went with this.

“These are the games legends are made in,” Rhoads said. “. . . You do not make better plays in this game.”

Vandenberg tried to fit the ball to tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, who ran a dig route and settled between the linebackers and safeties. He was open. Knott climbed the ladder and tipped the ball with his right hand and cradled it when it came down.

ISU safety Jacques Washington closed hard on Fiedorowicz, but there was a window for a play. Knott slammed it shut and brought down the house.

“He just happened to get one finger on it and popped it straight up and right to himself,” Fiedorowicz said. “We were running that route all day and it was open all day. He just made a good play.”

Good, legendary. Great, horrible. Depends on your point of view.

“Who knows how high he was in the air or what the level of the ball was when he made the play,” Rhoads said, “but to do that after 59 minutes of football with our backs to the wall . . .”

Two weeks in and the Hawkeyes (1-1) are in rinse, repeat mode. The offense is fitful at best, constipated at worst. The passing game is a grunt, with eight drops short circuiting flow Saturday. Running back Damon Bullock clicked for 150 yards on 30 carries last week. This week, the Hawkeyes rushed for 68 yards on 28 carries, 2.4 yards per carry.

Drops come with subjectivity, but Vandenberg did hit receiver Don Shumpert between the numbers for what would’ve been a first down in ISU territory with 2:46 left.

“As a receiver, I’m going to blame it [drops] on us,” senior Keenan Davis said. “We’ve got to catch everything. We’ve got to make our plays and do our jobs.”

Kicker Mike Meyer made field goals of 23 and 21 yards. Iowa had a TD pass from Vandenberg to Davis taken off the board after review late in the third quarter. Still, Iowa had first-and-goal from ISU’s 3-yard line and settled for a field goal to pull within 9-6.

On second down, ISU linebacker Jeremiah George sliced through Iowa blocking to cut down Bullock, who 53 yards on 22 carries, for a 1-yard loss. On third down, a play fake fooled no one and Vandenberg scrambled to hit fullback Mark Weisman on the goal line. He bobbled it and it fell incomplete.

“I think we’re all going to see the film tomorrow and know that there are a lot of things all 11 guys can clean up,” said Vandenberg, who finished 20 of 42 for 236 yards and two interceptions. “It’s going to take a unit effort to get this thing going.”

Vandenberg feels the angst from the outside. He knows you’re not happy. He’ll be Iowa’s starting QB next week against Northern Iowa.

“It’s a process, it’s all part of the job,” said Vandenberg, who’s still looking for his first TD pass of the season. “I take as much responsibility as anyone else. We have to do a better job as a whole, moving the ball and putting points on the board.

“That definitely starts with me.”

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