Somewhat salty vet Vandenberg readies for the road

Marc Morehouse
Published: September 8 2011 | 12:01 am - Updated: 2 April 2014 | 10:56 pm in
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IOWA CITY -- You have to count James Vandenberg at Ohio State in 2009 as his first road start, because, you know, it was. So, Saturday's game at Iowa State will be been there, done that.

Sure, yeah. Whatever with that. It's just Vandenberg's first road start as Iowa's undisputed No. 1 quarterback. It's just the Iowa State-Iowa rivalry, at Jack Trice Stadium, with somewhere near 60,000 fans who want nothing more than to see him fail and fail miserably.

It's officially and technically his second road start for the Hawkeyes (1-0), but it's still a doozy,

"It's rowdy," Vandenberg said. "It's a different kind of crowd. There's a lot of hostility, I remember that from going up there two years ago."

Both Vandenberg's first road starts (let's go with 1A and 1B) carry heavy, but different weight.

In 2009, after Ricky Stanzi suffered a high-ankle sprain against Northwestern, Iowa traveled to Columbus for a Big Ten championship showdown with the Buckeyes. Iowa went in ranked No. 15; Ohio State was No. 10. A trip to the Rose Bowl, which would've been Iowa's first since 1990, was on the line.

Vandenberg completed 20 of 33 for 233 yards, three interceptions and two TDs, pushing the Buckeyes to overtime before falling 27-24.

Saturday, Vandenberg will try to guide a young Iowa offense to Iowa's fourth straight win over the Cyclones (1-0). No Rose Bowl or any bowl on the line, but as far as setting the course for the season, the game means a lot to both sidelines. Plus, there's whatever the Cy-Hawk Trophy turns out to be.

Vandenberg believes both stadiums -- Ohio Stadium and Trice -- come with different kinds of energy. Neither are particularly conducive to the road team, but he said Iowa State might have Ohio State beat on that front.

"From a hostility standpoint and the tension in the air, yeah, I think it is [Trice more hostile than the Horseshoe]," said Vandenberg, who is 2-1 as Iowa's starting quarterback. "Ohio State is huge and extremely loud, but you don't have that total rivalry factor that you have here.

"It's something I know both teams enjoy and makes the situation even cooler."

No, this isn't Vandenberg's first road start, but it is his first road start in 15 games and 22 months. So, road start 1B.

Just for comparison sake and nothing more, in the Kirk Ferentz era, Iowa QBs are 3-8 in their first road starts. They've completed 171 of 292 (58 percent) for 1,960 yards with 12 interceptions and 10 TD passes. In those 11 starts, Iowa QBs have been sacked 27 times.

In '00, Jon Beutjer completed 30 of 47 for 380 yards in a loss at Indiana. In '02, Brad Banks completed 18 of 27 for 256 yards and a TD as he outdueled Ben Roethlisberger, 29-24, at Miami (Ohio).

The three Iowa QBs with wins in their road debuts are Banks, Nathan Chandler (Iowa State '03) and Jason Manson, who stepped in for an injured Drew Tate in '06 and guided Iowa to a double-overtime win at Syracuse despite four interceptions.

Ferentz said the environments at ISU and OSU are similar, with Jack Trice rivaling the 'Shoe for volume. He loved how Vandenberg reacted in '09 and believes the junior is the least of his worries going into Saturday.

"I'm not as worried about him as the other 10 guys that we've got, not knowing who some of those might be," Ferentz said.

(No insight was offered into that overtly cryptic statement.)

And then, Ferentz dialed up the wary coach-speak in regard to Vandenberg, who completed 2 of 3 for 38 yards in mop-up duty for Iowa in a 2009 35-3 win at Trice.

"It's not like we've really accomplished anything yet," said Ferentz, who is 2-4 at ISU. "This team right now, we're really young. They've got a young quarterback. But we don't have John Elway back there. Our guy hasn't played. He's started three games so far, I think. So, we're pretty young in that position too. It's going to be an interesting challenge."

So no, not Vandenberg's first road start, but close enough for his head coach to spit out that sentence. And Ferentz is right, it will be the first road start for a lot of Hawkeyes. Including punter Eric Guthrie, Saturday will be the first road start for 11 in this week's two deeps. If you take it a step farther to first start at Iowa State, you'd throw in veterans like center James Ferentz, right tackle Markus Zusevics and cornerback Shaun Prater, who was suspended for the '09 game.

So, that noise you'll be hearing from the Iowa practice fields this week will be "simulated noise." "Kind of like a big concert during our practice," Vandenberg said.

"I was lucky enough to have that experience a few years ago in a hostile environment and kind of on a big stage," Vandenberg said. "I don't think it's something that ever gets easy, but you kind of get used to it."

Vandenberg can say that. This is been there, done that for him.

(I know this doesn't have anything to do with James Vandenberg and Saturday, but I thought you still might find it interesting.)

1999 -- *Kyle McCann (@ Iowa State) 9 of 17 for 168 yards 0 INTs, 0 TDs, 3 sacks (17-10 loss); *Randy Reiners (@ Michigan State) 9 of 17 for 100 yards 0 INTs, 0 TDs, five sacks (49-3 loss); *Scott Mullen (@ Ohio State) 29 of 45 for 283 yards, 3 INTs, 1 TD, one sack (41-11 loss).

* -- These were their first road starts with Ferentz as coach. McCann went 18 of 36 for 274 yards and two picks at Arizona in '98. Reiners made his first road start in '97 at Northwestern, completing 4 of 10 for 71 yards. Mullen made his first career road start at Wisconsin in '97 (1 of 5 for 10 yards with a pick).

2000 -- Jon Buetjer (@ Indiana) 30 of 47 for 380 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs, four sacks (45-33 loss)

2002 -- Brad Banks (@ Miami-Ohio) 18 of 27 for 256, 1 TD, 0 INT (29-24 victory over Ben Roethlisberger)

2003 -- Nathan Chandler (@ Iowa State) 7 of 14 for 72 yards, 0 INTs, o TDs (40-21 Iowa victory)

2004 -- Drew Tate (@ Arizona State) 8 of 19 for 44 yards, 1 INT, 0 TDs, four sacks (44-7 Iowa loss)

2006 -- Jason Manson (@ Syracuse) 14 of 28 for 178 yards, 4 INT, 1 TD, two sacks (20-13 double-OT win)

2007 -- Jake Christensen (@ Iowa State) 12 of 23 for 118 yards, 0 INT, 0 TD, four sacks (15-13 ISU victory)

2008 -- Ricky Stanzi (@ Michigan State) 15 of 22 for 158 yards, 1 INT, 1 TD, three sacks (16-13 Iowa loss)

2009 -- James Vandenberg (@ Ohio State) 20 of 33 for 233 yards, 3 INT, 2 TDs, 1 sack (27-24 overtime loss)

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