Vandenberg vs. the blitz

Published: November 4 2011 | 12:01 am - Updated: 3 April 2014 | 3:42 am in
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IOWA CITY -- An offense is like a circuit box. If one fuse blows, the lights go out. So, you can't pin sacks on just the quarterback.

The sack stat that follows Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg certainly isn't all on him. The junior has taken 23 sacks in 15 career games, including three in last Saturday's loss at Minnesota.

The circumstances tell some of the story.

When Vandenberg jumped into the lineup as a sophomore in place of Ricky Stanzi in '09, it was against desperate Northwestern, powerful Ohio State and powerfully desperate Minnesota. There were going to be sacks.

In Iowa's three losses, Vandenberg has been sacked nine times. Two of the three sacks Saturday came from breakdowns on the line of scrimmage.

There was one, however, that Vandenberg wants back.

A corner blitz killed the Hawkeyes. Minnesota corner Kyle Henderson came off the edge and put a helmet in the middle of Vandenberg's back on a third-and-4 from Minnesota's 14. Vandenberg fumbled, Minnesota recovered and eventually turned it in to a field goal.

It was Minnesota's first takeaway in six weeks and first fumble recovery since the season opener.

"It starts with recognizing it and knowing what's going on, getting a protection switch or getting a quicker throw out," said Vandenberg, who's been sacked 17 times this season. "I don't know if that [sack and fumble] would happen if we did it 100 more times, but it happened and that was a big play in the game. It's something we have to learn from and move forward."

Vandenberg wanted to roll out, but pressure forced him to stop moving his feet. He rolled to his right, so he could only see one side of the field. Henderson came from his blindside.

"This wasn't a set drop back, it was a rollout the other way," said Vandenberg, who's also beaten his share of blitzes this season. "I kind of had to pull up. When you stop on a rollout, you're going to have problems."

Minnesota kept the pressure on during Iowa's last-gasp drive with about 2 1/2 minutes left in the game, bringing blitzes all three plays with Vandenberg eventually running for his life on fourth-and-15. He gained 9 yards and the Hawkeyes' day was over.

The blitz was a major factor in the game. Iowa needs to figure it out and fast. Michigan is very creative in when and where it uses the blitz.

"We spend a lot of time in spring and in camp working blitzes, that's something we do an awful lot," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "There's a lot involved and it takes all 11 guys on the same page to be successful. . . . You have to have the right reaction on the blitz, and if you do, you have a chance for a good play."

Michigan coaxed defensive coordinator Greg Mattison away from the Baltimore Ravens with a $750,000 deal. Coming from the Ravens, you know Mattison, father of former Hawkeye D-lineman Bryan Mattison, has plenty of moves on his clipboard.

"They seem to have a different package, it seems, for every opponent that they play," Ferentz said. "We're working on the stuff that we've seen, common themes, maybe, but we know they're going to give us a wrinkle on Saturday."

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