By John Thompson
This Saturday, the 3-1 Iowa Hawkeyes come off of a bye week and travel to the Happy Valley to kick off Big Ten play against the 4-1 Penn State Nittany Lions. Head Coach Kirk Ferentz owns a 6-2 all-time record against Penn State and legendary head coach Joe Paterno. With a new look offense led by one of the top quarterbacks in the country, the Hawks hope to improve to 4-1 this season, and 9-1 lifetime against Paterno’s Nittany Lions.
Iowa’s fast start to the season was highlighted by a thrilling 21-point comeback win against Pittsburgh in week three. Traditionally, Ferentz and Offensive Coordinator Ken O’Keefe used the run to set up the pass. Against Pitt, the biggest comeback in Iowa history happened while running the spread offense and utilizing a “no-huddle” tempo. There was no indication that the Hawks offensive innovations would continue. In the past, Ferentz and O’Keefe have shown very little evidence to think that Iowa would use the spread formation and no-huddle offense. Following the Pitt game, The Daily Iowan, a campus newspaper, ran a cover story detailing Ferentz’s and O’Keefe’s long-time use of the pro-style offense.
The next weekend against Louisiana-Monroe, Iowa surprisingly went to the spread on the opening drive and marched down the field for a quick score. The Hawks then went to the no-huddle early in the game and not out of necessity. Given the success the Hawks have had the past few games running the spread, many fans are rooting for the new developments in the offense to continue into Big Ten play.
“I like it when we pass the ball because I feel like we get somewhere,” junior nursing major Eileen Mulholland says. “In years past we normally run the ball on first and second down, and throw the ball on third when we need to get a first down.”
Junior Quarterback James Vandenberg, a first-year starter, has emerged as one of the leading quarterbacks in the Big Ten. The new wrinkles in the offense mean that Big Ten teams will not be able to load the box hoping to stop Running Back Marcus Coker on every down. Vandenberg and his trio of talented receivers, Marvin McNutt, Keenan Davis, and redshirt freshmen Kevonte Martin-Manley, are eager to take advantage and stretch the field.
While the Hawkeyes won’t abandon the pro-style offense , it is very encouraging to see the Hawkeyes using different looks throughout the game, especially with the results we have had the past two games.