Janesville50.8°

OSU, Iowa battle for Rose Bowl

Print Print
Associated Press
November 11, 2009
— Ohio State tight end Jake Ballard was stunned when he was told that with a win against Iowa on Saturday, the Buckeyes are headed to the Rose Bowl.

Really?


Yep. Less than a month after losing to a Purdue team that had won just one of its first six games, the No. 10 Buckeyes find themselves needing only a win over the 15th-ranked Hawkeyes to start booking flights for Pasadena, Calif.


“No, I had no idea,” Ballard said, trying hard to not let his jaw hit the table in front of him.


To get back to the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 1996 season, Ohio State, a team that couldn’t seem to win a big game for three years, now must win two in the span of a little more than a week.


The Buckeyes handled then-No. 11 Penn State, 24-7, in Happy Valley on Saturday, the same day Iowa lost quarterback Ricky Stanzi and its first game at home against Northwestern, 17-10.


Those set the stage for a winner-take-all matchup at Ohio Stadium. The victor clinches a Rose Bowl berth vs. an opponent from the muddled Pac-10.


The Buckeyes (8-2, 5-1) have won three games in a row since that 26-18 loss at Purdue. The victory over Penn State ended a string of six losses in a row against higher-ranked teams.


Coach Jim Tressel said his players realize beating the Nittany Lions doesn’t mean much if they don’t follow up.


“They knew once the ball game was over that although that was awfully tough, what lies ahead is even tougher,” he said.


Now all that separates the Buckeyes from at least a share of a fifth consecutive conference title is an Iowa team (9-1, 5-1) that will be starting a redshirt freshman quarterback, James Vandenberg.


Stanzi went down in the second quarter with a sprained ankle. He had surgery and won’t play against Ohio State or Minnesota.


inIowa’


s the Hawkeyes’ regular-season finale against Minnesota.


Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said his team is regrouping after the loss. The Hawkeyes have won their last six on the road, including wins over Big Ten toughies Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan State and last year’s Outback Bowl game against South Carolina.


“It’s not our first road trip this year,” Ferentz said. “We’ve handled it. We haven’t let it be a distraction. From that standpoint I think that’s certainly a positive. But I don’t know if it’s going to be enough for us. We’re going to have to do everything right to win this football game.”


Tressel knows that there’s no margin for error despite the changing fortunes of the two teams.


“It’s pretty hard to be more nervous than I am normally,” he said. “It is harder to handle success, it’s just the truth, but I’m probably most concerned with the fact that I know how good Iowa is.”


An Ohio State win would make the annual rivalry game at Michigan relatively insignificant. If the Buckeyes were to beat Iowa, they would win any tiebreaker with their three closest pursuers (Iowa, Penn State and Wisconsin). The only things on the line might be an outright Big Ten title, not to mention the pride that comes with knocking off your archrival.


The Buckeyes are well aware of the enormity of the Iowa game.


“After it’s all said and done, people looking back on this season will say that Penn State and Iowa were turning points of that season,” Ballard said, finally catching on to what was at stake. “And the Buckeyes really came together.”


BC-FBC—T25-Iowa-Vandenberg, 1st Ld-Writethru,0636


Iowa frosh QB Vandenberg set for 1st career start


Eds: RECASTS 10th graf to remove reference to 12 state records.


By LUKE MEREDITH


AP Sports Writer


IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg walked into a sporting goods store to shop for a birthday present on Saturday, just hours after the Hawkeyes’ perfect season ended with a 17-10 loss to Northwestern.


As Vandenberg was trying on some hunting waders, someone asked him if he had been at Kinnick Stadium for the game. The relatively unknown redshirt freshman who had seen his first extended action against the Wildcats played along.


“He said ’Did it look as rough in person as it did on TV?’ And I said, ’You have no idea,”’ Vandenberg said.


Vandenberg won’t have to worry about going unrecognized much longer: He is No. 15 Iowa’s starting quarterback now that junior Ricky Stanzi has had surgery to repair a severely sprained right ankle.


Stanzi injured the ankle in the second quarter of the Northwestern game last weekend and did not return. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Stanzi is “very doubtful” for Iowa’s final two regular season games, though he’s optimistic Stanzi will be back for the bowl game.


Vandenberg, who was 9-of-27 passing for 82 yards and a costly interception against Northwestern, will make his first career start for the Hawkeyes (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten) at No. 10 Ohio State (8-2, 5-1) on Saturday.


No pressure. Just perhaps a trip to the Rose Bowl on the line.


“It’s going to exciting,” Vandenberg said. “It’s kind of what you dream about all growing up, being in a situation like this. And here it is.”


Vandenberg was certainly well known — in eastern Iowa, at least — during a prolific high school career.


Vandenberg, a 6-foot-3, 205-pounder from Keokuk, was arguably the most prolific passer in Iowa prep history, throwing for 7,709 career yards, 93 career touchdowns and 49 touchdown passes as a senior, when he was picked off just seven times in 372 attempts. Though he said Nebraska offered him a scholarship, Vandenberg jumped at the chance to sign with the Hawkeyes shortly after he led his team to a state title.


It didn’t take long for Vandenberg to realize he wasn’t in Keokuk anymore.


His first pass against the Wildcats was thrown straight to linebacker Quentin Davie, whose interception set up what turned out to be the go-ahead touchdown. Vandenberg, who had thrown just three career passes before being thrust into the role of helping keep Iowa’s unbeaten season alive, struggled the rest of the way.


Ferentz said he has “total confidence” in Vandenberg, who had previously beaten out fellow redshirt freshman John Wienke for the backup job. Ferentz said Vandenberg’s misfires against the Wildcats were due more to inexperience rather than lack of knowledge about the offense.


“The guy’s a good quarterback. He throws the ball well,” Ferentz said. “The biggest issue now is getting him experience, getting him caught up to speed and bringing him along.”


Though Iowa will likely tweak its game plan to play to Vandenberg’s strengths, the Buckeyes aren’t expecting the Hawkeyes to do much different with Vandenberg.


“They’re still going to be who they are,” Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. “That’s what, in our estimation, has made Iowa such a solid program, is that they know what they believe in, they know what they teach. Their young people do a good job of learning what they teach.”


The Hawkeyes know their young quarterback has a major challenge in front of him Saturday.


“You couldn’t ask for a tougher starting contest for him,” Ferentz said. “He’ll be prepared. I’m not going to measure him over the next 60 minutes of play. He’ll continue to improve. He’s a quality football player, and he works hard.”



Print Print