Player Spotlight: James Vandenburg

Story posted October 7, 2011 in Sports, CommRadio by Justin Rocke

Since 2002, Penn State has only defeated Iowa one time, a 27-7 victory at Beaver Stadium back in 2006.

Quarterbacks Brad Banks, Nathan Chandler, Drew Tate and Ricky Stanzi have all taken their turns in beating up on the Nittany Lions and James Vandenburg is looking to add his name to that list this weekend.

Vanderberg, a junior from Keokuk, Iowa, has big shoes to fill as he has taken over the role of starter from Ricky Stanzi.

Stanzi, a sixth-round pick by the Kansas City Chiefs in this past April’s NFL Draft, was a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien and Maxwell awards a year ago and led the Hawkeyes to their first ever BCS bowl victory over Georgia Tech in 2010.

Vandenberg has been charged with taking over for a man widely regarded as one of the top quarterbacks in the nation, clearly no easy task.

Luckily for the 21-year old, this is not his first time seeing game action at the college level. As a freshman in 2009, Vandenberg took over for an injured Stanzi to mixed results.

Vandenberg had his ups and downs on the field as a redshirt freshman. In four games, Vandenberg completed just 48 percent of his passes and threw just two touchdowns to five interceptions.

His best performance came in a mid-November game at then 11th ranked Ohio State, throwing for 233 yards and two touchdowns. However, the inexperienced freshman also threw three interceptions and the Buckeyes ended up clinching a Rose Bowl berth with a 27-24 overtime victory.

With Stanzi healthy for his senior campaign, Vandenberg did not see the field much last season. As a sophomore, Vandenberg only saw action in three games and none of them came after the opening month of September.

As we are now into the second month of the college football season, it looks as if a full year on the bench behind a quality starter in Stanzi did Vandenberg a whole lot of good.

Despite a disappointing week two loss on the road against in-state rival Iowa State, the Hawkeyes have looked impressive, in large part due to strong performances by their 6-foot 3-inch junior.

Vandenberg enters this weekend’s battle in Happy Valley with some eye-popping statistics. Through Iowa’s first four games of the 2011 season, Vandenberg has thrown for 1,095 yards, completed just under 63 percent of his passes, and has thrown ten touchdowns to just one interception, a far cry from the numbers he put up in four games as a freshman.

However, despite all the impressive statistics what is most remarkable about Vandenberg’s hot start to the season is his performance against Pittsburgh on September 17th.

Trailing by 21 points in the third quarter, Vandenberg led the biggest comeback in school history, leading the Hawkeyes to a come-from-behind 31-27 victory. Not only was the comeback shocking, so was Vandenberg’s numbers. The junior threw for a career high 399 yards, competed 31 passes and threw for three touchdowns.

Yet as good as Vandenberg has been on the field, he is equally as talented off it. Vandenberg has been named to the Iowa Leadership Group twice, was named an academic all-Big Ten in 2009, is a member of the National Honor Society, and was named to the Principal’s Honor Roll 16 times. All these accolades prove that Vandenberg is not only a quality athlete, but a quality person and student as well.

Vandenberg will have no easy task of dealing with an extremely tough Penn State secondary this weekend. The Nittany Lions enter this weekend with the number two pass defense in the Big Ten, intercepting six passes and allowing just three touchdowns.

However, if Vandenberg has learned as much as it looks he has from his predecessors the Hawkeye passing attack could cause fits for Penn State’s talented defensive backs on Saturday afternoon.


Justin Rocke is a sophomore majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email him at