Matt VandeBerg's signature plays draw Cy-Hawk spotlight
AMES, Ia. — There once was a time when Matt VandeBerg just wanted to get noticed.
Saturday, it was hard to miss him.
The junior receiver from South Dakota, who used to attend football camps in hopes of drawing the attention of college coaches, was Iowa's go-to guy in a 31-17 win over Iowa State.
"I'm just doing my best," said VandeBerg, who joined the Hawkeyes as a grayshirt recruit. "If my number is called, I've got to make the play."
VandeBerg finished with nine catches for 114 yards, producing two signature plays in Iowa's second-half comeback.
The first came when tight end Henry Krieger Coble caught a pass from quarterback C.J. Beathard and rumbled 29 yards toward the goal line.
Krieger Coble fumbled after being hit, but VandeBerg scooped up the ball near the 3-yard line and leaped into the end zone for a touchdown.
The score was tied 17-all, with 10:05 left in the third quarter.
"It was just a huge play by Matt," Krieger Coble said. "It was him hustling and him even having the key block on that play in the open field.
"It wasn't luck, because he works hard and was in the right place at the right time."
VandeBerg smiled when he talked about soaring over the goal line.
"That might have been the slowest jump I've ever done," VandeBerg said. "All that matters is it was a touchdown."
The next pivotal play by VandeBerg came on Iowa's first series of the fourth quarter.
The Hawkeyes were facing a third-and-21 from their own 6-yard line when Beathard dropped back to pass. He threw a strike to VandeBerg, netting 48 yards to the Iowa State 46-yard line.
"We got a look like that earlier in the game and I wasn't able to do what I needed to do," VandeBerg said of the Cyclones' man coverage. "This time, I knew what I needed to do to get around the defender."
Iowa failed to score on that drive because of a fumble, but field position flipped in the Hawkeyes' favor.
"We got ourselves out of a bad situation," VandeBerg said. "And then, we were able to come back and put it away."
VandeBerg is Iowa's leading receiver through two games, with 15 catches for 173 yards (an average of 11.5 per grab).
He's also given defensive backs someone else to think about besides Tevaun Smith.
"Tevaun being as good as he is, I think he gets a lot of the attention," VandeBerg said. "Which means I have to win my one-on-one matchups."
As the Hawkeyes move on, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound VandeBerg should continue to grow into his role.
"He's done nothing but get better," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "Fortunately, he's getting a little bigger, too.
"He's not 140 pounds anymore."