IOWA CITY, Iowa–The 14th ranked Wisconsin Badgers traveled to Kinnick Stadium Saturday to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes, not only for the rights to the Heartland Trophy, but also for a shot to represent the Big Ten West in Indianapolis at the Big Ten title game. Although Iowa outscored Wisconsin 21 to 10 in the second half, the Hawkeyes fell short, losing 26-24. With a victory over rival Minnesota next week, Wisconsin will clinch the Big Ten West Title.
The biggest difference in this game was the play of Melvin Gordon, the dynamic Badger back who rushed for 200 yards and two touchdowns. Iowa doesn’t have Gordon.
However, they do have Matt VandeBerg, a 6’1 sophomore receiver from Brandon, South Dakota. VandeBerg, who wasn’t recruited heavily, was offered a grey shirt at Iowa, meaning he wouldn’t be apart of the program until the spring semester of his freshman year.
Four days before camp started, VandeBerg got the call from the Iowa coaching staff saying he earned an immediate spot on the roster. Since then, VandeBerg has made a name for himself at Iowa for his big time catches in key situations. He snagged 67 yards on three catches today for the Hawkeyes. Two of those catches were critical 3rd down conversions that extended Iowa drives when the Hawkeyes were in danger zone. 39 of his 67 receiving yards came on 3rd downs.
VandeBerg basically came out of nowhere making plays for the Hawkeyes, but his teammates aren’t surprised. “He made some big time plays for us today,” senior wide receiver Keveonte Martin-Manley said. “But it all starts in practice, he goes hard week in and week out and when his number is called, he’s ready to make plays for us.”
Since coming to Iowa, VandeBerg and starting quarterback Jake Rudock have developed a great chemistry, which is a key component to VandeBerg’s success. “I know where he’s going to be every single time,” Rudock said. “He knows what I’m thinking and where I’m going to put the ball. He’s so consistent.”
With VandeBerg still only a sophomore, Hawkeye fans will see a lot more of him down the road, and he’s only going to get better. “He’s got incredible speed and great hands,” junior tight end Jake Duzey said. “He’s always on top of the game, he’s a great player who’s always focused and will continue to get better and better.”