COLUMBUS, Ohio - Everyone was worried about the fresh-faced kid playing quarterback. Maybe they should have been more concerned about Iowa's rushing defense. Or the hands of one of its senior receivers. Or the gumption of the head coach.
All of the above contributed to Iowa coming up just short in its quest to book a trip to the Rose Bowl on Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
But the Hawkeyes' 27-24 overtime loss to Ohio State certainly wasn't because of any shortcomings on the part of quarterback James Vandenberg, who served notice in his first career start that the Hawkeyes have more than one quality quarterback on their roster.
All those fears about what the Hawkeyes would do without Ricky Stanzi were buried in the first quarter when the Keokuk kid completed seven of his first eight passes.
Vandenberg finished with 20 completions in 33 attempts for 233 yards and two touchdowns and he had at least five of his passes dropped, including two in or near the end zone by senior Trey Stross.
But when it appeared he had one last chance to produce one more bit of heroics, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz seemingly lost faith in his team's season-long ability to make magic.
With about a minute to go and the score tied at 24-24, the Hawkeyes forced Ohio State to punt and the kick trickled out of bounds at the Iowa 33-yard line with 52 seconds showing on the clock.
The Hawkeyes had all the momentum on their side. They had the Buckeyes reeling. They had a timeout. They were going away from the vaunted horse-shoe end of Ohio Stadium.
Forty yards or so and they had a shot at a game-winning field goal.
Instead, they ran a routine running play that went for no gain, then had Vandenberg kneel down to run out the clock.
"At that point we were hoping for a punt shank or a good return," Ferentz said. "Or if we had popped that first play, we would have kicked it into gear."
Ferentz made it clear he was worried his offense might lose the game at that point rather than moving down the field to win it.
"I've done enough stupid things this year," he said. "I thought ‘Why do something stupid at that point?' "
But what he did wasn't all that bright. It pretty much killed the momentum that the Hawkeyes had and opened the door for Ohio State to win the game. Like the championship team they are, they gladly took it.
It felt as though Ferentz had the big one on the hook and he let it get away.
He said his conservative decision wasn't a reflection on how much faith he had in Vandenberg.
"It didn't matter who we had in there," he said. "If we'd had Joe Namath, I would have done the same thing."
For much of the day, Vandenberg almost looked like a budding Namath as he amazed just about everyone - except maybe himself - with his composure and his accuracy.
"He did a remarkable job," defensive end Adrian Clayborn.
Receivers Marvin McNutt and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos marveled at how calm Vandenberg was in the face of a very hostile crowd.
"I'm not that surprised," Ferentz said. "We've watched James in practice, watched him perform. He got his feet wet last week (in a 17-10 loss to Northwestern). I guess I thought he handled the environment better than I thought he would. The whole team did."
Vandenberg wasn't surprised at all.
"I knew I was going to do better than last week," he said.