ANN ARBOR, Mich. — It wasn’t by design. Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz enjoyed the biggest game of his college career Saturday simply because things worked out that way.
Quarterback James Vandenberg connected with the 6-foot-7, 265-pound junior eight times for gains covering 99 yards in the Hawkeyes’ 42-17 loss at Michigan.
“That wasn’t the plan, to throw that much to C.J., it was just how the game went,” Vandenberg said. “They pressured a lot and that led to some quick throws that went C.J.’s way and to the tight ends. Those guys were winning some of the 1-on-1 matchups, and that tends to lead to more balls coming their way.”
Ten of the 11 passes Vandenberg completed in the first half against the Wolverines went to tight ends, including a 16-yard pass that Henry Krieger-Coble caught for a game-tying touchdown with 1 minute, 44 seconds left in the opening quarter.
Fiedorowicz said he saw no difference in preparation in the days leading up to the game.
“Practice was normal. I didn’t get any more or any less work that I usually do,” he said. “It just sort of happened.”
Iowa hit its tight ends more in a vertical seam than it had earlier in the season, allowing Fiedorowicz to use his strength for solid gains after the catch.
“We’ve run that play a lot this season, but we usually run it with the receivers,” Fiedorowicz said. “It seemed to work for us. The tight ends were able to make some plays.”
No wide receiver caught a pass for Iowa until Kevonte Martin-Manley gained five yards in a 4th-and-6 situation with 8:11 left in the game.
“They guarded the heck out of us,” Vandenberg said. “They didn’t give the receivers much of a chance and a lot of that is on the (Michigan) defense. They covered them well.”
The Wolverines entered the game with the nation’s top-ranked pass defense, allowing 149.2 yards per game through the air, and Vandenberg became the 11th quarterback this season to fail to reach 200 passing yards against Michigan.
He totaled 181 yards, helped by the work of a tight end who left Michigan Stadium with bittersweet feelings.
“It feels good to contribute, but we lost again. I can’t feel good about that,” Fiedorowicz said. “It was another tough loss.”