AMES, Iowa – Iowa junior receiver Matt VandeBerg has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
Just ask the defensive players for Iowa State.
VandeBerg burned the Cyclones on Saturday by having a career-best performance. He finished with a career-high nine catches for a career-high 114 yards and one touchdown.
His touchdown came when VandeBerg recovered a fumble by tight end Henry Kreiger Coble near the Iowa State end zone. VandeBerg grabbed the ball and then dove into the end zone for a touchdown from three yards out with 10 minutes, 5 seconds left in the third quarter.
Marshall Koehn converted the extra-point kick to even the score at 17-17.
“I’ve gotten a lot more confidence,” said VandeBerg, who is from Brandon, S.D. “When coaches put you on the field, you know they have confidence in you to make plays.
“And I think that’s the biggest thing. Confidence can change your game.”
Iowa was faced with a 3rd-and-21 on its own 6-yard line when quarterback C.J. Beathard connected with VandeBerg for a 48-yard pass early in the fourth quarter. The drive ended with Iowa running back Jordan Canzeri losing a fumble deep inside Iowa State territory.
However, the deep pass to VandeBerg showed a dimension that was missing from Iowa’s passing attack last season.
“That was a big play,” Beathard said. “Backed up like that, that’s a tough get.
“But Matt did a good job and the line gave me good protection and we were able to convert.”
VandeBerg signed with Iowa as a gray-shirt prospect, but he was given a scholarship when he arrived on campus in 2013.
“He’s a good player,” said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. “In our inherent wisdom we were going to gray shirt him and he ended up playing as a true freshman. And he’s done nothing but get better.”
In addition to getting better, VandeBerg also has gained some weight since becoming a Hawkeye. He is listed at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds in the Iowa media guide.
“Fortunately, he’s gotten a little bigger, too, he’s not 140 pounds anymore,” Ferentz said jokingly. “But he’s a gritty guy.”