It may have took the entire 1st half, but the Iowa offensive line finally did what it was supposed to. Pitt decided early on that it was going to blitz, and it showed. If Iowa’s traditional 2 tight end, quarterback under center offense looked a little out of sync, it’s because it was. Todd Graham and the Panther defense made it known early that they wanted to pressure Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg, and they succeeded, at least for part of the game.
If you thought that Pitt decided to stop blitzing up 24-3, you are wrong. Iowa’s offensive line, headed by tackles Riley Reiff and Markus Zusevics, did an excellent job picking up blitzes and giving the junior quarterback plenty of time to mount a comeback.
Rieff, a projected 1st round pick in the 2012 NFL draft, has the most starting experience on a unit that is supposed to be Iowa’s best. James Ferentz and Zusevics started last season alongside Reiff while guard Matt Tobin and Adam Gettis own starting experience as well. Not only was the unit projected to be one of the best in the Big Ten, it was supposed to be one of the top lines in the nation.
Well they proved their worth on Saturday. The did an excellent job protecting Vandenberg and making it look like Pittsburgh was dropping 8. what may go under the radar is the fact that starting running back Marcus Coker did a great job in pass protection, something many were weary of. Iowa’s starting running backs in recent years, Shonn Greene and Adam Robinson, were sometimes liabilities in the protection game, so the performance Coker showed in the passing game is encouraging.
Vandenberg showed what he can do on Saturday in the final 18 minutes if given time. The Big Ten will stack better pass rushers than Tennessee Tech, Iowa State, and Pittsburgh have, but the play and the in-game growth this offensive line has shown in pass protection has fans and coaches feeling good.