Ott lives in Redbird backfield
IOWA CITY, Ia. — The only person who could stop Drew Ott Saturday was, well, Drew Ott.
He whacked himself in the nose with his own helmet after the first series of the second half, and the blood started pouring.
"And it just wouldn't stop," said Iowa's senior right defensive end, who turned in a dominating performance in the Hawkeyes' 31-14 victory over Illinois State at Kinnick Stadium.
Ott sat for a couple of series, trying to stop the bleeding. By then, Iowa and No. 95 had already delivered the knockout punch.
"I don't know what his number was," Illinois State quarterback Tre Roberson said.
Ott had two sacks and forced a fumble in the first half, and he made life miserable for Roberson, left tackle Dan Pawlak and anyone else who got in his way.
"A handful," Illinois State coach Brock Spack said. "I don't know what else you can say. We tried to use a tight end. We tried to chip him with a running back, all kinds of things to slow him down a little bit."
Pawlak, a junior making his first career start, got schooled.
"Drew Ott gave our left tackle a little lesson in playing major college football," Spack said.
Ott's play was so impressive that after a change of downs in the second half, the Kinnick Stadium crowd chanted his name as he left the field.
That crowd also cheered a fake field goal in the first half, even though it was unsuccessful. And they saw coach Kirk Ferentz throw caution to the wind late in the first half. After Nathan Bazata blocked an Illinois State field-goal attempt — with his facemask, of all things — Iowa took over at its own 33 with 37 seconds to play in the half.
Kneel down and take a 14-0 lead to the locker room? How about a 51-yard screen pass to Jordan Canzeri that led to a field goal and a 17-0 advantage? That sequence sucked any remaining energy out of the Redbirds.
Iowa also dusted off a former favorite, the shovel pass. Linebacker play was an upgrade from last season. LeShun Daniels rushed for 123 yards, and the Hawkeyes averaged 4.8 yards a carry. The offensive line — new tackles Boone Myers and Ike Boettger, in particular — was another positive sign.
And C.J. Beathard didn't flinch as the starting quarterback. All the talk about a new vibe, a refreshed focus, went from words to action on Saturday.
"C.J.'s leadership has been visible," Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said. "You can see people rally around him. Now, we have 12 games. This is one. But there's a good feel right now."
We'll see if the good times continue to roll on the road at Iowa State. But there were a lot of smiles inside Kinnick Stadium on Saturday. Myers might have had the biggest one.
He's heard people doubt him since Ott had his way with him in a public scrimmage August 15. If anyone could relate to Pawlak's rough day, it was Myers.
"When I go out there, it's a lot easier than going up against Drew, to be honest with you," Myers said. "He's making be better."
You're welcome, Ott said.
"I don't think they gave up a sack," Ott said. "I'm glad they showed up and had a good game."
On the other side of the ball, Ott was full wattage.
"Somebody has got to give you energy," Ferentz said. "I thought Drew certainly gave us that kind of juice out there."
The only thing that upset Ott on Saturday was his bloody nose.
"Now I've got a belly full of blood," Ott said.
And a bloody good start to the 2015 season.
Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.
Chad Leistikow and Rick Brown break down Iowa's 31-14 win