The Iowa center says this team and the coaches are having fun at 2-0. Chad Leistikow | Hawkcentral.com
IOWA CITY, Ia.-- Defensive end Drew Ott and running back LeShun Daniels remain questionable for Iowa's game with Pittsburgh on Saturday night at Kinnick Stadium. But coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday he expects both to return to the field sooner than later.
"They have a chance this week," Ferentz said. "I don't know how good a chance. We'll know more Thursday or Friday. I think it's realistic if they can't make it Saturday, hopefully by the week after (against North Texas)."
Ott injured his left arm in the first quarter of Saturday's 31-17 victory at Iowa State and didn't return. Daniels injured an ankle on his eighth carry of the game, with 5 minutes remaining in the opening half, and never got back on the field. He was averaging 7 yards a carry at the time of his injury.
Jameer Outsey was told over the summer that he'd be moved from linebacker to tight end. On Saturday, the redshirt freshman made his first career start and played a lot of snaps against Iowa State.
Once the position switch had been made, Iowa's returning tight ends took Outsey under their wings for a crash course in tight end play.
"We showed him the basics of the offense, and coach (LeVar) Woods has done a fantastic job showing him the ropes," junior tight end George Kittle said. "To Jameer's credit, he's a really quick learner. He's picked up things it took me two years to learn. He's doing a great job and rolling with the opportunity."
Outsey's emergence came at a perfect time. Senior tight end Jake Duzey isn't ready to play yet. He's still recovering from surgery April 27 to repair a torn patellar tendon. Kittle suffered a knee injury the first half against Illinois State. He saw very limited duty at Iowa State, but said he's ready to get back in the mix Saturday against Pittsburgh.
BUZZ IN HOLD MODE
Iowa's 2-0 start hasn't been reflected in calls to the ticket office. As of Tuesday, 60,000 tickets have been sold for Saturday's game with Pittsburgh. A crowd of 59,450 in the season opener was the smallest since the 2003 season. A sellout against Purdue late in the 2012 season was the 61st in 63 games. Iowa has sold out just one of the 16 home games played since.
Riley McCarron recorded the first touchdown catch of his career at Iowa State, a 25-yard hookup with quarterback C.J. Beathard with 2 minutes 14 seconds remaining that broke a 17-all tie.
It was also McCarron, the gunner on the punt return team, who zipped down the field and tackled the Cyclones' Allen Lazard in his tracks on Dillon Kidd's first punt of the game. Lazard had 100 punt return yards in the opener against Northern Iowa. But that was the only punt he tried to return. Iowa State had no punt return yards for the game.
"That was a big factor in the game," Ferentz said. "Our attention to special teams has always been important here. Critical, quite frankly. We were not pleased with the way we ended last year. But a big factor in our success is the fact that Dillon did a great job of punting."
Kidd averaged 47.4 yards on five punts. McCarron's touchdown catch? His first reception since the 2013 season, when the former walk-on from Dubuque Wahlert had three catches. He had none last season, missing the first three games with an injury and the last three regular-season games with an illness.
"After the game, I think he was more proud of that (tacking Lazard for no gain) than the catch," Ferentz said. "As a coach, that makes you really feel good. We've had a history of having really good gunners the last 16-plus years. And we got away from that a little bit last year."
PITT STAR A HANDFUL
Pittsburgh wide receiver Tyler Boyd will be a handful for Iowa's secondary on Saturday. He had 10 catches for 153 yards against Iowa last season. The Hawkeyes rallied to win that game at Heinz Field, 24-20.
"I should probably think a little further before I say this, but off the top of my head I thought last year he was as good a receiver as we've seen since the two guys we saw in the LSU game," Ferentz said.
That would be Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, Jr., who helped the Tigers beat Iowa in the 2014 Outback Bowl, 21-14. Landry now plays for the Miami Dolphins, Beckham for the New York Giants.
"Those guys were pretty good," Ferentz said. To me, (Boyd) has that kind of talent and ability and smoothness and grace. He was just a gifted player when he played last year."
Boyd joined another NFL player, Larry Fitzgerald of Arizona, as the only Pittsburgh players to have more than 1,000 receiving yards in two different seasons. After being suspended in the season opener, Boyd had 11 catches for 95 yards against Akron Saturday. He is also a dangerous kick returner.
"He knows how to get open," Ferentz said. "They look to him for good reason."
Tyler Boyd had 10 catches against Iowa last year. Rick Brown | HawkCentral.com