Iowa Takeaways: Ott's wrist, Beathard's legs, VandeBerg's hands
AMES, Ia. — There are probably two players Iowa's coaching staff could have mentally placed on the "please don't get injured" list. One of them went down Saturday.
Senior defensive end Drew Ott was knocked out of Iowa's 31-17 win over Iowa State late in the first quarter. After a trip to the locker room, Ott emerged without pads and with his left arm in a sling. Although there was no immediate word on the extent of Ott's injury — head coach Kirk Ferentz dodged the question saying, "he's injured" — an extended absence to the Hawkeyes' top defender would obviously be a significant blow.
Ott went out just before Iowa State tied the score at 3-all. His replacement was redshirt freshman Parker Hesse, who at 240 is 32 pounds lighter than Ott's 272. He wasn't meant to be thrust into a prominent role this year, but there he was on Saturday.
Without Ott, Iowa's pass rush was initially disheveled. And even when it tried to blitz in the second quarter, Sam Richardson seemed to have all day to throw for the Cyclones. Without Ott, who had two sacks a week ago vs. Illinois State and was the game's most dominant player, Richardson completed 6 of 7 second-quarter passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns.
So yes, that's a major concern going forward — even with improved pressure in the second half that saw Richardson go 7-of-20 for 61 yards.
"Drew's really good. Parker's young yet," Iowa middle linebacker Josey Jewell said. "But he has the potential to be just as good, too."
Running Beathard, Canzeri risky but provides rewards
The other "please-don't-get-injured" Hawkeye is C.J. Beathard, and he showed why in trying to spark the Iowa offense. Beathard was a little off early Saturday, overthrowing some receivers and taking a few early sacks. But when he's got his legs under him, he's at his best.
Beathard uncorked second-quarter runs of 44 and 57 yards to help keep Iowa in the game. But because there's such an unknown drop-off to redshirt freshman Tyler Wiegers, the ideal scenario for Iowa is to keep the tackling of Beathard to a minimum. But, he grew Saturday — throwing for 215 yards and three touchdowns and netting another 77 on the ground.
"He played amazing," said running back Jordan Canzeri, who rushed for 124 yards on 24 carries. "I've said it since everybody asked how he would play: All I expect is greatness from him. He's shown it, the hard work he's put in and the way he's led us."
With LeShun Daniels Jr. (right ankle) injured in the second quarter, the second half became the Beathard, Canzeri and Matt VandeBerg show. Canzeri said he thought Daniels would be OK to play next week against Pittsburgh.
Still … dumb penalties
Ferentz spoke all offseason about cleaning up mistakes. Two big ones hurt in Saturday's first half.
Sophomore outside linebacker Ben Niemann committed a penalty he didn't need to make, negating an Iowa interception in the first quarter.
Iowa State offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, his team trailing 3-0, dialed up a reverse and pass with receiver D'Vario Montgomery throwing toward Allen Lazard into triple coverage. Niemann failed to turn around in coverage, bumping into Lazard as Greg Mabin waited for an easy interception. Iowa State got a field goal of out that one.
Later, cornerback Desmond King committed an unnecessary late hit to compound what was a 37-yard completion to Jauan Wesley. Iowa State turned that first-and-goal into a Richardson-to-Quenton Bundrage touchdown pass.
The second half was a different story as Iowa's defense pitched a shutout.
"When things get rough," said defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson, who jumped offsides twice in the first half, "always fall back on the fundamentals."
Golf clap for Iowa's punt coverage
For segments of the game, Iowa's most valuable No. 16 was not Beathard — it was maligned punter Dillon Kidd. The punt-coverage unit that was 107th nationally a year ago got their first real look Saturday, and it was impressive
Kidd boomed five punts for a 47.4-yard average, and it was all net yardage because Iowa State didn't have a single punt-return yard a week after setting a single-game school record for punt return yardage.
More Ferentz friskiness
The decision to try a fake field goal from Iowa State's 22-yard line with 2 seconds to go in the first half? Riverboat Kirk is back, one week after a failed fake field goal on fourth-and-10 that drew cheers from the Kinnick Stadium crowd.
Instead of kicking a field goal that could have cut Iowa State's halftime lead to 17-13, Marshall Koehn took a direct snap and hustled left, but was stopped at the 5 after a 17-yard run.
"We thought we were going to score. We thought we had an opportunity. It was a long way to go, we almost made it."
Receiving ups and downs
Tevaun Smith may have made the catch of the season when Beathard threaded the needle to him for a 14-yard touchdown in the second quarter that tied the score at 10-all. And VandeBerg made a heady play by scooping up Henry Krieger Coble's fumble and jumping into the end zone for a tying touchdown.
Riley McCarron made up for a first-half drop by catching the biggest pass of the game: a 25-yard strike from Beathard with 2:14 to play that broke a 17-all deadlock.
But Iowa's wideouts continually struggled to get separation against defenders. At one point, Iowa radio analyst Ed Podolak flatly stated: "It just doesn't look like we're getting anyone open on pass plays, Gary."
VandeBerg was often Beathard's only receiving option. He made a gorgeous 48-yard grab on third-and-21 from Iowa's own 6 in the fourth quarter.
George Kittle (knee strain) was limited mostly to special-teams duties, and with Jake Duzey still out (recovering from torn patellar tendon), Iowa is also being hampered by a lack of tight end production.
Remembering Sash in many ways
The death of former Hawkeye Tyler Sash this week at age 27 stirred emotions and tributes Saturday. Iowa wore Sash's No. 9 on one side of their helmets, and no Hawkeye wore that number Saturday — freshman Jerminic Smith switched to No. 6 for this game. Afterward, Iowa tweeted a photo of the Cy-Hawk trophy resting next to a hanging No. 9 jersey in an Iowa locker.
Krieger Coble, a Mount Pleasant native, remembered watching Sash, who died in his native Oskaloosa on Tuesday, growing up.
"For an Iowa kid, that's as good as it gets," Krieger Coble said. "He was one of the best defensive players, obviously one of the best safeties in our program's history, and for him to pass is just really sad. He'll be sorely missed. Just growing up watching him, he was unbelievable. He was just a heck of a player."