Iowa takeaways: It's a grand debut for Lucas LeGrand
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Lucas LeGrand had his “everyone but the center” moment of embarrassment Saturday.
But it was a strong initial showing for the Iowa sophomore, who made his first career start after James Daniels suffered a knee injury this week. LeGrand created a comical moment near the Iowa State goal line in the first quarter, neglecting to hike the football to quarterback C.J. Beathard while the rest of his linemates took off. Referee Mike Defee informed the crowd that the penalty was on “everyone but the center,” which, of course, meant that it was LeGrand who was really at fault.
Iowa got the last laugh when Beathard hit tight end George Kittle for a 9-yard touchdown two plays later, jump-starting a 42-3 rout of Iowa State at Kinnick Stadium.
LeGrand played his part, helping pave the way for 198 rushing yards and buying enough time for Beathard to complete 19-of-28 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns. With Daniels’ status uncertain, LeGrand’s emergence as a seventh reliable option on the offensive line is a good sign for the No. 10 Hawkeyes.
“I didn’t get the check or whatever. There was too much going on in my head and just didn’t snap it and I got some grief on the sideline, but it was all right,” LeGrand said of his mistake.
He found out he was going to start Wednesday and it took him only one snap to settle in, LeGrand said.
“I think it was the first play. I was out there a little bit stargazing, but it was fun after that,” LeGrand said of welcome-to-the-starting-lineup moment. “I got my feet in the water and got ready. I played pretty good.”
It’s never surprising when Iowa finds depth on its offensive line. That unit has been a strength for the Hawkeyes throughout Kirk Ferentz’s 18 years as coach.
That it was LeGrand, a 6-foot-5, 290-pounder from Dubuque, who got the call was a little surprising, however. In the spring, when Daniels was on the mend from off-season surgery, Iowa signaled that junior Sean Welsh would slide over from guard to play center. Welsh even somehow managed to land on the Rimington Trophy watch list despite never having played the position that award recognizes.
He still hasn’t. Welsh started at right guard as usual Saturday, although he limped out of the game with an apparent ankle injury in the second quarter and only briefly returned. Keegan Render replaced him and was beaten on one of the two sacks Iowa allowed but otherwise performed capably.
It wasn’t a perfect performance by the offensive line, but it was more than good enough to dismantle the Cyclones. And that’s a start.
So much for Desmond King shadowing Allen Lazard. That was the discussion much of the week after King himself told reporters that he was going to cover Lazard wherever the Iowa State star receiver lined up.
Defensive coordinator Phil Parker had other ideas, keeping the nation’s best cornerback on the right side of the field where he always plays. That meant King covered Lazard only about a third of the time. Left cornerback Greg Mabin took turns as well, and even linebacker Ben Niemann drew the assignment when Lazard lined up in the slot.
The result: Lazard caught seven passes for 111 yards, but the Cyclones could never generate sustained offensive success. Maybe fans will get to see the King-Lazard matchup play out in the NFL some day.
“It ain’t April, but April Fool’s,” King said with a wide smile after the game. “I was matched up with him a couple times, but that was only because of the personnel that they came out in and he caught a ball on me, but overall we played a good defensive game.”
Scheel has quiet debut
Iowa wide receiver Jay Scheel finally got some game experience, and it was mostly uneventful. The sophomore sat out last week with a leg injury and Jerminic Smith started in his place.
Scheel entered on Iowa’s third offensive series Saturday and played seven snaps in the first half without having a ball thrown his way, although he did show some blocking ability. He did make his first college catch — a 12-yarder — in the fourth quarter. But the real significance is that Scheel took the field at all. His previous collegiate experience consisted of three snaps.
Iowa was without starting defensive end Parker Hesse on Saturday (muscle strain). Redshirt freshman Anthony Nelson made his first career start in Hesse’s place and had one of the Hawkeyes’ three sacks. There were several other occasions when Cyclones quarterback Joel Lanning was able to slip out of a defender’s grasp and gain yards running.
Iowa was able to pressure Lanning throughout the game with its front four, thanks in large part to a terrific game by defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson. A patchwork Iowa State offensive line certainly helped that cause, but it was still a good sign for Iowa going forward.
The Iowa defense, which played a fantastic game, also was able to stymie Iowa State tailback Mike Warren again. Warren carried only seven times for 28 yards and was essentially removed from the Cyclone game plan, especially after Iowa raced to a big lead.
Kittle in the middle
George Kittle, Iowa’s senior tight end, wasn’t just relegated to blocking duties Saturday after being targeted only once in the season opener. Kittle cradled the Hawkeyes’ first touchdown and caught two more passes, totaling 26 yards.
Kittle had six touchdowns last season. He will be a force again. It was just one more positive sign on an evening full of them for the Hawkeyes.