C.J. Beathard is going to be sore this week, but there's good news for him and the Iowa football team: He should have some more experienced protection against Rutgers.
The Hawkeye quarterback took a beating in Saturday’s 23-21 home loss to North Dakota State. After one scramble, he left the game with what he later said was an injury to his left shoulder/collarbone area.
In his Sunday conversation with the university’s website, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz provided good overall news about his star player’s health.
“They checked that out — X-rayed it — and everything’s negative there,” Ferentz said. “So that’s good news. He may be a little sore during the week but, hopefully, should be full speed Saturday.”
Iowa was also missing two of its best linemen against North Dakota State: Center James Daniels (knee) and right guard Sean Welsh (ankle) were held out despite being in uniform and going through warmups. With Lucas LeGrand and Keegan Render starting together for the first time, Iowa mustered only 34 rushing yards and allowed two sacks (plus multiple QB hits on Beathard) against the FCS Bison.
The 25th-ranked Hawkeyes (2-1) should have better up-front health when they open Big Ten Conference play Saturday at 2-1 Rutgers (11 a.m. CT, ESPN2). Iowa is a 14-point favorite.
Monday’s new depth chart named Daniels the Hawkeye starter at center. He wasn’t listed last week, so that’s a good sign. Welsh was also listed as the starter at right guard (although he was last week, too).
“James Daniels has a good chance. Sean Welsh can hopefully get back in the rotation now and help fortify the line a little bit,” Ferentz said. “Hopefully, we’re moving forward on the injury front now.”
By the numbers
Iowa's national rankings in several categories show deficiencies in the trenches. The Hawkeyes rank 108th in FBS (out of 128 teams) in average time of possession, at 26 minutes, 22 seconds per game. They also rank 90th in rushing offense (148.0 yards a game).
Even more alarming, the Hawkeyes rank 91st nationally in yielding 174.1 rushing yards per game. Iowa hasn't allowed that high a number for a season since 2000, when that 3-9 outfit allowed 194.3 yards per game on the ground.
"Defensively, that's probably the biggest thing right now," Ferentz told the UI on Sunday. "We just want to make sure we're not giving up that kind of yardage in the run game."
The Niemanns’ awkward week
When Ottumwa native Chris Ash was hired to take over Rutgers’ program in December, he made Jay Niemann the defensive coordinator.
Niemann, who spent the previous five years at Northern Illinois in that same role, is the father of Iowa linebackers Ben (a junior) and Nick (a freshman).
Ben, the Hawkeyes’ starting outside linebacker and leading tackler, said there was good-natured trash talking once his father took a job at another Big Ten school. But he had no idea how father/son correspondence would unfold on this game week.
“He’s my Dad at the end of the day. It’s obviously a weird situation,” Ben said. We’ll get through it and play the game and then move on.”