Iowa improved to 6-0 on the year yesterday after a tough, hard-fought win over Illinois at home. The Fighting Illini made the Hawkeyes scratch, claw, and scrape out a win that was not easy. It came at a price once again as Kirk Ferentz's group continues to fight in-game adversity as they suffer injuries that seem to be never-ending.
"We've got some guys nicked up," Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said afterwards. "We've got some guys jumping in, and next man in, and then next man ready on top of that. So it was a tough challenge for us, and we're going through some turbulence with injuries and guys changing in the lineup and what havey ou, but (I'm) proud of the way our guys fought through that. They kept battling, and that last big possession there was really critical for us, and just happy to come out ahead there."
A lot of the turbulence, as Kirk Ferentz coined, came at the offensive line. Offensive tackle Boone Myers did not dress for the second consecutive game and right tackle Ike Boettger left the game in the third quarter with an injury and was unable to return. Right guard Jordan Walsh missed nearly the entire second quarter with a shoulder issue. However, Walsh returned in the second half. The offensive line has become a mash unit over the past few weeks.
"We're running out of guys up front, so for (Jordan Walsh) to be out in the second half would have been tough for us," Ferentz shared. "We were getting a little thin. But again, talking about Jordan Canzeri, now we go to another Jordan, really reflective of the way these seniors are, and I think our whole football team. They care about each other, so they're going to do anything they can within reason to go out there and help our football team win."
"I wasn't optimistic we'd see Jordan (Walsh) out there, but it was great to see him out there, I can guarantee you," Ferentz added.
With Myers and Boettger both out, Iowa needed another tackle to turn in solid minutes along with Cole Croston at left tackle. Enter true freshman James Daniels.
"I just got asked on the radio how much (James Daniels) has played tackle," Ferentz discussed. "I said, probably not enough. He's done a little bit in practice, but with Boone out, we're getting a little bit thin. He's worked out there a little, and it was tough sledding."
"For James to be thrown into that situation, this will be a great learning experience," he continued. "Same thing with Jerminic Smith, our other freshman who was out there playing today. For him to have a little success is good. It would have been great for him to get one more catch there at the end, but that's the next step. You've got to start somewhere. So these are all really positive experiences, and if we can go through some of those turbulent spots and still come out with a victory, to me I see that as a real positive as we go down the road."
Iowa has produced a tremendous tradiiton of sending offensive linemen to the NFL. However, not many get their first stint as true freshmen. James Daniels is beginning to reach some rare air in that regard.
"Probably not (someone else playing tackle as a true freshman in my time here)," Kirk Ferentz noted. "I think (Bryan) Bulaga is the only guy that's played up there? I'm pretty sure. We had him at guard, and you know, Mike Jones played left guard. That was 2003 right there in the bye week. I called him on Saturday night. I think he was at his grandmother's house. Little things you remember. But, do you want to play? Yeah, I'll play, and that was it. But it was guard, you're right, left guard."
Ferentz gave the status report on the new injuries to defensive end Drew Ott and right tackle Ike Boettger.
"Yeah, Drew was on crutches," he pointed out. "You guys all saw that. He has a knee injury. I don't know the extend of it yet. And I ke has a lower body or lower leg (issue). We'll know more tomorrow, but I'm not sure yet at this point."
It was later first reported by Marc Morehouse of the Cedar Rapids Gazette that Drew Ott has suffered a torn ACL and will have to miss the remainder of the season. It is a crushing blow for the Hawkeyes' defense and Drew as he was in his final year with the program. Parker Hesse will be asked to step up even more than he already has.
More clarification was also given on Boone Myers and LeShun Daniels.
"I hope (he's close)," Ferentz informed the media about Boone Myers. "We'll see, though. I don't know that yet. He's climbing the ladder, so it would be really good if we could get him back. Hopefully we'll have Ike back, but I don't know that yet, either. If not we'll figure something out and we'll be ready to go."
On LeShun, Ferentz stated, "No, we're not going anywhere, so we're treading, we're just kind of treading water and that's not good enough, so we're starting to take a little different approach right now. We'll see what this week brings, but we just made the decision this week to try to see if we can't start climbing the ladder a bit more."