Before the Rutgers defense lost its battle with the Iowa offense on the final drive of the game as the Hawkeyes milked away the clock, the Scarlet Knights lost a valuable member of the trenches.
Quanzell Lambert made the stop on second down against LeShun Daniels to force a third-and-seven for Iowa from its own 34-yard line, but the fifth-year senior defensive end went down with an injury. With an air cast on his right leg, Lambert was carted off the field.
His batterymate, fellow fifth-year senior defensive end Julian Pinnix-Odrick, described the scene.
“Quanzell made the play,” said Pinnix-Odrick, a team captain. “You never want to see one of your guys go down, but we’re hoping for a speedy recovery. Whatever’s going on with him, I’m not really sure. But we can’t wait to have him back.”
The loss of the 6-foot-1, 254-pound Lambert opens the door for junior walk-on Darnell Davis as his replacement.
Defensive coordinator Jay Niemann opened up the defensive-line rotation, which led to plenty of important game reps for Davis and the backups.
“They got a lot of time,” Niemann said. “That was the plan. To keep the game close we wanted to throw as many fresh bodies as we could. Fortunately the margin was tight enough where we were able to keep that entire rotation going.”
Pinnix-Odrick said he is confident the 6-foot-2, 250-pound Davis can get the job done opposite of him if Lambert is out.
He added that the entire defensive line has to step up.
“You don’t tell (Davis) much (to prepare him for a potential start),” Pinnix-Odrick said. “There’s only one way to operate when you’re really operating. There’s only one way to play football, to play games.
“I have all faith and trust in the guys in that room and that we’ll be prepared to do what we got to do. We have a lot of good talent in our room and I think, more and more reps, guys will just keep improving over the season.”
Against Iowa and its offensive line, Rutgers was able to generate pressure. The defense kept C.J. Beathard on his toes with two sacks and five quarterback hurries.
Pinnix-Odrick earned a half-sack with Lambert when the two ends collapsed on Beathard for a nine-yard loss.
Two plays later, Rutgers brought the pressure again in the trenches and sophomore linebacker Trevor Morris sacked Beathard for a seven-yard loss to force an Iowa punt.
The defensive line anchored a strong overall performance from the Rutgers defense, but Niemann wasn’t happy with the breakthroughs by Iowa in the run game. The Hawkeyes got past the first level for a handful of long runs, which added to the 193-yard total from 38 carries.
“The yardage totals, I’m not excited to give up 193 yards rushing,” Niemann said. “That’s an unacceptable number. That doesn’t mean it was poor all the time. But there were a couple runs that broke out on us that you couldn’t afford. I think generally it was fairly consistent but not consistent enough.”
Pinnix-Odrick echoed that despite the positives from Rutgers’ efforts, good wasn’t good enough.
“I got to do better,” he said. “That’s how I feel. There’s some things you obviously feel more comfortable with. A couple pass-rush moves, I felt, worked for me a little bit. But not nearly enough production from myself.
“As a fifth-year senior, as a captain of the football team, I have to make more plays. I got to make a play for the team — within the scheme, obviously, not going outside of my job. But within my job, I have to be a little bit better for my team.”