Injuries play crucial role in loss to Michigan State
The Iowa Hawkeyes were a healthy football team heading into the Oct. 5 matchup against the Michigan State Spartans.
Running back Mark Weisman, wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley, offensive tackle Brandon Scherff, defensive linemen Carl Davis and Dominic Alvis, and linebacker Christian Kirksey all missed time in Iowa’s biggest matchup to date, in which the squad needed to fire on all cylinders to survive. But head coach Kirk Ferentz said after the game that all of the injuries were “pretty minor.”
“The bye week probably comes at a good time,” he said in his postgame interview. “Hopefully, all those guys will be back at full speed.”
The onslaught of injuries comes not even a week after Ferentz said — with a knock on wood — that things have been “so far, so good” as far as injuries after five games in his weekly press conference.
“Just like wind affects a game, I think injuries affect any team — especially teams like us,” he said on Oct. 1.
Running back Mark Weisman was the first. Suspicion arose when Damon Bullock was receiving carries on third and 1 early in the first quarter. Then Bullock’s carries continued. Weisman did return in the second quarter but received no carries in the entire second half.
Martin-Manley’s injury was low-key. One minute he was there, and the next he was gone, and it was announced early in the third quarter that he wouldn’t return. Scherff and Davis were able to return after their injuries, but Alvis did not.
“It could just be a freak thing,” linebacker James Morris said when asked whether the game’s physicality was the cause of the numerous injuries. “You never really know with injuries. Some injuries are just from where a helmet hits or how a foot lands, all those type of things.”
Like any team, the Hawkeyes are proponents of having the next option on the depth chart always available for play. But just because the team prepares for such an occasion doesn’t mean that the talent always lives up to his predecessor.
Andrew Donnal, who briefly replaced Scherff, was called for a clipping in the third quarter, the catalyst for what would end up with a punt, for example.
“We always stress next man in,” Scherff said. “You have to be ready to go. You shouldn’t drop off a level — you should play with the same intensity at the same level. We just have to keep improving.”
Quarterback Jake Rudock said that he didn’t feel uncomfortable without favorite target Martin-Manley on the field, but it was clear that the receiving game was struggling for the entire second half. Iowa finished the game with 241 passing yards, but most were accumulated in the first half, particularly in the second quarter.
“Whoever’s up has to be ready to go,” he said. “If he wasn’t in there, he wasn’t in. You just have to understand who you do have in and say, ‘Hey, let’s go; let’s play full throttle.’ ”
Now, the Hawkeyes are looking at a bye week to regroup after the loss, focusing on getting back in good health and watching film and figuring out how to get back to the team that gains more than 23 rushing yards.
“You’re going to play good teams week in and week out in the conference,” Ferentz said. “That’s just how it is. We knew that when we signed up. We’ll be ready to compete two weeks from now. We’ll be ready to compete again.”
In today's issue: