Cade McNamara is feeling better, and that makes Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz more optimistic about what the Hawkeyes' offense can do the rest of the season..
McNamara, a Michigan transfer, has battled a right quad ailment for the past month and hasn't been sharp in his first two Iowa starts at quarterback. But the Hawkeyes are 2-0 and ranked No. 25 heading into their non-conference matchup with Western Michigan at Iowa City on Saturday.
"The fact that he can practice now is huge because he's missed a lot of practice time, and the timing component is so important," Ferentz said. "It's important because it's not like he's played with our guys a lot. That's encouraging for me. I talk about the potential of our team; that's a big part of it. If we can keep him out there, keep him practicing, common sense would say he'd probably play better."
In Iowa's 20-13 victory over Iowa State last weekend, McNamara completed 12 of 22 passes for just 123 yards. He also was intercepted once.
Fortunately for the Hawkeyes, their typically stout defense picked up the slack. That unit held Iowa State to 290 total yards, and Sebastian Castro made a pivotal play in the second quarter with a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown. Castro was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.
Iowa freshman running back Jaziun Patterson rushed for 86 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown. Iowa wasn't penalized the entire contest.
"Our team made strides," Ferentz said. "I saw a lot of improvement in different areas."
After Saturday's game, the Hawkeyes will jump into the Big Ten schedule Sept. 23 at No. 7 Penn State.
"Bottom line is we have to worry about this team (Western Michigan), and I think our guys understand that," Ferentz said.
The Broncos (1-1) are coming off a 48-7 loss to Syracuse. Western Michigan actually took the lead on Jalen Buckley's 75-yard run in the opening minute. It was a struggle from there, as the Orange racked up 496 total yards.
"That's the learning curve for a young football team," Western Michigan coach Lance Taylor said. "We'll be better this week."
The Broncos didn't do themselves any favors by committing nine penalties for 99 yards.
"We started fast, and from there it got very sloppy," Taylor said. "That's on me. I've got to prepare our guys better. Just too many penalties, turnovers and self-inflicted wounds."
Jack Salopek is the team's starting quarterback, though Treyson Bourguet has taken some snaps. Buckley has two touchdowns and is averaging 7.4 yards per carry.
Western Michigan will head into its Mid-American Conference schedule Sept. 23 at Toledo after visiting Iowa. The Broncos are coming off a disappointing 5-7 season.
They actually lead the all-time series with the Hawkeyes 2-1. However, those wins came in 2000 and 2007. Iowa won the last meeting 59-3 in 2013 when current Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck was head coach of the Broncos.
Iowa's victory last weekend was the 200th of Ferentz's career, but he has a long memory.
"Lot of talk of 200 the last couple of days," he said. "I can throw out the number two. That'd be two losses to Western Michigan since I've been here."
—Field Level Media