Got your Big Ten game face on?
The conference season kicks off a 11 a.m. Saturday at Rutgers, where Iowa defensive end Parker Hesse is glad to be back in the middle of things, the Hawkeyes have their eyes on one of the Big Ten’s most electric return men and C.J. Beathard has an idea how he would react if a family member was on the other side of the field.
That and more are part of today’s Hawkeye 10@10, your daily dose of Iowa football news and notes.
1. He didn’t particularly care for the outcome, but defensive end Parker Hesse welcomed his return to competition last weekend after leaving the season opener against Miami (Ohio) and missing the Iowa State game with a hamstring injury.
“It felt good to be back out there again, running around and doing what I can to help the team,’’ Hesse said. “I was pretty excited to be doing things again. It’s not a lot of fun to watch.’’
2. Janarion Grant has caught the full attention of the Iowa defense this week.
The Rutgers senior is the team’s leading receiver, he’s thrown a halfback pass for a touchdown and has returned both a kick and punt for scores this season.
“We have to know where he is at all times,’’ cornerback Greg Mabin said. “He’s a great athlete and they use him a lot of different ways. We need to be ready for that.’’
Through three games, Grant has 562 all-purpose yards, fourth nationally among players in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
3. Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard can’t imagine what must be running through the mind of linebacker Ben Niemann as he prepares to face a Rutgers team where his father, Jay, works as the defensive coordinator.
“It would be a weird deal,’’ Beathard said. “But I do know that Ben is competitor. I’m sure he’ll ready.’’
Beathard suspects he knows he would handle the situation if he were presented with it. “I’d want to beat my family member,’’ Beathard said. “I’m competitive that way, always going at it with my brother. It’s a competitive world.’’
4. Iowa brings an eight-game Big Ten win streak into Saturday’s 11 a.m. game and the Hawkeyes have won their last six road games.
The conference win streak is Iowa’s longest since winning 10 straight between the 2001-02 seasons and the road streak is the longest since the 2002-03 seasons.
Mostly for Iowa players, it’s a chance to open Big Ten play with a win.
“That’s the big thing,’’ cornerback Desmond King said. “It’s a chance to start off 1-0 in the Big Ten and we want to get that done.’’
5. Rutgers’ offensive line is coached by former Hawkeye A.J. Blazek, who arrived at Iowa as part of coach Kirk Ferentz’s first recruiting class.
An all-Big Ten center in 2000, Blazek worked as a student assistant and a graduate assistant at Iowa from 2001-04 and joined the Rutgers staff after working as the line coach at Western Illinois.
Ferentz recalled his first memories of Blazek earlier this week.
“When he first showed up as a recruit, he had an Arizona baseball cap on. I didn’t think that was real smart and I’m pretty sure he had cowboy boots on too, like we would never look at his shoes and figure out that he wasn’t really 6-4. You’ve got to give him credit for trying,’’ Ferentz said. “The hat, I still can’t explain and I continue to tease him about that.’’
Ferentz also remembers the needed energy and spirit Blazek brought the program as Iowa worked to turn things around.
“You talk about attitude, unbelievable attitude. Our goal was to redshirt him, but we weren’t able to do that the first season,’’ Ferentz said. “Just a tremendous guy and he’s an outstanding coach.’’
6. A couple of Hawkeyes who have been working their way back from injuries over an extended period of time are nearing a return.
Coach Kirk Ferentz said defensive back Josh Jackson has been practicing full speed this week and offensive lineman Brett Waechter, absent from the depth chart the past two weeks, is expected back on the practice field next week.
Tight end Jon Wisnieski, injured in fall camp, has also returned to practice.
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Ferentz said the junior “has a lot of ground to cover,’’ but is back at full speed.
7. Beyond the awkwardness created by being on the opposite sideline from his son this week, Rutgers defensive coordinator Jay Niemann has plenty of other things to worry about.
He’s trying to figure out a way to deal with Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard.
“He’s very accurate, a good athlete and a very good leader,’’ Niemann said. “As he goes, so goes the team. He’s a good player who I feel like has a good chance to play beyond college.’’
8. The suggestion that the Hawkeyes may have been too predictable against North Dakota State doesn’t sit well with coach Kirk Ferentz.
“You probably could say that about 12 games last year, too, where we were predictable,’’ Ferentz said. “… We play against good team, good coaching staffs and we kind of do what we do. The whole key is that you have to execute, you have to make plays that are realistic to make. That’s the biggest thing in my mind.’’
9. Saturday will be Iowa’s first-ever game against Rutgers, but it won’t be Kirk Ferentz’s first time coaching against the Scarlet Knights.
His Maine team played there in 1991 and a lengthy bus trip was only part of the problems.
“We played them tough for about four minutes and that was about it,’’ Ferentz said. “It wasn’t a good day at all.’’
Rutgers won that game 40-17.
10. Members of the Iowa and Rutgers coaching staffs will wear special arm patches Saturday as part of the American Football Coaches Association’s Coach to Cure MD program.
This is the ninth year coaches around the country have worked to raise funds and awareness of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Fans can participate by texting “CURE’’ to 90999 or by visiting www.CoachtoCureMD.org.
The project has raised more than $1.2 million over the past eight years.