IOWA CITY, Iowa – If there was anything positive to take away from Iowa’s 38-31 homecoming loss to Northwestern on Saturday, it’s that quarterback C.J. Beathard might have found a new favorite target in the absence of senior receiver Matt VandeBerg.
VandeBerg suffered a broken foot during practice on Monday and is out indefinitely.
Senior receiver Riley McCarron replaced VandeBerg in the starting lineup on Saturday and recorded eight receptions for 78 yards. Both totals are career-highs for McCarron, whose production came as no surprise to Beathard.
They both are fifth-year seniors and joined the program at the same time.
"Riley has been in the program for five years so I’ve been throwing to him for five years," Beathard said. "I didn’t expect anything less coming from Riley. He did a good job when he stepped in there."
McCarron entered the game with just six receptions on the season.
The Dubuque native also made his presence felt on special teams with a 30-yard punt return and a 54-yard kickoff return in the third quarter. Both returns were career longs.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was pleased with McCarron’s performance and is looking for McCarron to expand his role and be a leader this season.
"I thought he did a good job last year for us as a reserve receiver," Ferentz said. "And then also played special teams in a real quiet way, but he did a great job.
"And certainly with Matt out now, he’s got to take a bigger role offensively. But he improved during spring ball, had a really good camp, so with every phase he’s taken positive steps.
"Somehow we’re going to have to try to keep him a little bit more fresh because he got worn out today. But he’s just a heck of a football player, great attitude. Everybody needs to follow his lead because he’s really on the right track."
Injury report: With exception to VandeBerg, Iowa was almost at full strength on the injury front for Saturday’s game.
Junior running back Derrick Mitchell returned to the lineup, mostly on third down, after missing most of the first four games of the season with an injury.
VandeBerg did not let a broken foot hinder his involvement with the team on Saturday.
VandeBerg was present for pregame warmups and appeared at midfield with the other captains for the coin toss.
Bulaga on a bye: Former Iowa offensive lineman and current Green Bay Packer Bryan Bulaga was the honorary captain at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday.
Bulaga was a three-time letter winner at Iowa from 2007-09.
He was named first-team All-Big Ten as a junior in 2009. He also was named first-team All-America by The Sporting News and second-team All-America by the Associated Press in 2009.
Bulaga was drafted 23rd overall by Green Bay in the 2010 National Football League Draft. He currently stars for the Packers and was a member of Green bay’s 2011 Super Bowl champion team.
B1G loss: Iowa lost for the first time in 11 Big Ten regular-season games with Beathard starting at quarterback.
Beathard completed 19-of-27 passes for 204 yards and one touchdown. He also threw one interception, which sealed the victory for Northwestern late in the fourth quarter. Beathard was trying to connect with tight end George Kittle on the play in which he threw the interception.
“I had to step up in the pocket and tried to hit George there, and the guy picked it,” said Beathard, who hs thrwon at least one touchdown pass in nine consecutive games.
Scary situation: Northwestern junior linebacker Brett Walsh had to be carted off the field with 6:08 left in the third quarter after being hit on a kick return.
Medical staff members from both schools examined Walsh on the field for more than 10 minutes before strapping his body to a stretcher and carting him off the field.
The crowd fell silent after Walsh didn’t get up. He appeared to briefly lose consciousness.
A sense of relief was felt, though, when Walsh gave the crowd a thumbs-up as he was carted off the field to a standing ovation.
Walsh was transported to the hospital and it was reported that he was conscious and able to move all of his extremities.
"First of all, our thoughts and prayers are with him," Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "He’s getting tests right now. He had the use of all of his extremities. You could probably see him give the thumbs up. He was alert and talking to me initially on the field.
"He just had some of those symptoms that our athletic training staff and our doctors, who are the best in the world, are going to err on the side of being cautious and being careful.
"There was positive as he was leaving the field from what I heard so our thoughts and prayers are with him."
King return King: Iowa senior cornerback Desmond King became the first Hawkeye to have 75 kick return yards and 75 punt return yards in the same game since Kahlil Hill did it against Central Michigan in 1998.
King had two 32-yard punt returns, both which were season highs. The Detroit native also had a third return for 13 yards.
The 77 punt return yards are a single-game career high for King, who won the 2015 Jim Thorpe Award, which goes to the nation’s top collegiate defensive back.
King’s first 32-yard punt return set up junior running back Akrum Wadley’s five-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Outlaw all over: Junior linebacker Josey Jewell led Iowa with a career-high 16 tackles on Saturday. It was the Decorah’s native third consecutive double-digit tackle game and the ninth of his career.
Jewell now has 216 career tackles, tying former Iowa defensive tackle Mitch King for 48th all-time at the school.
Reliable in the red zone: Iowa was 5-for-five in the red zone, scoring four touchdowns and one field goal. Iowa is 17-for-18 in the red zone this season, with 15 touchdowns and two field goals.