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Injuries a concern for Iowa coach

Kirk Ferentz’s Iowa Hawkeyes played without three key contributors last week.

MCT PHOTO

Kirk Ferentz sounded his normal, even-keeled self. The general bureaucratic issues that clog the mind of the head of a major college football program were wearing on the Iowa coach.

“Personally, I’m tired of everything in the outside world right now,” Ferentz said Tuesday without much hint of it in his voice. “That’s just the mood I’m in right now. … One of the things that stinks about being a head coach – (the job) is everything but football.”

With a trip to State College for Saturday’s Big Ten opener up next for the Hawkeyes, anything that distracts from that is a nuisance for Ferentz.

It’s probably not Penn State that has soured Ferentz’s mood. The Iowa coach has won six out of his last seven meetings with the Nittany Lions.

No, at the top of Ferentz’s list of annoyances is his team’s injury report.

While Penn State is scrambling to get backup linebackers more reps in practice, the Hawkeyes (3-0) have some significant problems of their own.

Three starters were left off of this week’s depth chart after they all unexpectedly missed last Saturday’s game against Arizona. Two talented pass-catchers in tight end Tony Moeaki (ankle) and wideout Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (hamstring) are questionable for Saturday.

But more alarming is the continuing absence of Iowa’s All-America candidate at left tackle, Bryan Bulaga. Arguably the best offensive lineman in the Big Ten, Bulaga has missed the last two games with an undisclosed illness.

The Quad City (Iowa) Times cited team broadcaster Gary Dolphin in calling it “an intestinal virus.”

“They’re all day-to-day,” Ferentz said. “We were more optimistic about them last week, so it’s hard to predict. We have to plan like they’re not going to be available.”

Iowa’s offense faced some attrition before the season even started. Shonn Greene, the 2008 Doak Walker Award winner as the nation’s top running back, went to the NFL in the spring. His replacement, Jewel Hampton, hurt his knee in the offseason and re-aggravated the injury in fall camp, knocking him out for the season.

Ferentz turned to walk-on Paki O’Meara in the opener against Northern Iowa, but the current rotation at tailback features redshirt freshman Adam Robinson and true freshman Brandon Wegher.

The injuries in the backfield and along the offensive line have caused problems for the Iowa offense, led by quarterback Ricky Stanzi. That much was evident even in the opener against FCS Northern Iowa, in which the Hawkeyes needed a pair of blocked field goals in the final seconds to avoid the huge upset.

“(Some people) are more focused on our tough beginnings to games, our slow starts, but, nobody’s really factoring in the fact that we have had no continuity on offense,” Ferentz said. “It’s been that way since day one. Some years you get through with little excitement or drama with injuries. Last year was one of those years. We were constant, especially on the offensive line, all the way through. This year it’s the opposite.

“And it’s fair to say the quarterback is affected by that. Rick continues to improve with every outing. He’s a first-class person, he has great work ethic, attitude and real good toughness. It’s just a matter of time before turns in to real good player with us.”

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