The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa football senior quarterback Cade McNamara makes Hawkeye debut in 24-14 win over Utah State

The Michigan transfer suited up with the Black and Gold for the first time after a soft tissue injury made his status questionable.
Ayrton Breckenridge
Iowa quarterback Cade McNamara prepares to throw the ball during a football game between No. 25 Iowa and Utah State at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023. The Hawkeyes defeated the Aggies, 24-14.

One week ago, Iowa football quarterback Cade McNamara was questionable to start in the Hawkeyes’ season opener against Utah State. Come Saturday, McNamara not only suited up — his first ever pass as a Hawkeye was a 36-yard touchdown.

The No. 25 Hawkeyes hosted the Utah State Aggies inside Kinnick Stadium at 11 a.m. on Saturday to open their 2023 season, ultimately leading the game from wire to wire for a comfortable 24-14 win.

And McNamara played a massive role.

The senior transfer from Michigan suffered a soft tissue injury to his right leg — which he had surgery on in November 2022 — when he fell while scrambling at an open practice on Aug. 12. In a press conference on Tuesday, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said McNamara was medically cleared to play but questionable to start against the Aggies.

But early Saturday morning, the Hawkeyes announced McNamara would get the starting nod. And sure enough, the Reno, Nevada, native was with the Black and Gold and under center to open the game.

On just the second play of Iowa’s opening drive, McNamara caught the snap in the shotgun, dropped back, looked left, and launched the football in the air — and sophomore wide receiver Seth Anderson was there to catch it with not one Aggie defensive back in sight.

“Oh, man. Gosh, I was so fired up,” McNamara said, smiling, at his postgame media availability. “When [Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz] called it and we got the look that we wanted, I was so fired up to be able to hit that, and Seth made a great play on it.”

The touchdown, scored just 42 seconds into the game, was Iowa’s first opening drive touchdown pass since 1991.

But McNamara was not yet finished.

On Iowa’s very next drive, its second of the game, the Hawkeyes elected to go for it on fourth and goal from Utah State’s three yard line — and McNamara found senior tight end and fellow Michigan transfer Erick All for another touchdown pass that brought the Hawkeyes to a 14-0 lead.

“It was the same thing [as Seth Anderson’s touchdown], the amount of joy that [All and I] both had when that happened,” McNamara said. “He was able to clear out there for me, and all I had to do was just put an easy ball on him.”

But after the opening two drives, the Iowa offense stalled. 

The Hawkeyes went through a rough patch of punts and field goals until they broke through with a 68-yard drive that resulted in sophomore running back Kaleb Johnson’s rushing touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

“I think we left a lot out there, to be honest,” McNamara said. “I’m excited that we were able to see some adversity for the first time … It’s important for us as a new group that’s trying to connect even more in game situations for us to have to deal with things like that.”

All was not the only Iowa tight end McNamara was finding downfield. McNamara targeted junior tight end Luke Lachey nine times throughout the game, and Lachey racked up 73 receiving yards, including a long of 31 yards.

“I thought [McNamara] played really well,” Lachey said. “He’s learned a lot and done a really good job, and I’m proud of him … It’s a great experience, and I’m happy he’s here.”

As for Anderson, McNamara targeted the Charleston Southern transfer five times, and Anderson notched 41 total receiving yards in addition to his touchdown reception. After missing all of spring practice with a soft tissue injury of his own, Anderson has made an indelible mark this fall. 

“Seth’s been a great young guy since he’s been here,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Transitioning into the program is a big part of it too, and he did that without any issues, just seamless.”

Over the course of the game, McNamara completed 17 of his 30 pass attempts for 191 yards and two touchdowns.

With just over three minutes left in the third quarter, though, McNamara scrambled out of the pocket and caught his right leg — the same one he injured in August — in the grip of an Aggie defender looking to bring him down. 

McNamara twisted out of his grasp, but he was visibly stretching the right leg between the next few plays, although he remained in the game.

“It’s getting better; I knew I wasn’t going to be 100 percent going into this game,” McNamara said. “We’ll take a look at it tomorrow, and I’m just going to do everything I can [to] continue to get healthy … I’ve got to battle through these things.”

Ferentz said the quarterback’s status for next week would be a day-to-day process but noted how McNamara is “an extremely tough” and “extremely competitive” player.

But even before the game, McNamara felt the support of Iowa fans encouraging him on the field. He feels he belongs in Iowa City.

“I think it was a really special moment for me to be able to swarm out with my teammates for the first time,” McNamara said. “Today is definitely going to be a day that I’ll never forget.”

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About the Contributors
Colin Votzmeyer, Assistant Sports Editor
Colin Votzmeyer is a junior at the University of Iowa studying journalism and mass communication with minors in history and criminology, law, and justice. Prior to his role as assistant sports editor, he previously served as digital producer, news reporter covering crime, cops, and courts, and sports reporter covering track and field and women's basketball. He plans on attending law school after his graduation with hopes of pursuing a career as a criminal defense attorney.
Ayrton Breckenridge, Managing Visuals Editor
Ayrton Breckenridge is the Managing Visuals Editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema. This is his fourth year working for the DI.