Losing the game against Penn State in humiliating fashion on Saturday night would have been bad enough, but that might not have been the biggest loss Iowa suffered last night. Two Iowa offensive linemen, Brandon Scherff and Andrew Donnal, left the game due to injury in the first quarter and did not return. The early word on the severity of those injuries is not good.
Broken fibula, dislocated ankle for OT Brandon Scherff.— marcmorehouse (@marcmorehouse) October 22, 2012
According to Hawkeye Sports, Ferentz indicated that Scherff would miss "a couple months" as a result of his injury. Given that there are only "a couple months" left in the season... well, you do the math.
There's still no official word on Donnal, who suffered a knee injury, but no one seems terribly optimistic. There's been some speculation (such as this Morehouse tweet) that it's an ACL injury, which would seem to rule him out for quite a while, too.
Scherff and Donnal had been two of the most impressive offensive linemen for Iowa this season, so their absences will be difficult to overcome. Last night, Scherff was replaced by Nolan MacMillan and Donnal was replaced by Austin Blythe. Blythe had been the starting right guard at the beginning of the season, but gave way to Donnal after sustaining an injury himself during the Central Michigan game. Donnal proved to be a more than capable fill-in at that spot and helped pave the way for the strong rushing performances Iowa had against Minnesota and (to a lesser extent) Michigan State and had seemingly entrenched himself as the starter at right guard. Blythe had been inconsistent prior to his injury, but his play had been trending upward. There are worse things in the world than replacing an injured player with a former starter (who primarily lost his job due to injury rather than poor play).
The situation at left tackle looks more alarming. Scherff had been the starter at left tackle since day one and had, along with left guard Matt Tobin, really solidified that side of the line. That duo had become a pair of punishing run-blockers that opened up many of the gigantic holes Weisman exploited in his rise to fame. Scherff had also developed into a strong pass-blocker; his improved play there was a factor in the sharp decline in sacks allowed by Iowa after the week one disaster against Northern Illinois. He was replaced last night by MacMillan, who struggled against the Penn State pass rush. Hopefully a full week of practice results in some better play out of MacMillan.
The offensive line had emerged as one of the few bright spots for the Iowa offense this year; with James Vandenberg struggling mightily, AIRBHG doing his usual work on the Iowa running back corps, and the wide receivers and tight ends struggling to make an impact, the last thing Iowa needs is an underperforming offensive line to add to the list of problems to solve on offense. It's hard to see how there won't be a decline when two of the best cogs in this particular machine are removed, though.