Iowa starting quarterback Cade McNamara out for rest of 2023 season with ACL injury

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Kirk Ferentz's postgame tone Saturday carried little optimism regarding quarterback Cade McNamara's health status. Three days later, nothing had changed.

The Hawkeyes football coach confirmed Tuesday what became apparent once McNamara hit the Kinnick Stadium turf in the first quarter of Iowa's 26-16 win over Michigan State. McNamara will not be under center for the rest of 2023 after having suffered a season-ending left ACL injury. Deacon Hill will be the starting signal caller moving forward.

"It is not good, not positive," Ferentz said Tuesday. "We were suspicious of that the other night. He's got an ACL injury so that's going to have to be repaired and he'll be out for the season.

"He'll stay with the team and be supportive and continue to be part of the team."

Iowa quarterback Cade McNamara is tended to by Hawkeye medical personnel after injuring his knee Saturday against Michigan State.
Iowa quarterback Cade McNamara is tended to by Hawkeye medical personnel after injuring his knee Saturday against Michigan State.

An offseason full of excitement centered on McNamara's arrival has fizzled at the hands of football's unfortunate reality. Anyone can go down at any time — and the Hawkeyes have certainly felt that in 2023's early going.

It started with McNamara's right quad injury suffered during the Aug. 12 Kids' Day scrimmage, concerning enough when factoring in his previous right knee injury and surgery while at Michigan. Just when it seemed McNamara had that issue managed, Saturday's unfortunate development unfolded without warning.

"That’s the unfortunate thing," Ferentz said. "The last two weeks, week and a half is the first time it looked like he was back to being close to normal. But it’s hard to get healthy in-season, too, when you have things that are kind of significant."

After being helped to the medical tent and eventually carted to the locker room, McNamara returned to the sideline with crutches and no uniform on.

Throw in the season-ending injury to tight end Luke Lachey — plus lingering ankle issues for running backs Kaleb Johnson and Jaziun Patterson — and Iowa's offense offers up a depleted version for Hill to work with moving forward.

"The worst part about football is the injury category," Ferentz said. "Easily, that’s the worst part about it. But it’s also reality, and when those things happen, everybody’s just got to keep moving. You’re empathetic toward the people who are out and affected by it, but everybody else has to keep moving. It’s an opportunity for someone else to step up and get the job done."

Hill finished 11-for-27 for 115 yards with one touchdown and an interception against the Spartans. Hill will get the start in Saturday's home game versus Purdue, with Joe Labas as the backup.

"First of all, Deacon is our starter. And Joe, he’s basically in the same situation Deacon was in last week," Ferentz said. "He’s one play from going in. The challenge for him is he’s missed a lot of time, too. It seems to be a recurring thing here. Missed a lot of time in July and August, so he’s playing catch-up in some sense."

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McNamara finishes his first Iowa season with 505 passing yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. He has one year of eligibility remaining and intends to use it next season in Iowa City.

"His intention is to come back and play next year again," Ferentz said. "So that’ll be great. It’s a long road in front of him, but it’s a lot better than it was 30 years ago, that’s for sure. A lot more predictable. And he’s got a great attitude and he’ll work hard at it."

Dargan Southard is a sports trending reporter and covers Iowa athletics for the Des Moines Register and Email him at or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Iowa QB Cade McNamara out for season with torn ACL