The Cade McNamara era was the talk of Iowa City all offseason. The Hawkeyes were addressing their offensive issues with a splash in the transfer portal. Hopes of digging the unit out of the ditch hinged on a quarterback with a championship resume.

But the Hawkeyes quarterback significantly injured his quad at the Kids Day at Kinnick open practice. On Saturday’s game against Michigan State, McNamara made a move in the pocket and his left knee buckled. The result confirmed Iowa fans’ worst nightmares: A torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

“He has an ACL injury, so it has to be repaired,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday. “He’ll be out for the season, stay with the team, be supportive, and continue to be part of the team.”

“It was a tough break considering the last two years for him,” Ferentz said. “He’s had more than his share of obstacles and challenges from that standpoint. Your heart goes out to guys when they’re fighting hard to have a chance to go out and compete and don’t have that opportunity due to health challenges. He should be fine once the recovery is over, and just a tough deal for him.”

“Everybody was hurting for him,” Cooper DeJean said. “I saw him after halftime, just told him I love him and we’re going to try and go get this done for him.”

The fate of Iowa’s season now rests in the arm of backup Deacon Hill. Hill, a redshirt-sophomore, transferred to Iowa from Wisconsin this past offseason. He hasn’t played a complete football game since 2020 — his senior year of high school.

Hill took over in the first quarter of Iowa’s game against Michigan State and delivered a performance good enough to get a win — and he’s ready to be the team’s starter moving forward.

“I love Cade and wish the best for him, but it’s kind of it’s how football is,” Hill said. “Injuries are a part of the game. Now it’s just my turn and I’ve got to keep working like I have.”

“Obviously I don’t have that much experience but I’m looking forward to Saturday to being able to be that guy on the field for my team. And so just doing my job being able to do what I need to do to help this team succeed is the biggest thing.”

Hill got first-team reps with the offense in the spring and a portion of fall practice when McNamara was injured. He hadn’t played a full football game in three years, but didn’t appear to be a deer in the headlights to his teammates.

“I mean, if you would ask me to go in there for [Jack] Campbell last year in a big game like that, I don’t know if I would have been able to make the transition so smooth,” Jay Higgins said. “Hats off to how he came in and finished the game for us.”

“Coach Ferentz always talks about the next story, the next man — and Deacon might be,” Logan Jones said. “We’re excited for him.”

“Deacon played well on Saturday,” Ferentz said. “It’s not a big surprise — we’ve seen great improvement within the last eight weeks.”

Hill will lead the Hawkeyes onto the field next on Saturday at home against Purdue. He’ll make his first start as Iowa attempts to get to 5-1 on the season.

For more Hawkeyes coverage, follow @HawkeyeHQ on Twitter and Facebook.