Iowa QB Tate has thumb surgery; return uncertain

Iowa is preparing to play Saturday's game against Northern Illinois without senior quarterback Drew Tate, who had surgery to repair ligament damage to the thumb on his left (non-throwing) hand, coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday.

Tate hurt his thumb in Saturday's 20-6 loss to No. 2 Michigan and wasn't listed on the team depth chart released Monday. Ferentz did not say when Tate would return; a source close to the situation said Monday that the surgery might sideline Tate for at least three weeks.

Senior Jason Manson will probably start against the Huskies as Iowa tries to end a two-game losing streak. Redshirt freshman Jake Christensen, who has played sparingly in two games, is another option to start.

Manson and Christensen are listed as co-starters on the depth chart.

Manson, from Bloomfield, Conn., started against Syracuse on Sept. 9 when Tate was sidelined with a strained abdominal muscle. Manson threw four interceptions with one touchdown in the Hawkeyes' 20-13 win in double overtime at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y.

Tate has completed 59.2 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Iowa was ranked No. 16 in the preseason Associated Press poll and was expected to challenge Ohio State and Michigan for the Big Ten Conference title. The Hawkeyes climbed to No. 13 after winning their first four games.

But they have lost three of their last four, including a stunning 31-28 loss at Indiana on Oct. 14. Iowa (5-3, 2-3) is seventh in the Big Ten standings and must win one of its remaining four games to become bowl-eligible.

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com.