PASADENA, Calif. — C.J. Beathard took yet another body blow early in Friday’s Rose Bowl, and the junior quarterback looked like a shell of his early-season self in the 45-16 loss to Stanford.
Of course, the junior quarterback’s been hurting for all but the first two Iowa games. It didn’t help that he took a heavy first-quarter shot Friday, a theme that built throughout the game. He said he landed on his back “weirdly” and even had some trouble running out to execute handoffs.
“Right after it happened, those slant (running) plays you have to reach out there, stretch out there, some of those are tough to get to,” Beathard said. “I think the adrenaline helped.”
Beathard was bothered by various injuries throughout the season, particularly with his groin, that slowed his mobility. He said he wasn’t sure if he’ll need offseason surgery.
“I guess I’ll have to ask the training staff about that,” Beathard said.
The Iowa quarterback battled through his 14th start of the season after an early injury. Chad Leistikow/HawkCentral.com
He gutted it out Friday, but he probably took one of the toughest beatings of this season. Beathard was sacked seven times — Iowa had given up only 23 total in its first 13 games. He finished 21 of 33 for 239 yards and two touchdowns with one interception, a pick-six.
“It was hard to find spots to throw the ball down the field. They were playing good coverage defensively and getting good pressure on me back there,” Beathard said. “You put those together, and it’s hard to get something going.”
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz didn’t want to use Beathard’s early injury as an excuse.
“C.J.'s been less than 100 percent basically all season long,” Ferentz said. “So I'm not saying he's used to that, but it's par for the course.”
He can finally get some rest: The Hawkeyes don't play again until Sept. 3 against Miami of Ohio.
Another early injury
Sophomore Ben Niemann, who, as the starting outside linebacker, is key in Iowa’s pass coverage, only played three defensive snaps after hurting his left ankle.
Niemann said he first got hurt during bowl preparation. Sophomore Bo Bower took his place for the rest of the game.
“I tried to play on it, and then I re-tweaked it again,” Niemann said. “I knew it was going to be a challenge going in. I thought I would be able to handle it.”
Again, one healthier Hawkeye wouldn’t have made a 29-point difference Friday. But Niemann’s presence has helped deliver a huge improvement over the 2014 defense, so his absence was more important than it might appear.
King mum, a trick play
In being made available to reporters after the game, Desmond King was not taking questions about his football future.
The Iowa junior cornerback and Jim Thorpe Award winner has said he’s undecided about whether he’ll go to the NFL early or return to the Hawkeyes in 2016. The deadline to apply is Jan. 18.
Friday, he fell short of getting a school-record-breaking ninth interception. After getting eight in Iowa’s first nine games, he went without a pick in his final five. He had said during bowl prep that a big game would help show he’s ready for the NFL.
His best play Friday was a 38-yard punt return in the fourth quarter that set up Iowa’s first touchdown. He had five tackles and one pass breakup. He also was chasing Michael Rector on Stanford’s fifth touchdown, a 31-yard catch after quarterback Kevin Hogan pretended to fumble the snap and threw deep into the end zone.
“I didn’t know that was a trick play at all,” King said. “I thought it was an actual fumble.”
Stanford coach David Shaw said that trick play had "been in the works probably for about six years" after he saw Boise State do something similar.
Cole Fisher, Jordan Walsh, Tevaun Smith, Macon Plewa and Austin Blythe speak after the Rose Bowl.
Well put by the fullback
Two guys Iowa will sorely miss in 2016 are fullbacks Macon Plewa and Adam Cox — and not just because of their fierce blocking ability.
The pair are key leaders and among the 21 seniors that were hunting each other down in the locker room for hugs after the game. What Plewa had to say afterward was touching.
“Being a senior, it doesn’t really sink in until all these guys come say thank you and everything,” Plewa said. “You realize you’re not going to put on the black and gold ever again. It’s just sad, it hurts.”
The Franklin, Wis., native paused briefly, tears welling up in his eyes.
“This was the best five years of my life,” Plewa continued. “I met some great people. I got the opportunity to walk on here. Coach Ferentz, this whole staff is a class act. I couldn’t be more thankful to be an Iowa Hawkeye and have this opportunity and share (it) with all these teammates.
“Especially losing two in a row, that hurts. We knew coming in in January, we had to change some things and change the culture of this program. And I think we did that, even though we fell short today."
Final thought from Ferentz
A year ago Saturday, after a 45-28 loss to Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl, Ferentz couldn’t have said this about his Hawkeyes.
Here’s what he said in his opening statement after losing to Stanford:
“We're all disappointed at the outcome of the game today, the way we played. But that being said, I just say it one more time, just how proud I am of our football team. They've been a tremendous group all season long. Thirteen (previous) times they've prepared well, they've competed hard, and today just didn't work out for us.
“Obviously, very, very proud of the way the guys have done things, and that really goes back 12 months. So this game hurts. We'll learn from it. We'll move on. We'll improve.”
The scene as the Rose Bowl ended. Chad Leistikow/HawkCentral.com