Iowa's Brandon Scherff shows what Hawkeyes can be as a football team.
PITTSBURGH – Quarterback controversies are something you worry about on Sundays.
Today, the Iowa football team was in desperate need of a victory and trailing by double digits at halftime.
Enter, C.J. Beathard, who came off the bench and engineered a 24-20 triumph.
The Hawkeyes looked lifeless until Beathard replaced starting quarterback Jake Rudock in the third quarter. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Rudock had an unspecified injury and "couldn't go" in the second half.
A 62-yard pass from Beathard to Damond Powell flipped an emotional switch and set up Mark Weisman's 10-yard touchdown run.
A 52-yard field goal from Marshall Koehn brought Iowa within 20-17 entering the fourth quarter.
When Weisman barreled his way into the end zone with 6:56 left – capping a 13-play, 52-yard drive – the Hawkeyes took a 24-20 lead.
"I'm really proud of them," Ferentz said. "They're a resilient group."
The Panthers tried to answer, but Iowa cornerback Greg Mabin broke up key third- and fourth-down passes aimed for receiver Tyler Boyd.
The Hawkeyes will enter Big Ten play 3-1.
For much of the previous week, Rudock and offensive coordinator Greg Davis were criticized for being too cautious.
When they tried to seize the early momentum against Pittsburgh, Damond Powell bobbled the ball.
Rudock launched a deep pass on the game's opening series, but Powell failed to secure the ball, and it became an interception for Lafayette Pitts.
Then, the Panthers displayed their punishing brand of football.
Chris James ran 14 yards for a touchdown, putting Pittsburgh ahead 7-0. The Hawkeyes pulled even when Rudock threw to Henry Krieger-Coble for a 13-yard score, but their defense was starting to be dismantled.
The Panthers regained the lead after marching 75 yards on 18 plays, chewing 9:42 off the clock.
James Conner, who scored on a 1-yard run, reached the century mark on 17 carries.
In the final minutes before halftime, Pittsburgh quarterback Chad Voytik started picking apart Iowa's secondary.
His 23-yard completion to Kevin Weatherspoon, on third-and-17, set up a 33-yard field goal by Chris Blewitt.
The Hawkeyes trailed 17-7 at the break, after running just five offensive plays in the second quarter.
Pitt had the ball one final time, with 25 seconds left and no timeouts on its own 20. It marched just inside midfield, but Iowa safety Anthony Gair intercepted Chad Voytik on the game's final play.
Beathard finished 7-for-8 for 98 yards in relief for the Hawkeyes, and Weisman finished with 88 yards on 22 carries.
C.J. Beathard speaks about Hawkeyes lead in second-half rally at Pittsburgh.