Brown: A McCarney homecoming next for Hawkeyes

Rick Brown
Kirk Ferentz and Dan McCarney in 2006.

A football coach sees beauty where others may not. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz saw it in the helmet-to-helmet smashmouth brand of football his team played with Pittsburgh Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.

"They are a tough, competitive football team," Ferentz said after a 27-24 victory. "They played at a high level. We threw a couple of punches at them, too, and they answered. It was just a great football game."

Iowa is now 3-0 for the first time since 2009, and will be favored to make it 4-0 Saturday against North Texas (0-2).

Homecoming will come early at Kinnick. The Mean Green are coached by Iowa City native Dan McCarney, a former Iowa player and assistant coach. McCarney was also Iowa State's head coach from 1995 to 2006.

Resilient Hawkeyes: 'This season can be very special'

A family of football

Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard was born to play football, it seems. "Football is in my blood," said the grandson of former NFL general manager Bobby Beathard. C.J.'s played at a pretty high level through three games this season, completing 57-of-89 passes for 684 yards, four touchdowns and aninterception.

Beathard's ability to run out of the pocket, and throw with success down the field, are two big upgrades in the offense this season. Beathard's brain is also worth noting. He had the presence of mind to get down and call timeout with 2 seconds remaining against Pittsburgh, setting the stage for Marshall Koehn's game-winning 57-yard field goal. Good family genes there.

Hawkeye legacy

North Texas quarterback Andrew McNulty is a Hawkeye legacy and Iowa City native. Andrew graduated from City High School in Iowa City. His dad, Jim, was a four-year letterman for the Hawkeyes as a wide receiver (1973-76). Through two games this season, Andrew has completed 35-of-69 passes for 431 yards, three interceptions and two touchdowns.

Koehn was able, and so was Iowa against Pittsburgh

Krieger Coble can do

Tight ends haven't been a big part of Iowa's passing game early in the season, but look for that to change with the Big Ten schedule on the horizon. Part of that is getting Jake Duzey back on the field again. He's coming off April surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon that occurred in spring practice. There's also the emergence of another senior, Henry Krieger Coble, who had a career-high five catches for 48 yards, another career best, in the Pittsburgh victory. Krieger Coble was coming off a three-catch game the week before against Iowa State. He entered the season with seven career catches.

Ott and Daniels update

Defensive end Drew Ott and running back LeShun Daniels, both injured against Iowa State, saw limited duty against Pittsburgh.

Getting them back in top form is important with the Big Ten race in mind. "I don't think our two guys went backwards," Ferentz said after that game. "So that's a positive."

Fifth-year success story

Cole Fisher, a redshirt senior, had never started a game until the season opener against Illinois State.

His steady play at weakside linebacker has been one of the pleasant surprises of this Iowa season so far.

He's the leading tackler on the team (eight unassisted, 16 assisted), with 2.5 tackles for a loss and a sack. "He's had a great attitude, outstanding student, engineering major," Ferentz said. "And it's a real credit to his perseverance and stick-to-itiveness and he's playing his best football. We are playing good defense right now and Cole is a big part of that."

Iowa heads into the North Texas game fifth nationally in rushing defense (51 yards per game) and 16th in total defense (274.3).