Brown: Iowa's offensive balance key to beating Maryland
IOWA CITY, Ia. – Like many of his fellow Americans, C.J. Beathard spent last Saturday parked in front of the television watching college football.
“I got to watch a bunch of games, just from a fan standpoint,” Beathard said.
Iowa’s quarterback, and his teammates, had a bye week. The timing, Beathard said, “couldn’t be more perfect.”
Perfect as in a time to heal and reflect.
Now 7-0, and ranked 10th in the nation, the Hawkeyes’ game with Maryland on Saturday kicks off a five-game race to the regular-season finish line.
One of the games Beathard watched briefly was the Terrapins’ 31-30 loss to Penn State. Since then, he’s done a much deeper watch in film study. He saw the Nittany Lions’ quarterback, Christian Hackenberg, throw for 315 yards in just 13 completions.
That sounds like a quarterback’s dream.
“I don’t really think of it that way,” Beathard said. “Maryland has a good team, with a lot of talented players on defense. We’re going to take what they give us, whether that be running the ball or throwing it.”
That’s a politically correct answer. It’s also true.
The Hawkeyes have had success on the ground and through the air this season. Maryland is allowing 268.6 passing yards a game. Beathard’s career high is 278 yards against North Texas. But the Terrapins are also giving up 175.6 yards per game on the ground. Iowa is averaging 214.4.
Iowa has run 494 plays from scrimmage in seven games – 303 runs, 191 passes. The Hawkeyes are averaging 5.0 yards a carry and 12.4 yards a catch. Maryland is allowing 5.2 yards a carry and 11.8 yards a catch.
Those numbers make you optimistic that Iowa can move the ball and score against a defense allowing 34.1 points a game.
Optimistic, too, that Iowa will improve to 8-0 on Saturday.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz cringes when he hears people concede the Big Ten West Division to his team.
“They’ve got it written in permanent ink, so if we do lose, we'll be the class clowns, all that stuff,” Ferentz said. “But my message there is none of this stuff really matters. It's October. We haven't even hit November, and all you're trying to do is advance.”
When Ferentz wakes up Sunday, and the calendar turns to November, 8-0 is all that matters.
Survive and advance.
Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.