IOWA CITY, Ia. — C.J. Beathard took a beating in his most active night as a Hawkeye, but was undeterred in leading the drive to set up Marshall Koehn's 57-yard game-winning field goal.
The Iowa junior set career highs for completions (27), attempts (40) and passing yards (258) in Saturday's 27-24 victory against Pittsburgh at Kinnick Stadium. But it was his scrambles of 12, 7 and 8 yards on the final drive that set up Koehn's heroics.
He took his final snap with 8 seconds left on Pitt's 47, knowing Iowa had one timeout left.
"The play was to get a quick pass and call a timeout, and it wasn't there," Beathard said. "So I felt like with 8 seconds – as a matter of fact, I was looking at the clock while I was running. With 3 seconds, I tried to get down and call a timeout right after that. It worked out pretty well for us."
Beathard was playing hurt, no doubt. He injured his left hip on his 9-yard touchdown scramble that gave Iowa a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter. Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi connected on several of his bevy of blitzes at the 6-foot-2, 209-pound native of Franklin, Tenn. Beathard also hurt his jaw on a helmet-to-helmet pop from Pitt defensive end Rori Blair.
"I hurt my hip pretty bad (on the TD run). It was giving me a lot of pain throughout the game," Beathard said. "I got with the trainers took some Advil, and just toughed it out. The adrenaline was kicking in."
Beathard is now 4-0 as a starter.
"C.J. Beathard is a great quarterback," Narduzzi said. "I think you guys have got a great one. He's going to win a lot of football games for you."
The Iowa junior had three key scrambles to get Marshall Koehn in position for the winning kick at Pittsburgh.
Pair of INTs for King
Everyone said Pittsburgh junior wide receiver Tyler Boyd would be the best player on the field Saturday night, and for good reason. He averaged more than 1,200 receiving yards in first two seasons. But Desmond King might have topped him in Saturday's first quarter.
The Iowa junior cornerback intercepted two Nate Peterman passes — on Pittsburgh's first two drives — to give him three picks in Iowa's last four defensive series. It was King's late interception at Iowa State that helped seal a 31-17 win last week in Ames.
Boyd still had his night (10 catches, 131 yards), but it was King who made his presence felt early. He blanketed Boyd for a pick on a long ball Peterman tossed up the left sideline, and then on the next drive, King dove to pull in an interception on third-and-goal.
"Knowing that he was one of the top receivers in the country, that's a big challenge," King said. "If any corner wants to take that challenge, you have to step up to the plate and do your best."
Injured Hawkeyes return
Iowa's best defensive player returned a week after suffering a dislocated left elbow. But Drew Ott's comeback was limited to mostly specialized passing situations at right defensive end.
Parker Hesse started in Ott's place Saturday. Ott was in for just seven of Pittsburgh's 27 first-half plays and wasn't able to generate much of a pass rush. Ott wore a brace and a wrap around his left arm.
"I don't think I was very good today," said Ott, who didn't record any stats. "But I was out there. Hopefully I created a little havoc."
The other questionable Hawkeye, running back LeShun Daniels Jr., also returned after suffering a right-ankle injury last week and actually received Iowa's first carry of the game. He finished with nine carries for 17 yards.
"I was feeling pretty good," Daniels said. "Obviously still not moving how I want to, but good enough for me to be able to play."
It was Jordan Canzeri who provided more jump from the running back position, both as a runner (12 carries, 49 yards) and receiver (seven catches, 30 yards). Canzeri also became the best red-zone option, rushing for two short scores.
The Iowa defensive end played on a limited basis vs. Pittsburgh after dislocating his elbow vs. Iowa State.
The latest Koehn wrinkle
This week's kicking-game trick play came with — who else — Marshall Koehn at the controls. Iowa threw Pittsburgh for a loop with its opening punt formation as the senior placekicker, not Dillon Kidd, lined up to punt after Iowa's three-and-out to start the game.
Koehn rolled right and thundered a rugby-style punt out of Pittsburgh's reach, and the ball tumbled all the way to the Pittsburgh 4-yard line and out of bounds — 64 yards, no return. It is believed to be the first rugby-style punt of the Kirk Ferentz era. Kidd handled the rest of the punts.
"It's something we've been practicing all fall camp," Koehn said. "Just a new little wrinkle we put in."
Koehn ran the ball in each of the previous two weeks on fake field-goal attempts. By the way, Koehn remained successful at his day job, too, drilling a 43-yard field goal for the game's first points. You may have noticed he also hit a 57-yarder later in the game — the game-winner as time expired — his 15th successful field goal in his last 16 attempts.
Tight ends get involved
George Kittle (right knee strain) not only returned after sparing use in Iowa's first two games, he started at tight end with Pittsburgh rolling out an attacking defense that made quick passes more important.
His presence provided more versatility in Iowa's passing game, and even though No. 1 tight end Jake Duzey remained out (torn patellar tendon), he seems closer to returning. Duzey was in uniform and took part in warm-ups. He has said he was targeting Oct. 3 at Wisconsin at the latest for this return.
Starting tight end Henry Krieger Coble became C.J. Beathard's favorite target Saturday. He had a career-high five catches for 48 yards.
The first night game at Kinnick Stadium since 2012 had an electric, emotional atmosphere.
Official attendance Saturday night was 63,636 — about 4,000 more than the home opener vs. Illinois State. Emotions were flowing early on, with former Hawkeye Brett Greenwood using a walker to join the pregame coin toss. Greenwood, who collapsed during a routine workout and suffered a brain injury in 2011, was the honorary captain.
"When I was a freshman, he was here training for the NFL," fifth-year senior offensive lineman Jordan Walsh said. "I always heard stories about his work ethic, but seeing that first-hand, and watching him walk out … it was really an honor."
Iowa also honored former defensive back Tyler Sash and all-time leading basketball scorer Roy Marble with a moment of silence. Sash and Marble died within three days of each other leading up to last week's Cy-Hawk game.
Iowa columnist Rick Brown and Hawkeye beat reporter Chad Leistikow and Rick Brown recap Iowa's 27-24 win over Pittsburgh. David Scrivner/Iowa City Press-Citizen