Hobbled Iowa QB C.J. Beathard: 'For sure' playing against Northwestern

Chad Leistikow

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard is confident he’ll play in Saturday’s game at No. 20 Northwestern.

How he’ll perform, that’s to be determined. The junior, a key catalyst in No. 17 Iowa’s 6-0 start because of his ability to both throw and run, is hurting. He was noticeably limping Tuesday at the Iowa Football Performance Center.

“I feel good,” Beathard said. “I think I’ll be out there for sure, yeah.”

Beathard took a number of hard hits in Saturday’s 29-20 win over Illinois. The one that seemed to take a toll was a knockdown by Illinois’ Eaton Spence after Beathard released an incomplete pass to fullback Adam Cox midway through the third quarter. Beathard reached quickly toward his right groin area before gathering himself for the next play.

“I felt it there, something,” Beathard said of that play. “It hurt, but I was back out there on the field playing.”

Beathard was 14-for-28 to that point, but threw only three passes in the final 20 minutes after that hit, completing one to Derrick Mitchell Jr. for 4 yards on an underhand shovel pass.

"It’s sometimes the smaller hits that hurt the worst,” he said.

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Even if Beathard is limited Saturday, that’s a better prognosis than several of his teammates have.

Defensive end Drew Ott is lost for the year with a torn ACL, coach Kirk Ferentz confirmed Tuesday. Joining Ott on the out list in Evanston: left tackle Boone Myers (stinger), wide receiver Tevaun Smith (knee), tight end Jake Duzey (knee) and running back LeShun Daniels Jr. (right ankle). Ferentz was “not optimistic” that right tackle Ike Boettger (left ankle) would play Saturday.

Asked specifically about Beathard’s health, Ferentz veered to a big-picture answer.

“We have a lot of guys that are banged up right now,” he said. “I’m not going to give you a count, but we’ve got more than a couple. It’s that time of year. We’ll find a way to get through this game and then go from there. Hopefully everybody will be able to make it for the game.”

On whether Beathard would play, Ferentz replied: “I’m counting on it.”

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Iowa does have its one bye week after the game vs. Northwestern (5-1, 1-1), which has significant Big Ten West Division consequences. Whichever team wins is in the driver’s seat, especially if that team is Iowa — the West’s only conference unbeaten (2-0) and a 2.5-point favorite Saturday.

“I just want to play, because I want to play with this team,” Beathard said. “Right now, we’ve got a good thing going. We’re not even looking at the Big Ten race.”

Throughout the summer and fall, Iowa’s future fortunes have come with the caveat “as long as Beathard stays healthy.” Ferentz would prefer not to find out this year or next how redshirt freshman backup Tyler Wiegers, who has two career pass attempts, performs as a Big Ten starter.

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It's Beathard, who improved to 7-0 as a starter Saturday, or hold on for dear life. After Saturday's win, he conducted interviews with ice packs wrapped around his left hip and inner-right thigh. He said his right leg hurt the most. Tuesday, his 6-foot-2, 209-pound body wasn’t visibly adorned with ice or wraps, and he dismissed a rumor that he was dealing with a sports hernia.

Beathard said he wouldn’t necessarily have to practice this week to play Saturday.

“I feel like my position is such a mental game,” said Beathard, who ranks third in the Big Ten with 238.5 yards of total offense per game. He has accounted for 12 touchdowns (nine passing, three rushing) and three turnovers. “I know I can throw the ball fine and do all that stuff. (The mental side) is the hardest part as a quarterback. (It’s) practicing mentally and watching film.”

It was only Tuesday as Beathard spoke. He’ll get four more days of rest and treatment in preparation for Saturday.

“Right now,” he said, “I’m positive I’ll play.”

NO. 17 IOWA (6-0, 2-0 BIG TEN) AT NO. 20 NORTHWESTERN (5-1, 1-1)

When, where: 11 a.m. Saturday at Ryan Field, Evanston, Ill.

TV: ABC (in Big Ten footprint), ESPN2 (otherwise)

The line: Iowa is favored by 2.5 points

Tickets: Available through the Northwestern ticket office, priced from $45 to $60.