Iowa takeaways: A highlight catch and onside kicks
IOWA CITY, Ia. — C.J. Beathard was again limited in his mobility Saturday, and the Iowa quarterback's head coach indicated after beating Maryland 31-15 that Gimpy C.J. would likely be the norm for the rest of the regular season.
Beathard, slowed by a sore right groin that he hurt Oct. 10 against Illinois, wasn't running any of the naked bootlegs Saturday that are a staple spin-off from Iowa's running game.
"Yeah, you may not see too many of those in the next month or so I'm just guessing," Kirk Ferentz said. "But we'll see. He's not 100 percent, won't be, so we'll try to be smart about what we do that way. And I'm sure they had that figured out today probably coming into the game."
Maryland did, and that's why it could put 10 defenders in the box against short-yardage packages. The Terrapins knew Beathard — who reeled off runs of 57 and 44 yards in one game earlier this year and has three rushing touchdowns — didn't have the juice to get outside.
"It's tough, especially when they're loading the box like that," said Beathard, who was sacked four times and had a long run of 8 yards. He completed 12 of 23 attempts for 183 yards. "But that's kind of the deal we have when they load the box. We feel confident in our one-on-one matchups out there, that we've got to win."
The Terrapins set the template for what teams are probably going to try to do against Iowa: force Beathard to beat them from the pocket and limit Iowa's rushing attack. The Hawkeyes averaged only 2.5 yards per carry Saturday after entering with a 5.0 season average.
Beathard hit some timing throws and missed some. But, hey, he's 9-0 as an Iowa starter — even being less than himself.
"I felt better going into it than I have in weeks past," Beathard said. "But I'm not 100 percent. I'll just continue to get better as the weeks go on."
Tight end in good hands
One of the throws Beathard hit was probably a top-10 play of the year for the Hawkeyes, if not top five. George Kittle laid out for a toss over the middle for a spectacular 26-yard catch in the first quarter, which turned out to be Iowa's longest play from scrimmage Saturday.
It was a glimpse that Iowa's tight end position will be just fine next year after seniors Henry Krieger Coble and Jake Duzey graduate.
"It was the same play I scored on vs. Illinois," Kittle said of a 21-yarder for Iowa's first points of that Oct. 10 game. "They just played it a little differently, they were more prepared for it. C.J. just said he was going to throw the ball to me. I said, 'Alright, I'll catch it.' That's what happened."
Does it one-handed all the time in practice, right?
"That's more Henry — he has the best hands on the team," Kittle said. "I might've lucked into that. But hey, it happens."
Welcome back, Boone
Iowa sophomore left tackle Boone Myers played for the first time Saturday since suffering a stinger early against North Texas.
With his return to the lineup, Cole Croston slid to right tackle and true freshman James Daniels went back to the bench after making his first career start at left guard vs. Northwestern.
"I've been wanting to come back for a long time. They kept saying no, you need to get back to 100 percent," Myers said. "It's been tough, but today I … just wanted to go out there and prove to them that I can go out there and dominate."
Myers was flagged for a few penalties, but it was overall a good day. Myers said he endured therapy on his neck and shoulder twice a day while waiting for the injury, which can be unpredictable in severity, to heal.
"You've got to let Mother Nature take its course," he said.
Did you notice this?
You don't need reminding that Ferentz teams have been burned by fakes on special teams in the past. But Saturday, Iowa went 2-for-2 in fielding onside kicks.
The Hawkeyes weren't caught off guard when Maryland tried one after slicing Iowa's lead to 21-7 early in the fourth quarter.
True freshman Adrian Falconer, shipped up front on the kick-return team in anticipation of something sneaky, made the catch. Later, Jacob Hillyer hauled in a short bloop kick after the Terps cut it to 31-15.
Speaking of special-teams wins
Redshirt freshman linebacker Aaron Mends made his first impact play as a Hawkeye, blocking the punt of Maryland's Nicolas Pritchard with 1:01 left in the first half.
Mends got a piece of the ball, which wobbled for a 13-yard punt and gave Iowa the ball at Maryland's 19. Iowa would convert it into Derrick Mitchell Jr.'s 2-yard touchdown run on third-and-goal just 9 seconds before halftime.
"It feels real good to be a part of the team," said Mends, who was dinged up a few weeks ago and didn't play at Northwestern — allowing true freshman Jack Hockaday to join him on the No. 2 line at weak-side linebacker. "Every win is a good win for us. Just to be out there and feel like maybe my little extra play helped a little bit, that means a lot."
Desmond King recorded his seventh interception of the season Saturday, returning it 88 yards for a touchdown. He also said he predicted Maryland natives Jordan Lomax and Miles Taylor would get interceptions, too. They both did — including Lomax on a deep ball that was closer to two Hawkeyes than any Terrapin.
"I saw Jordan, so I let Jordan go get it," King said. "Just helping out a teammate, letting him have a chance to get the ball in his hands as well."
Taylor had his best day as a Hawkeye statistically. The true sophomore seemed to be all over the field. He recorded a team-high eight tackles, intercepted a pass (though he fumbled it right back for Iowa's only turnover) and recovered a Brandon Ross fumble that turned into the first seven Hawkeye points.
Taylor did not take special joy out of doing so much against his home-state team.
"I didn't really care. Iowa's my home. I love Iowa. I love the people, I love the coaches," said Taylor, whose younger brother, Kyle, is a commitment to Iowa's Class of 2016. "It doesn't matter to me one bit."
The final word
Ferentz likes this Hawkeye team. He's happy about where they are. But it's not his style to boast or deliver "look-at-us" declarations. The 17th-year coach said this to open his postgame remarks about improving to 8-0 with a road trip to Indiana (4-4, 0-4 Big Ten) — coming off a bye — on deck.
"I don't know how good we are as a football team, but our guys are playing hard and they play together, and really proud of them to move to (8-0)," Ferentz said. "It's a very significant accomplishment. It hasn't been done an awful lot, and really happy for the guys that way, but that being said, we're still halfway through the Big Ten."