Beathard on Iowa's 10-0 run: 'There’s a special thing going on'
IOWA CITY, Ia. – Wherever this magical ride of a football season goes from here, Iowa has now ventured into territory never traveled by the Hawkeyes.
Ten wins. No losses.
On a night when stops were difficult to find for Iowa’s typically robust defense, the offense that critics argue isn’t high-powered enough kept the Hawkeyes in college football’s playoff chase.
Iowa regained a rivalry trophy for the third time this season, moved within a victory of clinching a spot in the Big Ten title game and reached the 10-0 mark for the first time in school history with a 40-35 victory against Minnesota in front of 70,585 at Kinnick Stadium.
“There’s a special thing going on with this team right now,” Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard said. “We made history [Saturday], but we’re not satisfied with that. In order to achieve greatness we’ve got to continue to keep our heads down and continue to work and continue to win games.”
Iowa, fifth in the College Football Playoff rankings and eighth in the Associated Press poll, can secure a ticket to the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis with a win next Saturday at home against Purdue (2-8).
“Right now we’re just kind of thinking about where we’re at today and where we’re heading tomorrow,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “At some point we’ll sit back and look at the bigger picture.”
When they do, the Hawkeyes will see they’re one of five remaining unbeaten teams in major college football. They’ll see a trophy case filled with barnyard animals again – the metal pig next to the brass bull.
Floyd of Rosedale found its way back into Hawkeye hands late Saturday night, but it took a season-best offensive performance for Iowa to fend off a Minnesota (4-6) upset bid.
The Hawkeyes topped the 30-point mark for the fourth straight Big Ten outing, also a program first. Beathard completed 18-of-26 passing for 213 yards and ran for two touchdowns, LeShun Daniels Jr. rushed for a career-high 195 yards and three scores and Iowa racked up a season-high 506 yards.
“The defense has done such a great job throughout the year,” Daniels said. “Eventually, as an offense, we’re going to have to go out there and we’re going to have to make plays and score points. We felt that pressure [Saturday].”
Iowa piled up 290 first-half yards, converted six times on seven third-down chances in the half and generated touchdown drives of 91 and 97 yards.
The Hawkeyes needed all the offense they could muster on a night when Minnesota nearly matched Iowa touchdown for touchdown.
“We pick up each other,” Beathard said. “That’s how this team rolls.”
The Hawkeyes never trailed Saturday, but they never felt totally comfortable, either. The Gophers assembled four 75-yard touchdown drives and scored touchdowns twice on coverage breakdowns by the Iowa defense, which allowed a season-high 35 points.
Quarterback Mitch Leidner connected with tight end Brandon Lingren for a 40-yard touchdown with no defenders around in the first half and hit wide-open receiver Drew Wolitarsky for a 42-yard score with 5:32 remaining to cut Iowa’s lead to 33-28.
“Those are things we’ve got to get cleaned up and I’m confident we will,” Ferentz said. “We haven’t been playing like that all season long. We’ll get that stuff back on target.”
Ferentz laughed Saturday night during his postgame radio show when he reflected on the ride to 10-0.
“One of the headlines (Saturday) in one of the papers was ‘Pressure’ in big letters and all that,” he said. “It’s interesting. I think the first week it was pressure to keep my job, I guess. Now it’s pressure not to buckle. … Really, the only pressure we’re feeling is not to let each other down.”