Beathard has potential to shine Friday
IOWA CITY, Ia. — It’s Iowa caucuses season, but Hawkeye football coach Kirk Ferentz wasn’t jumping into campaign mode Tuesday when asked about his undefeated quarterback.
As each week passes, it’s looking more plausible that junior C.J. Beathard could become Iowa’s first all-Big Ten Conference quarterback since Drew Tate in 2004.
“I don't have a blue shirt and red tie on right now, so I'm not getting into political mode,” Ferentz said. “I think he's pretty good. I'm glad he's our quarterback, I know that. I'd vote for him.”
Beathard has accounted for 19 touchdowns (13 passing, six rushing), averages 230.6 yards of total offense per game (fifth in the Big Ten) against three interceptions for an offense that, incidentally, is five points away from leading the league in scoring.
With Michigan State’s Connor Cook sidelined with an injury, Beathard’s profile could be raised as a first-team candidate. But to make Beathard’s case stronger, it would help if Iowa could finish off an unbeaten regular season by winning at Nebraska on Friday.
Is he feeling the weight of a No. 3 national ranking and No. 4 ranking in the College Football Playoff?
“There’s been pressure all season long, and we’ve handled it well, not listening and giving into that pressure,” Beathard said. “We’re one game away from having a perfect regular season, and that’d be something big for us to accomplish.”
Exactly. And when Beathard said he isn’t nervous, you believe him. He answers questions each week as coolly as he calls line checks that lead to touchdowns — as he has done countless times this year.
“The game I was most nervous for was the first game of the season (against Illinois State),” Beathard said. “As the season’s gone, I think we’ve picked up a rhythm and gotten more confident.”
He’s gotten into such a rhythm that he superstitiously hasn’t shaved his goatee all season. It’s gotten scraggly, but you can’t argue with an 11-0 goatee.
“I’ve had no reason to cut it,” Beathard said.
This is a week for Beathard to potentially shine, and keep the facial hair growing. He’ll probably need to come through via the passing game — Nebraska is stout against the run (“They've got an NFL defensive line, period,” Ferentz said) and in rushing the passer, but the Cornhuskers give up 305.5 yards per game through the air, 13th in the Big Ten.
“I don’t know if I’ve seen a key weakness, as far as their defense,” Iowa receiving leader Matt VandeBerg said. “But hopefully our coaches are exploiting that.”
Beathard has never had a 300-yard game as a Hawkeye, with offensive coordinator Greg Davis striking a run-pass balance that has led to a school-record five straight Big Ten games of 30-plus points, which also ties the school's overall streak.
Ferentz does get a vote for the all-Big Ten coaches’ team. If the criteria is winning, Beathard has them all beat so far. He’s 12-0 overall as a starter — and has validated the January decision to put him on the No. 1 line over Jake Rudock, now leading 9-2 Michigan and also building his own all-Big Ten case.
Because the stats aren’t overwhelming, are people still sleeping on how good Beathard has been?
“Possibly, except maybe the teams that play him,” Ferentz said. “The guy is a good player. He's a really good player.”