Beathard, Hawkeyes make Cy-Hawk demolition look easy

Chris Cuellar

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Saturday night looked simple for C.J. Beathard.

Iowa’s senior quarterback was at the center of the Cy-Hawk dominance, efficient early on in a 42-3 demolition of rival Iowa State.

And yet his four touchdowns in front of 70,585 fans at Kinnick Stadium were the product of a complete Hawkeye performance, plainly and powerfully snapping a two-game home skid against the Cyclones.

Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard looks down field for an open receiver during the Hawkeyes' game against Iowa State at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016.

“In certain games when you get a few completions and get in a groove, it can get rolling,” Beathard said. “This was one of those games. We were throwing the ball more, but guys were making plays when they needed to be made.”

The 10th-ranked Hawkeyes (2-0) got four scores from Beathard before halftime on three passes and one short carry. Against an Iowa State squad struggling to block, tackle or avoid penalties, that 28-3 cushion was more than enough to move Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz’s record to 9-9 in the in-state series.

Beathard was the statistical beneficiary of a balanced offense and a hungry defense, attacking in front of the crowd’s black-and-yellow striped sections.

“The best thing for us is if we can be balanced,” Ferentz said. “The defenses dictate that. If you can make some precision plays in the pass game, that’s a good thing, and both our backs are really running well right now and doing a nice job. And that takes support. Not just the line, but the fullbacks and tight ends and receivers.”

His favorite target on Saturday night was senior Matt VandeBerg. The 6-foot-1 receiver caught seven passes for 129 yards and a rolling 12-yard touchdown in the second quarter on a play Beathard changed at the line of scrimmage.

After a career-best nine receptions for 114 yards in Ames last season, VandeBerg skillfully pulled in a few over-the-shoulder grabs on Saturday as Beathard found time to place his longer throws.

The quarterback finished 19-for-28 passing for 235 yards and no interceptions. He was a sharp 11-of-14 before the break.

“I don’t know that you guys even get to see a fraction of what (Beathard) does in a leadership role and knowing what play to put us in,” VandeBerg said.

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Tight end George Kittle highlighted a strong start with the first touchdown grab, a 9-yard roll in the north end zone that opened the game’s scoring. A wide-open 26-yard wheel route toss from Beathard to Akrum Wadley followed. A scrambling Cyclones defense allowed the running back to escape behind it and wait for the pass to drop for points.

Wadley was an elusive contributor to a pounding ground game, too. His 49 yards and touchdown went with LeShun Daniels’ 112 yards and impressive 43-yard touchdown run. It was the Ohio native’s third time rushing across the century mark for the Hawkeyes.

The Cyclones rushed 35 times for 126 yards as a team as first-year head coach Matt Campbell got a taste of the rivalry.

“This is just a lead-up of everything we’ve been doing since January,” Daniels said. “Working in the offseason and continuing that through camp and obviously through this week, it’s a lot of hard work. But everybody was doing an excellent job of executing.”

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Beathard’s touchdown run with 2 minutes, 17 seconds left in the second quarter capped a streak of four Iowa drives that produced 260 yards and four touchdowns. It provided Iowa with the first home Cy-Hawk win for either football team since 2011.

“Any time you can put that many points up in the first half, especially when the defense is going out there and shutting them down as well,” Beathard said. “It helps relieve some stress on the offense.”

And Beathard stood aside — as did most of the state on Saturday — to watch the Hawkeyes' defense stuff Iowa State (0-2). The base 4-3 setup contained running back Mike Warren and ended Ankeny grad Joel Lanning’s evening after an 8-for-20 passing effort for 86 yards.

Holding the Cyclones to 3-for-15 on third-down conversions and 4.2 yards per play made the job of Iowa’s offensive star appear, well, easy.

So easy that true freshman Nathan Stanley came in at quarterback with 6:53 remaining in relief. It was a rout to savor in front of a celebratory sellout home crowd.

“What makes them a good offense right now is C.J. and his abilities,” Campbell said. “... He’s good enough and smart enough that it’s almost like playing against Peyton Manning in some instances. He knows his offense, he’s really comfortable with his offense, so there are no coordinators making the calls.

“He’s making the calls and I think that’s what makes him really dangerous and a really good football player.”

Iowa State was held to three points in the in-state matchup for the fifth time, the last coming in a 2009 win for the Hawkeyes in Ames.