Iowa's C.J. Beathard back on the mend before Big Ten play

Chris Cuellar

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Last season was spent battling through lingering injuries.

Sports hernia surgery in January and training-room time during the off-season kept C.J. Beathard’s health in the headlines. And before Big Ten play begins Saturday, Iowa’s star quarterback is again answering for his condition, coming off a physical Week 3 loss to North Dakota State.

Beathard took a third-quarter hit while scrambling for a first down and missed five plays, which resulted in postgame X-rays on the left side of his upper body.

“I’m good,” Beathard told reporters Tuesday.

“Just precautionary. Making sure nothing’s wrong with my shoulder or collarbone.”

The scan’s results came back negative, but the redshirt senior from Tennessee acknowledged he’s increased his ice pack use and will have to work to get healthy for Rutgers (2-1) and beyond.

Head coach Kirk Ferentz noted his starter, “may be a little sore” in a Sunday post on the athletic department’s website. That’s preferable to the painful lower body injury that plagued his mobility in 2015.

“I felt like it could have been something worse,” Beathard said of last Saturday’s hit, “but then I got to the sidelines and I could throw and stuff. I figured it was just like a stinger or something like that. Luckily it was nothing severe.”

Beathard is among a slew of Hawkeyes (2-1) whose statistical performances need an uptick after North Dakota State. He’s passed for 200 yards per game with a 60 percent completion rate as Iowa’s starter, but was 11-of-21 for 152 yards last Saturday. Three touchdown passes kept the struggling offense afloat, even if the Bison scored off a Beathard interception before halftime.

C.J. Beathard finished with negative rushing yards for the fifth consecutive game in Iowa's 23-21 loss against North Dakota State last Saturday.

“That was a well-run blitz,” Iowa right tackle Ike Boettger said.

“You’ve got to learn from it and move on. That’s what we’re really doing with the whole game.”

More concerning for Iowa’s offense has been Beathard’s struggles while scrambling.

An able runner who showed a knack for making plays on the perimeter early in his career at Iowa, Beathard became a sitting target for the Bison and has struggled to run toward the open field.

Before last year’s Big Ten championship game, he averaged 27.6 rushing yards per game as a starter and finished just one game with negative yardage.

Michigan State and Stanford sent the total south. And this season’s net totals: -20 vs. Miami, -9 vs. Iowa State and -5 vs. NDSU.

“I’m not necessarily trying to run less, it’s just a lot of situational stuff,” Beathard said. “If the pocket breaks down, I’ll run. But we haven’t said we’re not running because of this or that. It’s just the way things are going.”

Iowa senior quarterback C.J. Beathard drops back to fire a pass to receiver Matt VandeBerg against Iowa State on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.

It’s hardly all doom and gloom heading into Piscataway, N.J. The Hawkeyes will face a Rutgers defense giving up 365 yards per game and allowing its first three opponents to take early leads.

Beathard can provide some breathing room and some levity, like he did Tuesday. The popular face of Iowa’s offense goes by “Goo Goo” around his 6-year-old sister and got a moment of perspective after the defeat to NDSU.

“I come off the field to see my family and they’re waiting for me at the end, and I’m all down and broken up about this loss and my sister … says, ‘Goo Goo, guess what?’” Beathard recalled.

“‘What, Tatum?’ She’s like, ‘I got three pictures with Herky today.’ She has no idea what just happened. It’s moments like that when you realize that the world’s going to keep spinning and life goes on.”

Iowa’s kickoff against the Scarlet Knights is set for 11 a.m. Saturday at High Point Solutions Stadium. It will be the Hawkeyes’ first-ever game against Rutgers.