C.J. Beathard must hold up to punishing Michigan defense

Mark Emmert

IOWA CITY, Ia. – C.J. Beathard was unaware of the grim tally, a list of quarterbacks he has no interest in joining.

“That hasn’t crossed my mind all week because I don’t plan on being in that situation,” Iowa’s senior quarterback said.

Similarly, Hawkeyes football coach Kirk Ferentz was surprised to learn that the Michigan defense his team will try to neutralize Saturday has already forced eight opposing quarterbacks to the sideline.

This is the C.J. Beathard Iowa fans want to see Saturday -- able to stand in a clean pocket and try to make a play downfield. The senior will be challenged, though, by a Michigan defense that has made a habit of knocking opposing quarterbacks from games.

“That I didn't know, OK, so thanks for sharing that with me,” Ferentz said when the subject was broached this week.

The No. 3 Wolverines (9-0, 6-0 Big Ten Conference) are well aware of the havoc they’ve been wreaking. They are first in the nation in both yards and points allowed per game. But even that doesn’t tell the full horror story for their opponents.

Last week, Maryland senior quarterback Perry Hills departed the game in the first half with a shoulder injury. Michigan went on to a merciless 59-3 victory and added a blood-curdling quote in postgame interviews.

“Nobody makes it out alive,” Michigan defensive end Chase Winovich told the Detroit Free Press. “Nobody’s safe in this game, especially if you’re playing quarterback against us. We’re coming.

“I hope Perry had a speedy recovery.”

OK, so at least they send flowers afterward.

But Michigan’s take-no-prisoners style of defense, combined with an Iowa offense that has been shackled much of the season, would seem to fill the 7 p.m. nationally televised game with a sense of foreboding. The game is being played on the same night of the UFC 205 mixed-martial arts card, and it’s an open question of which will be bloodier.

The Hawkeyes (5-4, 3-3) have allowed Beathard to be sacked 24 times and are coming off a 41-14 loss at Penn State in which they were outgained 599-234.

Ferentz knows his offense needs to be as physical and precise as it has been all season to have a chance Saturday.

“They're very aggressive up front. They play a lot of guys,” he said of the Wolverines. “It just gets down to, hey, you want to get the ball out quickly in certain circumstances, certainly you want to be as smart as you can. But we also have to play good one-on-one football out there and contest these guys.”

Not all of the quarterbacks Michigan has pummeled have left the game for injury reasons. Three also were removed for simply not being able to function.

The list, as detailed by the Free Press, includes: Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau (ankle injury), Central Florida’s Justin Holman (hamstring), the Michigan State duo of Brian Lewerke (broken leg) and Damion Terry (got the wind knocked out of him), plus Hills. Hawaii’s Ikaika Woosley, Rutgers’ Chris Laviano and Michigan State’s Tyler O’Connor were pulled for poor play.

“They’re not going to care if you’re hurt or you’re sore or anything like that, or if you don’t feel like going hard that play,” Iowa tailback LeShun Daniels Jr. understated of the Michigan defense. “We just have to make sure that we go out there and we’re competing on every snap.”

Beathard certainly wasn’t backing away from the challenge, even after he was informed of the number of guys at his position who haven’t completed a full 60 minutes against Michigan.

Beathard has extra incentive to stay upright Saturday. His country musician brother, Tucker, is in town for a 10 p.m. sold-out show at the Blue Moose Tap House. The football game is a sellout, too. What a triumphant family reunion it would be if both brothers had something to sing about late Saturday.

“As a competitor, you want to make plays for the offense and give a little spark. But at the same time you want to not force anything,” C.J. Beathard said.

“It’s going to take our best effort and our best football, but we’ll be ready to go.”