Iowa football: Gritty C.J. Beathard hooks up with George Kittle, shows toughness as 49ers' starting QB

Dargan Southard
Hawk Central

An unfortunate injury opened a door this season in San Francisco, and C.J. Beathard is walking right through it. The former Iowa quarterback stepped up to the plate in numerous ways Sunday.

In the 49ers’ first game without Jimmy Garoppolo (torn ACL), Beathard took control and made an impact under center, including hooking up with former Hawkeye teammate George Kittle on a long 82-yard TD pass. Beathard’s outing didn’t result in a win — the San Diego Chargers held on, 29-27 — but his teammates were still piling on the praise after the game.

Sep 30, 2018; Carson, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard (3) calls a play during the first quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at StubHub Center.

"(Beathard) hates losing more than anybody I know," Kittle told reporters. “He played the game angry — and that’s just how he plays it — and it’s awesome.”

Beathard finished 23-for-37 passing for 298 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. His third-quarter hookup with Kittle pulled San Francisco within two — 26-24 — and the 49ers actually took a fourth-quarter lead, 27-26. But San Diego had the final say on a Caleb Sturgis 21-yard field goal with around eight minutes to go.

Still, Beathard hung tough and kept San Francisco within reach. He took numerous blows Sunday — but kept rebounding. A particularly impressive bounce-back came on third-and-5 early in the fourth quarter.

Beathard took this hit — and didn’t miss a snap.

The connection to Kittle had to make Iowa fans smile, providing a brief flashback to his collegiate days. Kittle and Beathard hooked up for 10 career TDs while at Iowa.

"He’s a badass. He’s good,” Kittle told reporters. “C.J.’s got more grit than anybody I know."    

Many thought San Francisco would look for its next best quarterback option on the open market, opting to bring someone in to replace Garoppolo instead of handing Beathard the keys.

But the 49ers stuck with the Iowa product. Even in a loss, he rewarded them Sunday.

“He played very tough, made some big plays — especially in some of the situations with guys going in and out,” San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters. “He handled a lot of adversity well and a little chaos with some of the injuries, but I was proud of how he played.”

Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.