C.J. Beathard resilient in first start; what's next?

Andrew Logue

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Was he flawless? No.

Sep 27, 2014; West Lafayette, IN, USA;  Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback C.J. Beathard (16) loos to throw the ball against the Purdue Boilermakers during the first half of the game at Ross Ade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

In fact, C.J. Beathard threw an interception that led to Purdue's only touchdown, causing a case of early Saturday indigestion for the Iowa football faithful.

But the kid was feisty.

Beathard shook off the first pick-six of his college career, at least a half-dozen drops by his receivers and steered the Hawkeyes to a 24-10 victory at Ross-Ade Stadium.

Add it all up, and the sophomore from Tennessee showed he deserves another starting assignment.

"You'll have to ask the coaches about that one," Beathard said after completing 17-of-37 passes for 245 yards and a touchdown. "I don't really know."

Beathard was understandably diplomatic, while coach Kirk Ferentz remained taciturn when discussing the status of Beathard and Jake Rudock.

"We have two good quarterbacks," Ferentz explained. "I've been saying that since this season got going."

Rudock, who is completing 66.9 percent of his passes for 798 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions, suffered a hip pointer the previous week at Pittsburgh.

He walked with a limp Saturday, but Ferentz said Rudock could have played.

Instead, it was Beathard, the catalyst in a 24-20 comeback against the Panthers, making his starting debut. He found out Thursday he was the guy.

"It's a different kind of thing," Beathard said of the experience. "I was a little nervous, but that's natural."

A sinking feeling swept across the Hawkeye sideline when Beathard's pass to tight end Ray Hamilton was snagged by safety Frankie Williams.

Williams returned it 39 yards to give Purdue a 7-0 lead with 4:13 left in the first quarter.

"It sucks any time you thrown an interception," Beathard said, "especially when your defense is playing good."

Just as Beathard started to find his range, his teammates lost their grip.

"That's the thing I love about C.J.," receiver Jacob Hillyer said. "A guy has a drop and his mentality is, 'It's OK. I'm going to come right back to you.'"

The Hawkeyes didn't gain much ground — zero first downs and 14 total yards in the game's opening 18 minutes — until Beathard ran for 15 yards on a second-and-10.

It gave Iowa a first down at the Boilermakers' 25-yard line, and eventually led to a Mark Weisman touchdown.

"That was a designed draw," Beathard said. "You're looking for something happen, where you can build off something.

"That kind of got us going."

Hillyer failed to corral a potential touchdown pass just before halftime.

The score remained tied 10-10 late in the third quarter.

Beathard never flinched.

"He stayed calm throughout the whole game," receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley said. "He just knew that we would respond."

Beathard and Martin-Manley connected on a 23-yard touchdown pass to put Iowa ahead.

Weisman added a 5-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

So, now what?

Rudock is 10-6 as a starting quarterback, and hasn't really done anything to lose his starting job.

But Beathard breathed life into the offense, helping Iowa to a 4-1 record entering an off week.

How do you keep him on the bench when Indiana visits Kinnick Stadium Oct. 11?

"It's just the same as I approach any bye week," Beathard said. "Go in mentally ready, practice hard.

"The reps that I get, I'm going to do the best that I can."