IOWA CITY — Last week, C.J. Beathard put a pretty great pass into George Kittle’s hands and ... he dropped it. This week, in about the same spot on the field, Beathard put another pass into Kittle’s hands.
The senior tight end caught it, cradled it and almost squeezed the air out of it.
“I would’ve been pissed if he would’ve dropped that,” Beathard said with a laugh. “He would’ve been, too. No one would’ve been more pissed than him.”
So, it was that kind of night for the No. 10 Hawkeyes (2-0). The all-Big Ten caliber quarterback could give the all-Big Ten caliber tight end some noise about a pass he dropped two weeks ago.
It’s been that kind of season so far for the Hawkeyes, who scored touchdowns in four of their first five drives in a 42-3 victory over Iowa State.
In 23 drives in their two games, the Hawkeyes scored 12 TDs and have had just two three-and-outs. In the first half Saturday night against the Cyclones, Iowa scored touchdowns in four of its first five drives.
So yeah, the quarterback can give the tight end a hard time. Things are going about as good as they can for Iowa’s offense.
“It’s hard to say going into a season how you think you’re going to do,” said Beathard, whose three first-half TD passes fueled the biggest margin in the Cy-Hawk series since Iowa won 63-20 at Ames in 1997. “We had a good camp offensively. We’ve got a great offensive line, we’ve got great running backs and a lot of experience there. You would expect to be moving the ball.”
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A lot of this is the product of having a senior quarterback who sees the game and spits out decisions, the correct decisions, at really, really good internet speed. We’re talking hard wire, Ethernet, like 105 Mbps fast.
“Yeah, that’s kind of what he was lacking three years ago,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He’s always had the talent and all that kind of stuff, but every position has its nuances and things that you have to learn, so that’s paramount.”
Two examples of Beathard, who completed 19 of 28 for 235 yards and three TDs against the Cyclones, setting the wheels in motion from Saturday night was his 12-yard TD pass to wide receiver Matt VandeBerg and running back LeShun Daniels’ 43-yard TD run that gave the Hawkeyes their 42-3 margin late in the third quarter.
The plays were audibles. Beathard saw something he liked or didn’t like and moved the chess pieces around before the snap.
“I don’t think you guys even get to see a real fraction of what he does for us as far as leadership and knowing what play to put us in,” said VandeBerg, who finished with seven catches for a career-high 129 yards (his two career 100-yard games have come against the Cyclones). “There are times we just go out on the field and we just call a formation. He puts us in the right play, because he knows his football.”
Daniels, who finished with 113 yards on 15 carries, said his 43-yard run was “a nice check against a look we practiced against all week.”
“C.J. just goes out there and takes command of the entire offense and the entire team,” Daniels said. “We all follow his lead. He makes sure everyone does their assignments and does their jobs. He really pushes everyone to be better. Having him back there gives us a confidence boost.”
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Especially at Kinnick Stadium. With Saturday night’s victory, Beathard improved to 9-0 as a starter at Kinnick.
“What makes them a good offense right now is C.J. and his abilities,” first-year Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “He’s good enough and smart enough that it’s almost like playing against Peyton Manning.
“There isn’t a coordinator making the calls, he’s making the calls and I think that makes him really dangerous and a really good football player.”
(Give offensive coordinator Greg Davis credit for the 26-yard TD pass to running back Akrum Wadley. That was a “game plan” play, a “shot” play, Beathard said.)
There are the Xs and Os, but there’s also going out and just slinging the football and just kind of feeling it. Beathard had that going on Saturday night, too.
“There are certain games when you get a couple of completions, you get into a groove, you start rolling a little bit,” Beathard said. “This was one of those games. I was throwing the ball well and guys were making plays.”