IOWA CITY — Kirk Ferentz’s pregame radio interviews the last few weeks have been pretty easy reads. He’s really not in a great mood for them, but he guts out the obligation and, sometimes, he leaves a pretty good morsel if you listen closely.
Before last Saturday’s 40-20 victory over Purdue, what quarterback C.J. Beathard is or isn’t came up in the conversation. You already know where Ferentz stands on this. Don’t use the term “game manager” when talking about the Hawkeyes junior QB, who happens to have a 12-0 record as a starter (and, yes, no other QB has done that, or has even come close to it, in Iowa history).
“That’s usually what you call a quarterback when you don’t know what else to say about him,” Ferentz said. “Or you say that when he doesn’t have an arm.”
Let’s try this for Beathard. Let’s try the term “quarterback mechanic.”
Now, this doesn’t have to be for your car. In fact, the term “QB fix-it guy” probably fits even better. Beathard’s card reads “Can handle all jobs, big and small.” He shows up at your house with a toolbox. He fixes your sink, your washer and dryer and then hauls away that basketball hoop your kids haven’t touched in 10 years.
“To me, he is the difference from last year to this year,” said Purdue coach Darrell Hazell, against whom Beathard made his first career start last season at West Lafayette. “I said that this week. I thought they ran the ball well last year, but they weren’t getting the plays out of the quarterback.
“He makes a lot of plays; he is just slippery enough to hurt you. He’s making a lot of plays and not turning the ball over.”
Yep, yes and what he said.
Beathard’s Purdue numbers kind of follow the story of his season. He completed just 12 of 20 passes on a wintry day with a north wind that whipped up to 25 mph. But he fit in 213 yards, three TDs, five explosive plays (including four completions of 20-plus yards) and his best pass efficiency since North Texas on Sept. 26 (198.96).
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Beathard also rushed seven times for 27 yards (before you take away the 15 yards lost on two sacks). On two of those rushes, Beathard gained 11 yards on third-and-10.
This prompted the question: Do you have a secret yardage device in your head that when you need 11 yards you get 12 and when you need 4, you get five?
Secret yardage device. No one blinked at this question. It’s been there all season. Beathard has converted 14 of 14 QB sneaks for first downs or TDs. He opened eyes in week 3 against Pitt, when Beathard rushed for four first downs.
“When you look at him, you’re not like, ‘Oh, he’s going to be an athletic running guy,’ but he can make people miss,” Wisconsin outside linebacker Joe Schobert told ESPN Wisconsin before the Hawkeyes and Badgers hooked up on Oct. 3. “He’s got a good enough arm to hurt you through the air. He’s kind of dual threat himself even though they don’t run zone read or option or anything like that.”
There’s the athletic part and then there’s the seeing and reading of a defense and putting his team in the position to attack. Against Illinois on Oct. 10, when Beathard aggravated the injury in his groin/hip area during the third quarter, the Hawkeyes leaned exclusively on the run and almost exclusively on running back Jordan Canzeri and his school-record 43 carries. Iowa led just 16-13 late in the third quarter. Beathard called an audible on a running play and Canzeri took it 75 yards for a TD and breathing room.
Late in the third quarter against Purdue, Iowa held a 20-13 lead. Purdue showed a heavy blitz, and Beathard called an audible to a quick pass to tight end George Kittle for a 35-yard TD and plenty of leg room.
“We have to keep up our end of the deal,” said tight end Henry Krieger Coble, who had four catches for 76 yards and a TD against Purdue. “He’ll get us the ball when we’re open.”
Beathard said, no, he’s not implanted with a “secret yardage device.” It’s knowing what Iowa’s offense is, what it can do. It’s keeping down and distance in mind when you start to take off on a third-down scramble. It’s a lot of things, but mostly . . .
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“The way our offense is built, the quarterback does a lot of stuff at the line of scrimmage,” Beathard said. “You do have to manage the game to some extent, but at the same time, I’m a competitive person, I’m a gamer. When I see things out there, I’ll make plays whatever the given circumstances are.”
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