Iowa avoided another step back vs. Rutgers and got back to its formula
C.J. Beathard and the Hawkeyes couldn’t back up anymore.
On his own one-inch line, the Iowa quarterback had 99-plus yards to drive and get his team on the board at the end of the first half. Beathard’s number was called, but not in the typical, quarterback-sneak-for-breathing-room fashion usually seen in that situation. Instead, Iowa called a naked bootleg.
Beathard was left exposed. If he didn’t sell it well enough, that sore shoulder would likely take quite the shot. That, plus two or seven Rutgers points, would’ve made for a disastrous turn of events for Iowa.
The Hawkeyes would’ve gone into the half down 2-0 or 7-0 vs. Rutgers. Remember that embarrassment from last week? The internet would’ve had a FIELD DAY with a 2-0 Iowa deficit against the lowly Knights.
But that’s not what happened. Beathard hung in there on the naked bootleg and scrambled for 13 yards.
It gave Iowa the breathing room it desperately needed. Beathard ended that 99-yard drive with a touchdown pass to a wide-open George Kittle.
The Hawkeyes didn’t win the game on Beathard’s play, but they avoided another disaster. That was all Iowa had to do on Saturday. It wasn’t about trying to earn a spot back in the top 25.
Iowa just needed to somehow get out of Piscataway with a win. To the Hawkeyes’ credit, they did that. Was it pretty? Did Iowa look like a top-25 team? No, but does that matter?
Iowa couldn’t afford to let last Saturday’s disaster spiral into anything more. Despite some uncomfortable moments, it didn’t.
Beathard’s play was important, but the Iowa defense should get most of the credit for the road win. After allowing 239 yards rushing to an FCS offense at home, the Hawkeyes flipped that script. The numbers weren’t that different (193 yards rushing), but it was when Iowa buckled down that mattered.
It felt like Josey Jewell made 13 tackles on the goal line. Rutgers went 1-for-3 on fourth down and was held without the play it needed to get over the hump.
That was supposed to be Janarion Grant’s 76-yard run. Desmond King made a touchdown-saving tackle on Grant — unfortunately it led to him being sidelined the whole game — and the Hawkeyes held Rutgers without a score with four goal-line stands.
That could’ve been a different game with Grant in the lineup. But Iowa caught a break. It didn’t seem like the Hawkeyes caught many of those last week.
RELATED: Iowa drops pre-Rutgers hype trailer
A lot of the talk this week is going to center on whether or not Beathard is right. Physically, he can’t run like he did when at 100 percent last year. He missed some uncharacteristic throws, too.
But unlike last week, the running game helped him out. Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels Jr. both got it going and combined for 161 yards on 25 carries. That’s what Iowa has to be. Having Sean Welsh and James Daniels back helped that cause.
Saturday was a chance for Iowa to get its mojo back. It’s easy to forget that before last week, the Hawkeyes hadn’t lost a regular season game since Bo Pelini’s last moments at Nebraska. Was it a get-back-on-track, feel-good win?
No, but it was a win. All that matters for Iowa right now is 1-0 in the B1G.
With Nebraska and Wisconsin gaining all sorts of momentum, an 0-1 start to B1G play would’ve been even tougher to stomach than last week.
Iowa couldn’t back up anymore. It didn’t.