IOWA CITY, Iowa – The Iowa football team started practice on Thursday with C.J. Beathard having a chance to do what no Iowa quarterback has done before.
He just has to stay healthy and Iowa has to win at least 10 games this season.
That would make Beathard the only starting quarterback in school history to lead Iowa to multiple double-digit win seasons.
Last season’s 12-2 record marked just the eighth time in school history that Iowa has won at least 10 games in a season.
It happened three times under Hayden Fry in 1985, 1987 and 1991, and five times under current head coach Kirk Ferentz: 2002-04, 2009 and 2015.
“There are different expectations going into this season and coming off a 12-2 season like that,” Beathard said. “We’re on more people’s radars, that’s for sure. That just give us every opportunity to prepare harder and come in week-in and week-out ready to go.
“You can’t take any game for granted. You can’t take any game off. You have to be ready and be prepared for every game. People are going to be ready for that.”
The three-year stretch from 2002-04 under Ferentz is the only time in school history that Iowa has had double-digit wins in consecutive seasons.
But it happened with three different starting quarterbacks; Brad Banks in 2002, Nathan Chandler in 2003 and Drew Tate in 2004.
Tate had two more chances to lead Iowa to a double-digit win season, but the Hawkeyes finished 7-5 in his junior season in 2005 and 6-7 in 2006.
Ricky Stanzi had a chance for back-to-back double-digit win seasons in 2010, but the Hawkeyes sputtered to a disappointing 8-5 record after finishing 11-2 in the previous season.
Iowa also sputtered at the end of last season, losing to Michigan State 16-13 in the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis before getting trounced by Stanford 45-16 in the Rose Bowl.
“We still have a lot of motivation for this season,” Beathard said. “We didn’t the way we wanted to last year.
“That fueled us this offseason. We’ve got some unfinished business in Indianapolis. That’s one of our goals to go back there and change the results.”
Iowa’s recent struggles in bowl games also serves as inspiration. Iowa has lost four bowl games in a row by a combined score of 135-79.
“We put a big emphasis in the off-season on finishing the season better,” Beathard said. “I’ve been here going on my fifth year and we haven’t won a bowl game since I’ve been here. One of our off-season goals is to win a bowl game, and also win a Big Ten championship.”
Iowa, which returns 13 starters, including eight on defense from last season’s team, will face Miami (Ohio) in the 2016 season opener on Sept. 3 at Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes are being picked by many to defend their Big Ten West Division title.
Beathard started all 14 games last season, but not without a lot of pain and sacrifice. Beathard said he was only healthy for 2 ½ games last season.
When healthy, Beathard is a threat to run and throw. He extended many drives with his legs until injuries limited his mobility.
“I’m excited to see what I can do because I know I can do things with my feet that I just wasn’t able to do last season,” said Beathard, who made second-team all-Big Ten last season. “Hopefully, I stay healthy all season long so I’m able to do more scrambling and getting out of the pocket.
“I’m excited for those opportunities and the chance to show that.”
Beathard earned respect from his teammates and coaches last season for how he battled through the pain in order to play on game day.
His injuries also allowed for backup quarterback Tyler Wiegers to be more involved with the No. 1 offense in practice.
"The only two positive things I can say about C.J. being injured last year is we really got more exposure than what we would have liked to just how tough he is physically," Ferentz said. "And then the other bonus was Tyler Wiegers got to work a lot more than a number two quarterback typically would."
Meanwhile, Iowa senior cornerback Desmond King also will make history this season as the only Jim Thorpe Award winner to return to college. King won the award last season and considered skipping his senior season to enter the NFL Draft.
The Detroit native tied the school record for interceptions with eight last season.
"The exciting thing more for me is I’m hoping that experience even propels him a little further," Ferentz said. "Not that he’s going to get the same amount of interceptions, but hopefully, play at a higher level.
"That’s what you ask all good players to do. And I think when you talk about Desmond and you talk about C.J., those guys think that way, and I think that’s what you’ll see on the field."
Iowa quarterbacks with double-digit win seasons
1985 – Chuck Long, 10-2
1987 – Chuck Hartlieb, 10-3
1991 – Matt Rodgers, 10-1-1
2002 – Brad Banks, 11-2
2003 – Nathan Chandler, 10-3
2004 – Drew Tate, 10-2
2009 – Ricky Stanzi, 11-2
2015 – C.J. Beathard, 12-2