IOWA CITY, Iowa – The legend of C.J. Beathard has taken a hit this fall, literally and figuratively.
Iowa’s senior quarterback has gone from being the master of his domain to just another okay quarterback in the eyes of some.
He has gone from being a quarterback filled with moxie and grit who always seems to make the right decision at the right time to a quarterback who hangs on to the football for too long in the pocket and who doesn’t look as mobile or as spry as last season.
At least, that is the narrative midway through the 2016 regular season.
It has cooled a little bit with Iowa winning 14-7 at Minnesota on Saturday to provide a nice diversion. But the offense was hardly a thing of beauty.
Beathard wasn’t great, nor was he even good at times on Saturday. He completed 17-of-31 passes for 142 yards and one touchdown, while also throwing two interceptions, doubling his season total to four.
Beathard made just enough plays to help Iowa escape from Minneapolis with what fans hope is a victory that changes the course of what has been an up-and-down season.
Wins and losses are ultimately what define a quarterback. And right now, Beathard looks real good in that regard.
The Franklin, Tenn., native has a 17-4 record as Iowa’s starting quarterback heading into Saturday’s game at Purdue, including 7-0 in Big Ten road games.
The problem is that two of the losses have come in the last three weeks and against two opponents – North Dakota State and Northwestern – that many fans and members of the Iowa media assumed would be victories. Iowa is 4-2 when many fans expected the team to be 6-0 at this stage.
“You can’t go back, you can’t look back,” Beathard said after Saturday’s victory over the Gophers. “All you can do is learn from the losses and I think we’ve learned from those.
“We got a win in a close game. It’s a big turning point for this team and it’s nice to get back on a win streak.”
Iowa would have to defeat Purdue this coming Saturday in West LaFayette, Ind. for it to actually be a winning streak.
Purdue is another opponent that many Iowa fans probably put in the win column heading into the season. Many probably still expect an Iowa victory, but the circumstance have changed.
Purdue has shown a pulse this season, including winning at Illinois in overtime on Saturday, while Iowa has shown some vulnerabilities.
Beathard has been battered in the pocket, including being sacked six times against Northwestern. He also has taken some vicious hits while scrambling for first downs.
The sacks are partly due to receivers struggling to get separation, but there have been times when Beathard has held the football for maybe a second too long, which in the pocket is an eternity.
Combine the lack of receiver separation with the absence of a second reliable receiving option at tight end with an inconsistent running game and you have a recipe for struggle.
Beathard rarely had to deal with any of those problems last season. And the few times that Iowa struggled to run last season against Wisconsin, Michigan State and Stanford, he or the team or both struggled.
Beathard has shown that he can beat defenses with his legs. But as a pro-style quarterback, he relies on a productive rushing attack to help create play-action passing.
Iowa showed flashes on offense against the Gophers, just not enough to say the offense is running smoothly.
It has been suggested that Beathard doesn’t look as mobile this season compared last season before he was injured.
That’s hard to say, though, because Beathard was only healthy for the first 2 ½ games last season.
One of the lasting images from last season is Beathard overcoming the pain from injuries to grind through games. He barely could jog against Northwestern last season, let alone run.
It is reasonable to think that off-season surgery to repair a sports hernia might be affecting Beathard in some way this season, although, he insists that he is healthy and fit.
Beathard is without question resilient and tough. He will sacrifice his body while pursuing victory because that’s what a quarterback does.
Beathard’s legacy needed a win this past Saturday as much as his team did.
His senior season is only half over, meaning there are plenty of chapters yet to be written. The fairy tale is over, but the story isn’t.
Beathard probably wasn’t as good as we made him about to be last season, nor has he regressed as much as some say he has this season.
Beathard still has a chance to leave Iowa as one of the greatest winners in the history of the program. He has a chance to win 20 games despite only starting for two seasons and one other game.
To put that in perspective, Drew Tate won 22 games as Iowa’s starting quarterback over three seasons, although he missed one game as senior in 2006 because of an injury.
Beathard hasn’t missed any games as a starter despite being hobbled by injuries.
He always finds a way to play, and almost always helps Iowa find a way to prevail.
That should be all that matters.