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THE TAKEAWAY: PITT

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Sure, Iowa just scored a big victory over host Pittsburgh, 24-20. But how much do we really know? What was really important about beating the Panthers? What does it all mean, Basil? The Takeaway has the answer.

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Chuck it long. A lot's going to be said about the quarterback situation, which has quite suddenly amped up to 11 in Iowa City after C.J. Beathard's performance in relief of injured-ish (more on that in a second) Jake Rudock. It's also worth mentioning that Iowa came in with a much more aggressive gameplan even before Rudock went out, and the effects were clear. Rudock's first long pass was a gem to Damond Powell... who summarily deflected the ball to Lafayette Pitts for an interception. We saw Rudock go into a shell the last time he threw a pick, but by and large he kept the heat on Pittsburgh's secondary when he was in the game—including a 44-yard jump ball for Matt VandeBerg, who was by no means "open." That play set up Iowa's first touchdown of the day, and the game was back on.

But as always, Bad Rudock was lurking around the corner, and sure enough Rudock hesitated on two open receivers on his last play of the afternoon. He was decked on a blitz, but only after declining to throw to a wide-open Jacob Hillyer for reasons passing understanding then staring at Tevaun Smith for a couple beats before throwing at his feet while under duress.

That would do it for Rudock's day, and while we never saw him receiving medical attention on the sidelines at any point, his last play just so happened to be Iowa's last for the half, so presumably there was some evaluation done in the locker room. And sure enough, after the game Kirk Ferentz told the sideline reporter, "Jake got injured right at the end of the half. He couldn't go." And for all the criticisms of Ferentz, he isn't a damn liar about injuries. That's Brady Hoke.

Still, once the second half started, Iowa neither made any attempt to get Rudock back on the field—no retaping of the ankles or whatever—nor was Rudock ever out of his pads, generally the signal for "this guy's too hurt to go back in." So on some level, it was Ferentz's choice to have Rudock game-ready but on the sidelines.

Suffice it to say that's the best we've seen Beathard look throwing the ball. His one incompletion came when VandeBerg essentially assumed a deep ball was coming in short (it wasn't), and his deep ball to Damond Powell was an outright absurdity:

Beathard worked the intermediate throws beautifully as well, and checked down successfully on multiple occasions. His 190.4 QB rating wasn't immaculate, but it did just so happen to be better than any single game rating that Rudock has put up in his Hawkeye career. The offense got 203 of its 311 yards of offense in Beathard's half of football and punted only once, when Ferentz was just trying to run the clock out and was more than happy to send a punt away with only 25 seconds left.

And lastly, this is starting to become a thing with Rudock. He's gone out early with minor injuries in now four of the 17 games he's played in. That's a lot easier to get away with when your backup is completing only a third of his passes (Beathard was 9/27 last year), but Beathard has improved as much as just about anybody on the field for the Hawkeyes this year (non-Greg Mabin division). He's now forcing the issue with Ferentz, and your guess is as good as ours where the QB situation goes from here.

Oops Powell Surprise! Speaking of Powell, it's hard to imagine a game starting out worse for a receiver than a botched reception turning into a turnover, then a muffed kickoff (ending with Iowa ball on its own 8) shortly thereafter. Powell was already fighting an uphill battle for touches in a deep, deep Iowa receiving corps, and we've seen better players parked on the bench for the rest of the game for less.

And yet, Iowa—specifically Beathard—never lost faith in his supersonic receiver, and Iowa got two clutch first downs out of Powell in the second half. Both drives led to points, and Iowa needed all of those in the win.

Pitt bullied. You know what's not a real good time? James Conner's first half. The sophomore sensation rushed for 98 yards on his first 13 carries, prompting this idiot to say an idiot thing:

So what happened from there? Connor eventually ended up with 29 carries for 155 yards, and while that's juuuust a little less than ideal, it's also just 57 yards in his last 16 rushes. He virtually disappeared in the fourth quarter, gaining 14 yards on five rushes. Iowa's defensive line stood tall by the second half, and when Pitt was forced to lean on Chad Voytik, the Panther offense sputtered.

Now, it's hard to praise a defense that gives up 155 rushing yards to one guy, and if the yardages had been reversed by half there'd certainly be fewer nice things being said about Iowa. That said, football is not played in stasis. Conditions matter. Conditioning matters.

Pitt's inability to rein in Iowa's front four as the game went on is a testament to the involved coaching staff, be it from teaching a level of technique that's reminiscent of the Kroul and Unusual Punishment days or from aggressive substitute packages over the course of the day.

Think about that. Pitt tried to wear Iowa down... and failed in pretty definitive fashion. The offensive lines won't get much better in the Big Ten. If Iowa can keep shutting the door late, this is going to be a team with vastly higher ambitions than if its defensive line were merely replacement-level.

And what a revelation Louis Trinca-Pasat has been. All the attention went to DT Carl Davis to begin the year, and for opposing linemen that remains the case. But goodness, LTP sure has been appreciating the single blocks, hasn't he? Trinca-Pasat is now tied with Quentin Alston for second place in tackles thus far this year—and they're only one stop behind leader Jordan Lomax. Trinca-Pasat leads the team in tackles-for-loss as well with 4.0, and his 1.5 sacks are second-best on the team.

I still think Davis goes higher in the spring, but a guy having Trinca-Pasat's kind of year will generally find himself in the NFL,  and where we go from there money-wise just remains to be seen.