All week, we heard how injured Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard is. His groin injury (described by Dr. Jerry Punch during Saturday's game as a likely Grade III adductor tear or pull, which would require surgery to repair) had essentially required a complete revamping of the Hawkeye offense. Gone were the quarterback sneaks, the bootleg runs, the play action rollouts. Beathard would be a pocket passer from now on, for his own good.
And so, with 17 seconds left in the first half and Iowa trailing the always-dangerous Indiana Hoosiers 17-14, Iowa faced a 2nd and Goal from the Indiana 7 yard line. And a hobbled C.J. Beathard called his own number, avoided a tackler, and did the one thing he really shouldn't be doing with a groin injury: He jumped.
Beathard's touchdown stomped out the momentum that Indiana had built and sent Iowa to the locker room with a lead that the Hawkeyes would never give back. Two hours later, after a 19/31, 233-yard performance was nearly complete, Iowa again faced a critical last-minute play. Needing nine yards to get a final first down and ice the clock, Beathard faked a handoff ot LeShun Daniels and took it himself, bootlegging left for 11 yards. From there, it was victory formation. Iowa survived Bloomington.
We have heard all year how the key to the entire season was Beathard, a player who has embraced his leadership role since January and moved Iowa further forward than any quarterback since at least Ricky Stanzi (and possibly since Chuck Long). There were signs of it on the field, like when he scrambled for big gains against Iowa State and took hits for extra yards. We saw it when he took a dive and called a timeout against Pitt, setting up a game-winning field goal. But we never saw it quite like today, a day where Iowa wasn't necessarily complete on defense and banged up in the running game. Iowa needed something that Beathard wasn't supposed to have, and he suddenly found it. Twice.
Iowa might not offer the Playoff Committee much flash on offense, but it does provide perfect balance: Iowa rushed for 234, threw for 233, and scored five times in its the first game this season that didn't feature a significant turnover. Akrum Wadley ran for 120 yards, with more than half on a 65-yard touchdown run in the game's first series, before leaving with a mildly sprained ankle. And while the Iowa defense struggled in ways that it had not earlier this year -- Indiana tripled the number of rushing touchdowns Iowa has allowed this year -- the Hoosiers' CHAOSTEAM mentality contributed significantly to those issues. In all, it was a solid win that may not have the style points needed to move the Hawkeyes up the polls but is enough to keep the Playoff dream alive. And with Indiana likely being the most difficult opponent left on Iowa's schedule, the win alone should be enough for seven more days.
The win moves Iowa to 9-0 for the first time since 2009. The last time Iowa was 10-0 was never. We're leaving charted territory next week. Load up the wagon.