IOWA CITY, Iowa — The most impressive Iowa play of Week 2 wasn’t called in.
Quarterback C.J. Beathard audibled when Iowa State showed a blitz. Beathard, flushed to his right, dropped a pass over a defensive back. Wide receiver Matt VandeBerg, who ran a corner route, made a diving catch for a touchdown.
The Hawkeyes are averaging 43.5 points through two games. It begs the question how good can the Iowa offense be? The answer is as good as Beathard and his play calling, and playmaking ability, make it.
“It’s definitely helps the offense,” Beathard said. “Any time that you can put whoever it is in there at quarterback, that they can get out of certain things that they don’t like rather than having to look to the sidelines.”
Beathard is given plenty of freedom in the offense. It goes beyond giving a senior the ability to audible at the line of scrimmage. After the 42-3 win over Iowa State last Saturday, VandeBerg said there are times formations are just called and Beathard calls the play at the line.
It’s a small gesture, but it speaks volumes about Beathard.
It’s rare in college football for quarterbacks to get the opportunity to call audibles, let alone handle play calling. College football coaches are control freaks. They want final say over anything that may impact the outcome, including calling audibles from the sideline.
“He embraces the responsibility that being the quarterback has,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It is a different position. There’s certain positions that are a little bit different inherently.
“Quarterback in any kind of offense, doesn’t matter what you do, that type of position. He’s just done a really good job.”
It’s preparation. It’s understanding an opponent’s defense. It’s realizing his team’s strengths and playing to them.
Letting Beathard control on field adjustments helps put the Hawkeyes in position to maximize the potential of each snap. So far, Beathard is making the most of the opportunity. He’s completed 66.7 percent of his passes while throwing for 427 yards and four touchdowns.
Beathard is the biggest reason for Iowa’s early-season success. The Hawkeyes often see their offense work independent of the quarterback. Beathard isn’t a cog. He’s the reason why the machine is humming along.
“He’s just playing well,” Ferentz said. “It’s a result of him being a senior. He works hard. He’s a great kid, great player who works really hard, has a good attitude, practices. The fact that he’s practicing every day has really helped him.”
There is more to the offense than just Beathard. Experienced players, and playmakers, permeate every position group.
Offensive balance is preached so much around the football office players probably dream about it. Iowa is achieving it. The Hawkeyes can pick how they wants to attack opponents. The rushing attack is churning out 205.0 yards per game. The passing game, led by Beathard and VandeBerg, is consistently making big plays.
Nothing stresses a defense like an offense that can attack on multiple fronts.
“That is going to be the hardest part when you have both sides being effective in a game and that is going to make plays,” Iowa cornerback Desmond King said.
Iowa is fourth in the Big Ten with 12 touchdowns. The Hawkeyes won’t ever be confused with an Air Raid offense that scores points as easily as its players breathe. Iowa will be Iowa. The running game matters. So does wearing down an opponent.
But the explosiveness, efficiency and playmaking is there for the Hawkeyes to outscore opponents if needed. That’s a rarity in these parts. That’s why this could become one of, if not the top, offense in the Big Ten. Ohio State and Michigan are potent. Nebraska is off to a strong start.
So is Iowa. The Hawkeyes can do more. They must improve on third-down conversions. Forty-two percent won’t cut it. Iowa has yet to run a two-minute drill. Beathard is quick to bring up what the offense isn’t doing. He’s hesitant to say what more it can do.
“As long as we win games it doesn’t matter what our production is,” Beathard said.
As long as Beathard keeps making the right calls at the line one may likely take care of the other.