IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard hasn’t matched his dynamic play in 2015, but that’s doesn’t mean he’s struggling, either.
Beathard, a senior, has completed 58.7 percent of his passes for 1,380 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions this year. Through eight games last year, Beathard threw for 1,598 yards, nine scores, three interceptions and completed 60 percent of his passes.
Other than touchdowns, his passing numbers are down a bit this year. But the biggest reason for Beathard’s scrutiny is Iowa’s 5-3 record. Last year the Hawkeyes were 8-0 at this point.
“The thing that C.J. has done or continues to do that really doesn’t get much credit is a lot of times when we have an explosive run, he’s changed the play and got us into a better situation,” Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis said. “So I’m disappointed for him, that his passing numbers are not greater, because he’s busting his tail and he’s studying and he’s trying to get us in the right play. And so that point we’re very pleased with. But the numbers have not been as good, I agree with you.”
Four of Iowa’s top five receivers from last year exhausted their eligibility. The other — Matt VandeBerg — suffered a season-ending injury after Iowa’s fourth game this year. Beathard’s comfort level with Iowa’s receivers this year is less obvious.
“I think it’s easy to look and just compare numbers,” Davis said. “I think we all can be guilty of that, coaches, as well, looking at numbers from this year to last year. And again, I go back to when he came in and grew up with Tevaun (Smith) and Henry (Krieger Coble) and Jacob Hillyer. How many balls did he throw in Henry’s back shoulder that Henry turned around and made a great play? It’s because they had done it a thousand times.”
According to Pro Football Focus, Beathard’s completion percentage drops from 63.8 percent to 42.6 percent when going from no pressure to pressure. His NFL quarterback rating falls from 97.9 to 63.2. Eight of 11 touchdown passes were thrown without pressure.
Perhaps Beathard’s greatest drop-off is his running numbers. Through eight games last year, he had 180 positive rushing yards (after sacks) and three touchdowns. This year, he has minus-13 yards and two scores.
“He has taken some hits, and there’s no question there’s a cumulative effect that goes along with that,” Davis said. “But he’s made plays with his feet and he’ll continue to make plays. He’s not shied away from leaving the pocket at all. And so I don’t see any problem there.”