IOWA CITY — The new faces introduced themselves with kind of a boom.
Freshman quarterback C.J. Beathard hit junior wide receiver Damond Powell for a 54-yard bomb in the third quarter of Iowa’s 59-3 victory over Western Michigan last weekend. Sophomore running back Jordan Canzeri finished off the drive high-stepping into the end zone from 16 yards.
Boom. Here we go. Full-blown quarterback controversy. New No. 1 wide receiver. The whole works. Team turmoil. All that noise.
“Sure,” starting quarterback Jake Rudock said about the upcoming quarterback apocalypse. Let’s make sure to note here that he was smiling the smile of a victory and a quarterback who got an early day off against a really bad Mid-American Conference football team.
So, yes, put the brakes on the whole back-stabbing soap opera that was going to be so, so delicious.
“We’re trying to work hard with those guys in practice and get them some extra work, but there’s no substitute for being out there in front of a crowd and having to do some things, so that’s good,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
Wait, so no controversies?
“I think it helps me because you always wonder about it,” Beathard said. “There’s such a big difference between high school and college. You can finally say you have a few snaps under your belt and you can take the next steps from there.”
That TD did make the score 59-3. Western Michigan had long checked out. Junior wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley’s pair of punt return TDs — 59 seconds apart in the second quarter — and senior cornerback B.J. Lowery’s pair of interception returns for TDs were the heavy lifting for the Hawkeyes (3-1) in this sleepy run-up to the Big Ten opener next weekend at Minnesota (4-0).
Of the trio who made a splash on offense, the only one you’ll definitely see next weekend is Canzeri. Before last weekend, he played a series in each of Iowa’s first three games. He’s in the plans as, at the very least, a spot running back with Mark Weisman the No. 1 and Damon Bullock No. 2. Still, Canzeri crossed the goal line for the first time since Dec. 30, 2011 in the Insight Bowl. He sat out 2012 with a torn ACL.
“It does make me happy to score, because it has been a long time,” said Canzeri, who led Iowa with 73 yards on 13 carries. “I’ve been waiting, been patient. I’m just happy to contribute and help out my team.”
You might see Powell in Minneapolis. You’ve been seeing him in every game. In the opener, Rudock tried him on two long pass plays. They connected for 49-yarder and missed on a third-and-1 that got a lot of attention in the second half of a close game. Against Missouri State, Powell ran a long route and cleared out a side of the field for a 47-yard completion. He saw some time, but wasn’t targeted at Iowa State.
Against WMU, Powell caught two passes for 83 yards and a 29-yard TD from Rudock. So, that’s three catches for 132 yards and a TD for Powell. That makes him Iowa’s No. 2 in receiving yardage. Martin-Manley, who has 20 receptions, leads Iowa with 169 yards.
OK, there’s a really good chance you see Powell at Minnesota. And beyond. He averages 44.0 yards a catch and gives Iowa a unique weapon.
“He’s just a high energy guy, just one of those guys that makes you feel good,” Ferentz said. “This will be good for his confidence, to actually be out there in Kinnick and do something instead of just trotting out there withthe team wanting a shot.”
Last year at Snow College in Utah, Powell led junior college football with 30.0 yards on 41 catches. It’s been a slow roll out for the Toledo, Ohio, native, who finished at Snow just a few days before fall camp started in August.
“Just learning a new offense,” Powell said. “That’s basically it. The coaches keep me motivated and keep me working. We’re building off it now.”