Beathard makes the 'sanctioned' plays

Redshirt freshman QB audibles Iowa to the back-breaker

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March 29, 2014 | 12:14 am

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska had just shown a sign of life. The Cornhuskers pulled within a touchdown. It was the fourth quarter and the 91,260 in Memorial Stadium smelled a sweet comeback victory.

And why wouldn't they? Nebraska QB Ron Kellogg III had just hit Quincy Enunwa for a 15-yard TD on a fourth-and-3 to pull Nebraska within 24-17 of the Hawkeyes with 11:25 left in the game.

This is the perfect time to let the backup quarterback change the play at the line of scrimmage, right? This is exactly when you want to do this.

At this point, redshirt freshman C.J. Beathard replaced starter Jake Rudock, who left the game in the third quarter with a sprained right knee, matching the sprained left knee he suffered against Wisconsin four weeks ago.

Have the new guy make a run check at the line. It only felt like everything worked for the Hawkeyes in their 38-17 victory on Friday.

"We were going to play conservatively, they had (more) possessions and you never know how the game is going to go," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "It was evident that he [Beathard] has had his head in the game. That was a check that he made. He got us in the right play."

It was a day of the defense setting up the offense, and this possession was no different. Linebacker Christian Kirksey stripped running back Ameer Abdullah and defensive tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat recovered.

Iowa still had to do something with it, there was a lot of time left and Nebraska wasn't going away. Beathard got right at it on first down, surveying the Nebraska defense, seeing 10 players near the line of scrimmage and changing the play.

"We wanted a certain look and we didn't get it," Beathard said. "The play I checked into was a better call for that look."

Iowa was in a heavy run formation, with two tight ends and a fullback. Beathard noticed Nebraska shift to the strong side of the formation and got Iowa out of it.

Running back Jordan Canzeri made a decisive cut to the left, the short side of the field, and followed blocks by left tackle Brandon Scherff and wide receiver Jacob Hillyer for a 37-yard gain to Nebraska's 2. Running back Mark Weisman subbed in and powered in for his second TD, giving Iowa a 31-17 lead with 9:17 left in the game.

Suddenly, the sweet smell of a comeback victory turned into Iowa fans making their move, crowding around the tunnel that led up to the visitors' locker room.

"It's the read, it just opened up," said Canzeri, who had 59 yards on just six carries (9.8 yards an attempt). "Brandon Scherff had a great block. The receiver with the crack block opened it up. It just turned out to be a play that needed to be bounced outside."

OK, one little bit of accounting for the season. Beathard didn't get in trouble at Purdue, when some signals got crossed and he ran a naked bootleg in for a late TD. It wasn't a called play, but a miscommunication, he said.

"No, no," Beathard said. "We just cleared it up, no troubles. Today was fine."

The 4-yarder he cashed in to make it 38-17 with 3:33 left in the game definitely was called.

"This one was talked about about, actually, 10 minutes before," Ferentz said. "This one was sanctioned. We needed this one. There were no complaints."

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