Sept. 20, 2014
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- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
By JAMES ALLAN
PITTSBURGH — Sophomore quarterback C.J. Beathard led the University of Iowa football team on three second-half scoring drives to rally the Hawkeyes from a 10-point halftime deficit to defeat Pittsburgh, 24-20, on Saturday afternoon at Heinz Field.
Iowa trailed the Panthers, 17-7, at the break, before out-scoring Pittsburgh, 17-3, over the final 30 minutes to win its third-straight road game and its fifth in six contests on the road.
“We were down to Pitt and it felt like (the margin) was 50 because we were getting handled,” said UI head coach Kirk Ferentz. “It has been a long time since we were getting handled like that. It was a tough feeling from the sideline.
“As hard and as challenging as that was, it clicked in the second half. The growth and the resilience that the team played in the second half, we’re proud of them.”
The Hawkeyes finished with 311 yards of total offense with 183 coming in the second half. Beathard completed 7-of-8 attempts for 98 yards, while playing the entire second half in place of starter Jake Rudock, who suffered a hip injury. Rudock finished 5-of-10 with 80 yards and a touchdown in the opening half.
“CJ is a tremendous young guy,” said Ferentz. “He came in today and played poised. The one ball that sticks out in my mind is he knew he was going to get a mouth full and he got the ball out of there (on third-and-8) for a first down. We have great faith in him. We have the luxury of having two good quarterbacks, and we’re proud of what he did out there today.”
Senior Mark Weismanfinished with a season-high 88 yards on 22 attempts and scored two touchdowns to lead an Iowa rushing attack that ran for 133 yards. Ten different Hawkeyes had a reception with senior Damond Powell leading the way with one grab for 62 yards.
Senior John Lowdermilk paced the Hawkeye defense with 11 tackles (seven solo, four assists), while seniors Louis Trinca-Pasat and Quinton Alston had eight and seven tackles, respectively. Sophomore Anthony Gair had his first career interception to clinch the victory in the closing seconds.
Pittsburgh finished with 435 yards for the game with 262 coming in the first half. After surrendering 132 rushing yards in the first half, the Hawkeyes limited Pitt to 53 yards and nine first downs over the final 30 minutes.
Panther running back James Conner ran for 155 yards on 29 carries with one score, quarterback Chad Voytik completed 19-of-29 attempts for 250 yards, and wide receiver Tyler Boyd had 10 receptions for 153 yards. Matt Galambos had a team-best nine tackles (three solo, six assists).
After trailing 17-7 at the break, Beathard led the Hawkeyes on a seven play, 94-yard drive on Iowa’s first drive of the second half. Iowa moved out of the shadow of its end zone with two Weisman rushes for 7 yards to the 13 before Beathard found Kevonte Martin-Manley for a gain of 7 to the 20.
On the next play, Beathard found Powell in one-on-one coverage, and the senior hauled in a one-handed grab for a 62-yard gain to move Iowa into the red zone. The catch was the Hawkeyes’ longest play of the season. After a pair of Jordan Canzeri rushes moved Iowa to the 10, Weisman scored from 10-yards out to cut the deficit to 17-14 with 8:17 left in the third quarter.
“At first when it released my hand, I thought I had over thrown him…” said Beathard of the long completion to Powell. “but he made a great one-handed catch.”
The Panthers had an immediate answer, as Voytik found Boyd for a 39-yard completion on the first play on the ensuing drive to put Pittsburgh into Iowa territory at the 36 yard line. After a pass interference penalty moved Pitt into the red zone, Iowa’s defense buckled down, and ultimately got the win by forcing the Panthers to settle on Chris Blewitt’s 29-yard field goal to make the score 20-14 with 4:54 remaining.
The Hawkeyes responded with its second-straight scoring drive, covering 39 yards over eight plays. Powell got things started with a 14-yard run on second-and-10 from Iowa’s own 27. Canzeri moved the chains for another first down, running for 8 yards to into Pitt territory. After Pitt’s defense held, junior Marshall Koehn drilled a career-long 52-yard field goal, making the score 20-17.
After forcing a three-and-out, Iowa put together a 13-play, 52-yard scoring drive to take its first lead of the game. The Hawkeyes converted one third down and two fourth downs during the series. The first conversion came on third-and-7 from the Pitt 34 when Beathard hung in the pocket with pressure in his face before finding senior tight end Ray Hamilton for 10 yards to the 24.
On third-and-4 from the 18, Beathard connected with junior Jacob Hillyer for 3 yards to the 15, setting up a fourth-and-1, where Beathard moved the chains with a 2-yard gain on a quarterback sneak. On first-and-10 from the 13, Iowa went to Weisman for six-straight rushes, where he converted a fourth-and-1 from the 4 before scoring from 1-yard out on second and goal with 6:56 remaining.
“Weisman kept grinding and grinding,” said Beathard. “He’s a tough back, he can take the hits. He did a great job plowing away, and staying to the grind.”
Taking over at its own 25, Pittsburgh drove 46 yards over 12 plays before turning it over on downs. Voytik found Manasseh Garner for 22 yards on third-and-8 from the 27 to move the ball to midfield, and the Panthers picked up two additional first downs, advancing to the Iowa 29. After bottling up Conner for no gain on first down, Pitt went to the air, and Iowa held. Voytik threw an incomplete pass on second down before Greg Mabin had pass breakups on both third and fourth down to give Iowa possession with 1:37 to play.
“(Mabin’s breakups) were bang-bang plays,” said Ferentz. “If we’re going to be good, that’s what we need. We’re looking to see growth from the team, and hopefully the second half will be a spark for us.”
Pittsburgh had one final chance, taking over at its own 20 with 25 seconds left. Voytik moved the ball into Iowa territory with consecutive completions for 16 and 15 yards, but his final attempt was picked off by Gair with seconds remaining to send Iowa to the win.
Pittsburgh controlled the first half, outgaining the Hawkeyes, 262-128, to take a 17-7 lead into the locker room. The Panthers rushed for 132 yards in the opening 30 minutes, including a 17 carry, 100-yard effort from Conner.
Pittsburgh scored the game’s first points on its second possession of the first quarter, using an eight-play, 64-yard drive to grab a 7-0 lead. After opening the series with a pair of passes, the Panthers used six-straight rushing attempts to find the end zone.
On second-and-3 from midfield, Conner bounced to the outside for a 22-yard gain to the 25. Four plays later, freshman Chris James showed a burst of speed up the middle to score from 14-yards out, giving the Panthers a 7-0 advantage with 4:15 left in the first quarter.
The Hawkeyes answered on the ensuing series, using a seven-play, 75-yard drive. Weisman opened the drive with consecutive carries for a first down before sophomore Matt VandeBerg climbed the ladder over defensive back Lafayette Pitts for a 44-yard catch to the Pitt 21. On fourth-and-2 from the 13, Iowa rolled the dice and it paid off.
After sucking in the defense with play action, Rudock found a wide open Henry Krieger-Coble in the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown strike with 58 seconds left in the opening half. The touchdown catch was the second of Krieger-Coble’s career.
Pittsburgh regained the lead, scoring the final 10 points of the opening half. The first drive came via an 18-play, 75-yard drive that chewed up nearly 10 minutes off the clock. It was a steady dose of Conner to start the series, as three rushes and a 9-yard completion moved Pittsburgh to midfield.
The Panthers converted a fourth-and-1 from the 35 with a 4-yard Conner rush up the middle and a third-and-8 with an 18-yard completion from Voytik to Boyd to the 11. The Hawkeyes bottled up Conner on four-straight rushes, setting up a fourth-and-1 from the 2. Conner picked up the first down via his second effort before scoring on the next play to put Pitt up 14-7.
Pittsburgh pushed its lead to 17-7 with an 11-play, 66-yard scoring drive to end the half. Voytik moved the Panthers down field with his arm, connecting with Boyd for 11 yards on first down before a second completion for 24 yards converted a second-and-22.
After Voytik completed four passes to three different receivers to move Pitt to the Iowa 31, a Drew Ott sack pushed the Panthers out of field goal range. Voytik followed with a 23-yard pass to Kevin Weatherspoon to the Iowa 15 to set up Blewitt’s 33-yard field goal with two seconds remaining in the first half.
Iowa (3-1) opens Big Ten play at Purdue on Sept. 27 in West Lafayette.