IOWA CITY, Iowa - For many people in the Iowa fan base, the battle line has been drawn. They've chosen C.J. Beathard or Jake Rudock. They've continued arguing their guy's case on message boards, social media, talk radio and anywhere else they can find an audience.
A quarterback controversy exists for a lot of Hawkeye followers after Beathard rallied their team to victory at Pitt on Saturday. Some folks already desired before those heroics that he replace Jake Rudock, starter of 17 games in a row.
They rejoiced when Coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday that Beathard was the starter. Then they learned that the designation only was for that day based on Rudock's inability to practice. If he returned to the field on Wednesday, Beathard could be back to No. 2.
While the coach's stance that Rudock is his starter annoys some of his constituency, it doesn't surprise or affect the people who matter most when it comes to winning games. The Iowa players do not have a quarterback controversy.
"I can see some people on the outside seeing what they want to and want to see a certain player to play over another," running back Jordan Canzeri said. "It's a tough thing because we all love each other and we're competitive at the same time. We know that all it is, is increasing the competition between the two of them, which will obviously make their game play even better. We know whichever quarterback is in there will get the job done and will make plays. It's a great thing for our offense. It's not like we're thinking that one player should be playing over the other. We're just happy that we have two quarterbacks that can play as well as they do."
A quarterback competition that splits the team would spell trouble. Unity and camaraderie play a role in success.
Conspiracy theorists claim Rudock isn't really hurt. It's just a way for Ferentz to switch quarterbacks without admitting he has been playing the wrong guy for the last year plus. The coach likes Rudock more, personally, they believe.
"We know that whomever is in there will get the job done," Canzeri said. "It doesn't matter their ages. The coaches gave them the opportunity because they've shown they are able to play. It's not like we're thinking that the coaches want a certain player to play. It's never that because the coach's decision is reflective of what's happening on the field. We see it. We know it."
Canzeri has been competing for playing time the last two years. He's been part of the running back controversy in the minds of some fans.
If the coaches were playing favorites and not utilizing the guys who have earned game time in practice, it would crush team morale.
"We have an unbelievable staff that has out best interest in mind," tight end Ray Hamilton said. "We trust every move they make. They play the best people that deserve to be out there on the field. Whatever is best for the team is what they do."
Rudock completed 5 of 10 passes for 80 yards and a touchdown with an interception against Pitt. He left the game for good late in the second quarter when he took a hit to the hip.
Rudock completed a 44-yard pass to Matt Vandeberg. Another bomb thrown to Damond Powell was dropped and turned into a Panther interception.
Beathard finished with 98 yards, completing 7 of 8 passes. He didn't throw a touchdown or interception but led the Hawkeyes on three scoring drives and 17 second-half points.
Powell delivered a one-handed catch on a 62-yard throw from Beathard. It confirmed what proponents for the back-up had been chirping about - he throws a better deep ball than does Rudock.
Rudock's pass to Powell was equally as strong and accurate as the one he hauled in from Beathard. The biggest difference between the previous three weeks and Saturday at Pitt was that the coaches allowed them to heave it down the field.
Critics of Rudock complain that he audibles to running plays or checks down to short passes too often. Sure, he can rush through progressions at times, but every quarterback likes to fire it down the field. He's trying to get the team in the best possible play. Sometimes his teammates affect what he can do, too, if they're not carrying out their assignments.
Perhaps Beathard is the better player. But it's safe to say he hasn't shown that yet when being evaluated by the coaches.
Beathard was given opportunities before Saturday. In five games last season, he completed 9 of 27 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown against two interceptions. He played the game's second series in Week 2 against Ball State and almost hit Powell for a long touchdown. He had a wide open Damon Bullock in the flat on the play.
None of the outside talk swirling around Iowa's quarterbacks should surprise anyone. The Hawkeyes boast two signal callers who have shown they can win games. And the nature of football followers is to lean towards the back-up.
"I love our fans but I'm not worried about what they're saying and what they're thinking," Hamilton said. "I stay away from that stuff. During the season, I don't read any of that stuff. I just focus on what we can control on our facility.
"It's not going to do anybody any good to go read a bunch of stuff or listen to that noise. It'a all about what you can control. We do a pretty good job as a team of understanding that. We can't control what's going on, on the outside, what people are saying about us."
Ferentz listed Rudock as day to day. He did not commit to a timetable on when the junior would need to get back to practice this week to prove he's ready for Saturday's game at Purdue (11 a.m. CT, BTN).
As far as the Iowa players are concerned, they believe in both quarterbacks.
"Out on the practice field, being able to see them both prepare, they're both world class athletes," right tackle Andrew Donnal said. "They both prepare like they're going to be playing in the game no matter who is getting the start. I have the utmost respect for both of them and their attitude towards the game and their abilities."