With Iowa, a lot of the attention goes to the running backs, the offensive line, and the rushing attack. And deservedly so, Iowa's running game is not only one of the best in the Big Ten, but the entire country. When the Hawkeyes are at their best they are running the ball with a lot of success. It's been a staple of the program for forever. They are notorious for producing offensive linemen year in and year out, and send many to the NFL ranks.
However, the Stanford contingent available to the media went a different route when asked what player stood out to them on the offensive side of the ball. The Cardinal defense has been thoroughly impressed with the play of the quarterback, C.J. Beathard. The Hawkeye signal caller hasn't gotten a ton of respect throughout the nation this season but he's already won the respect of the Stanford defense lead by coordinator Lance Anderson.
"Their quarterback is a guy that can make plays," Anderson said. "He makes plays with his arm. He can make plays with his feet as well. He buys time. He seems like a real leader. He's a real competitive guy."
Beathard isn't the conventional quarterback at the helm of a prolific passing attack. He's atypical in how he operates. But somehow, everything revolves around him and the team responds to how hard he plays and the way he conducts himself.
"Yeah, he is (different)," Stanford defensive lineman Brennan Scarlett noted. "He doesn't seem overly athletic but he does make plays with his legs. He will extend plays. He's a real talented guy. He makes good throws. As a defensive line, when we get to him we have to break down. It doesn't have to be a huge hit. He's mobile. We'll have to be prepared for that."
"He makes plays happen when he shouldn't (be able to)," Cardinal defensive lineman Aziz Shittu pointed out. "He gets first downs on third and longs by just being savvy. He really pops out to us because he gets the offense going and makes everything happen for them."
The concern from Stanford's end is more about Beathard's escapability. He doesn't quite make it difficult on defenses with designed runs. It is more about his improvisation and his ability to evade the rush. He's had the knack for tucking the ball in meaningful moments and coming up with the play when the Hawkeyes have needed it the most. The Cardinal have taken notice.
"He does a great job of staying in and escaping the pocket," Stanford defensive back Ronnie Harris mentioned. "I'd compare him to (Mike) Bercovici. We didn't play him this year but he's the quarterback of Arizona State. He has a very quick release and is a lot more athletic than he looks."
"He's a great player," Stanford linebacker Blake Martinez discussed. "He extends plays. Seeing him extend so many plays and pass the ball, you can also see him run the ball. You see how fast he is. It's surprising at first. I thought we didn't have to worry about a runner, and then he's gone left and right."
Much to the delight of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, who doesn't like the 'game manager' tag that Beathard is sometimes labeled with, the Cardinal defense know they'll be dealing with a much more dynamic quarterback.
"He's much more than a game manager, much more than he's given credit for," defensive back Ronnie Harris admitted. "I think he's very athletic."
"Stats don't tell the story for him," Shittu stated. "He gets overlooked because he doesn't have the stats of a Pac-12 quarterback or something like that. You have to slow him down because he's a great player."
Beathard has been the leader of the surging Hawkeyes and Stanford knows what Iowa does starts and ends with him. A lot of their preparation will be focused on keeping him at bay.
"We've been talking about him since we got the Iowa matchup," Shittu explained. "He's the head of the household. He's the guy that gets everything going. You've got to cut off the head of the snake, and he's the guy. He's their guy. He gets their whole offense going."