This is an easy one for me. The offensive line played well, George Kittle caught the touchdown this time, Matt VandeBerg caught nearly everything, and LeShun Daniels went over 100 yards. But none of those guys came close to what C.J. Beathard did. 235 yards doesn't sound like a lot but it was one of the best 235 yard performances I've seen in my 27 years on Earth. The ball placement was special, especially on the three throws to Matt VandeBerg, the fade from the slot, the touchdown in the corner, and the back shoulder throw. He had a little bit of extra juice in this one as that ball was flying on Saturday night, at times a little too hot to handle. He's got an NFL arm, without a doubt. And you don't have to have a foot of separation or more to be open when Beathard is the one under center. Being open could just mean a very, very tiny window or a late cut from the receiver and the defensive back not getting his head around.
The defense played pretty well as a whole too but I thought this was a simple choice as well. Nobody on the defense played the game that defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson did. He got his first sack of the season but it was more than that. He had a couple tackles for loss due to his penetration, but he was re-directing offensive lineman and getting a push all night that really caused a lot of other disruption that won't show up on the stat sheet for him. He looked like the monster we saw for about three quarters of the season a year ago but a little better. It was the senior defensive tackle we expected to see in the opener against Miami but didn't.
Keith Duncan was perfect on extra points again, but aside from that, not a whole lot of opportunity for him here. Desmond King continues to grab good chunks and pick up positive yardage on the returns but didn't really break any big ones. I am also going to throw some honorable mention honors here to linebackers Amani Jones and Jack Hockaday. They excelled on a few of the coverage units. But the winner here for me is punter Ron Coluzzi again. The punts were good, the kickoffs were good. And those aren't going unnoticed and they're having more of a direct impact on the game than the others at this time. Coluzzi has been excellent.
With as many true frosh as there is playing week to week this year, I figured it would be a nice added feature to honor the top true frosh each week as well. Last week against Miami (Ohio) it would have been Manny Rugamba at corner as we got our first glance at just how much he may play. He was on the field a lot in the sub-packages the defense deployed and even stepped in for Mabin at cornerback a few times. Going forward though we will hand it out to the most impressive true freshman, not just the one that plays the most snaps.
And against Iowa State, Rugamba definitely recorded the most snaps again. He's the starter at nickel, not Josh Jackson, showing that this Iowa staff definitely thinks the Chicago native is special. But he doesn't get the honors this week for me. I re-watched the last half of the fourth quarter and it was another defender that jumped out to me. It's going to be a good film session for defensive tackle Cedrick Lattimore. He still has to go find that ball and make the play but he was constantly in the backfield and got excellent push so he's the winner of the true freshman class to me.