IOWA CITY – C.J. Beathard took his first snaps as an Iowa quarterback on Saturday, working the final 18 minutes of the Hawkeyes’ 59-3 blowout win over Western Michigan.
The redshirt freshman directed Iowa to its final touchdown, a 16-yard run by Jordan Canzeri, just over three minutes into the fourth quarter, during an 83-yard drive that included Beathard hitting Damond Powell in stride with an 54-yard pass in the opening minute of the final quarter.
“It was great to be out there and I think it helps me,’’ said Beathard, the first back-up quarterback to play for Iowa since John Wienke relieved James Vandenberg during the 2011 Insight Bowl loss to Oklahoma.
“It was good to get this experience out of the way. I knew it would be different and it was a step forward for me.’’
The pass to Powell was the only one he completed in three attempts during an outing which mostly involved handing the ball off to a group of reserve running backs.
“It was good to get all of those guys in,’’ starter Jake Rudock said. “They work hard all week, too, and this was a great opportunity to get them some game experience.’’
Nothing went right
Western Michigan safety Rontavious Atkins said that Saturday’s game proved to be an exercise in frustration for the Broncos.
“Iowa came out and was sharp and we weren’t tough enough to match them,’’ Atkins aid. “It didn’t seem like anything wen t our way all day.’’
The Broncos did recover a pair of fumbles by Hawkeye running backs, one by LeShun Daniels and one by Jordan Canzeri.
Third and one
Iowa’s defense limited Western Michigan to a 1-of-14 conversion rate on third down, work that did not go unnoticed by Hawkeye coach Kirk Ferentz.
“Getting off the field is always a good thing, and that’s our number one goal,’’ Ferentz said. “The defense did a really good job of today of getting off the field quickly.’’
On the run
Iowa ran the ball 58 times Saturday for a total of 258 yards.
The 58 carries ties the fourth-highest total for a Ferentz-coached Hawkeye team and it is third time this season Iowa has reached that mark but the ball was spread around more against the Broncos than in previous weeks.
Six Hawkeyes rushed for 30 yards or more against Western Michigan, with Canzeri and Daniels leading the way with 13 carries apiece.
“We were all out there trying to make plays,’’ said Damon Bullock, who rushed 10 times for 37 yards. “Jake (Rudock) is doing a good job of getting everybody involved in the offense and I think that is something that is going to help us win games.’’
Canzeri scored on a 16-yard carry in the fourth quarter, the first rushing touchdown of his career.
Hamilton’s big day
Tight end Ray Hamilton caught a career-high three passes for a career-best 39 yards on Saturday, following a solid performance in the passing game at Iowa State.
Ferentz said his work in games has been an extension of what coaches have seen on the practice field.
“He has a knack of getting himself open, and when the ball is in his area he seems to come up with it, not matter what,’’ Ferentz said. “He took a couple of shots today, but he bounces right back up and keeps on playing.’’
B.J. Lowery wasn’t the only Hawkeye intercepting passes Saturday. For the second time in three games, safety Tanner Miller intercepted a pass in the end zone.
“I think he had that thing sized up pretty well and made a real good play,’’ Ferentz said. “That seems to be his lucky end zone down there (on the south side of Kinnick Stadium), but those are big plays, invaluable.’’
Iowa’s 38 first-half points were the most scored by the Hawkeyes in the opening half of a game since putting 49 on the board in the first half of a 56-0 win over Ball State which opened the 2005 season.
In that game, the Brady Hoke-coached Cardinals were shorthanded after having nearly two dozen players suspended the day before game for improperly obtaining textbooks.
Linebacker Reggie Spearman became the fourth true freshman to see action for Iowa this season, taking the field on kick coverage units in the first quarter.
Redshirt freshman Maurice Fleming, a defensive back who suffered an injury during preseason camp, also saw the first action of his college career. Fleming took the field on Iowa’s punt return unit.
The only other true freshmen to see the field this season for the Hawkeyes are running back LeShun Daniels, defensive back Desmond King and receiver Matt VandeBerg.
Representatives of the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl in Detroit were the only bowl representatives in attendance at Saturday’s game.