Big Ten

Big Ten preview: C.J. Beathard looks to lead another strong campaign for Hawkeyes

Big Ten preview: C.J. Beathard looks to lead another strong campaign for Hawkeyes

There are a couple things Kirk Ferentz wants you to know about C.J. Beathard.

No. 1, Beathard was beat up last season. According to the Iowa head coach, his quarterback wasn’t healthy for more than a couple games.

No. 2, Beathard was in his first year really playing in college football games after starting just one game and doing extensive relief work in one other as a sophomore in 2014.

And here’s what everyone should already know about C.J. Beathard: He led the Hawkeyes to a perfect 12-0 regular season last year, the winningest campaign in program history.

Imagine what he’ll be able to do with health and experience on his side.

“I thought he did a wonderful job,” Ferentz said of his quarterback last week during Big Ten Media Days. “Showed a lot of poise, a lot of mental toughness out there. A lot of great leadership. I think he's representative of our good players. If we're going to have a good football team this year, realistically every one of those guys have to play better than they did a year ago.

“Certainly quarterback's a very tough position to play. It's a very critical position, and C.J. is a very intelligent young man, very prideful young man. All of us expect them to continue to push forward and not only be healthier but an improving player on top of that.”

Without health and experience, Beathard still worked wonders. He came up with one big play after another during Iowa’s undefeated regular season, he played well enough to earn All-Big Ten Second Team honors, and he made what was almost the biggest play of the Big Ten Championship Game, pitching an 85-yard touchdown strike to give the Hawkeyes a lead and wake up what had been a sleepy contest for three quarters.

He wasn’t flashy for much of the year, nor did he post gaudy numbers, ranking just fifth in the conference in passing yardage and touchdown passes. But who needs flash when you’ve got toughness?

There were plenty of times Beathard was spotted hobbling around the field with one injury or another. Iowa’s 40-point blowout of Northwestern was perhaps the most banged-up he got, according to him and his coach.

“Luckily we were up enough in that game that I was able to come out of the game,” he said.

Beathard also had help in that game and plenty of others from what could be one of the conference’s most underrated rushing attacks. The Hawkeyes had Jordan Canzeri to rack up yardage last season, but there shouldn’t be much of a drop-off in his absence, as LeShun Daniels, Akrum Wadley and Derrick Mitchell all return after there own flashes of brilliance last season.

“It makes it a lot easier on me,” Beathard said. “When you’ve got an offensive line that’s able to open up holes for the running backs, it’s great. LeShun and Akrum and Derrick, they did a good job last season, and now they’ve got another year of experience under their belt. And with an offensive line with a lot of experience, as well, it will take some pressure off me as a quarterback with pass plays and play actions.

“We’ve got three great running backs right now. I don’t think it matters who’s in the game, I trust them to do a great job. All that’s made possible because of the offensive line and how well they block and how tough they are opening up holes. They do a great job. Historically at Iowa, we’ve had a good offensive line, and this year’s no different.”

What is different this season is expectations. Beathard insisted he’s not listening to any of that, but he also admitted the goal is to win every game — and more importantly the ones that matter. The Hawkeyes might not be able to go undefeated during the regular season again, but Beathard wants to make sure they do make a repeat appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game and earn a result different than what happened after his go-ahead touchdown pass to kick off the fourth quarter of last year’s game.

“I don’t think it’s anything we have to prove to anybody on the outside. To be honest, I don’t really care about people on the outside, what their expectations are, all I care about is what our teammates think and what we want,” Beathard said. “If anybody wants to win, it’s the guys on the team and the coaching staff. We’re going to do everything we can to have a great season and ultimately, hopefully, win a Big Ten championship and win a bowl game.”

If he shows the same leadership and determination he did on the field last season — and off the field last week — then there’s little reason to think Iowa won’t be in the thick of things once again.

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

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USA TODAY

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football. 

"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.

"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.

"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline." 

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."

"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.

"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."

Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

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USA TODAY

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.