AMES, Iowa — C.J. Beathard helped ease the sting of an emotional week for Iowa.
Beathard threw three touchdown passes, including the tie-breaker to Riley McCarron with 2:14 left, lifting Iowa to a 31-17 victory over Iowa State on Saturday.
Jordan Canzeri's fumble deep in Iowa State territory had thwarted an earlier drive by the Hawkeyes (2-0). But their defense forced the Cyclones (1-1) to punt. Desmond King returned it to midfield and Beathard took the Hawkeyes to the decisive score, finding the 5-foot-9 McCarron in the back of the end zone from 25 yards out.
The victory followed an emotional week for the Hawkeyes, who are mourning the deaths, four days apart, of former football standout Tyler Sash and former basketball star Roy Marble.
"Today's victory is a rewarding end to a very difficult and challenging week for everybody," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "On top of that, an important chapter for our football team. I told the football team last night that we were going to have to earn this."
Sash, 27, an all-Big Ten defensive back who intercepted three passes in a 35-3 victory over Iowa State in 2009, died Tuesday at his home in Oskaloosa, Iowa. Marble, the school's career scoring leader, died Friday at age 48 after a yearlong battle with cancer.
The Hawkeyes wore Sash's jersey number, 9, on their helmets and fans of both schools in the sold-out stadium stood for a moment of silence in honor of the two athletes before the game.
An interception by King after McCarron's TD gave the ball right back to Iowa, and Canzeri scored on an 8-yard run to finish off a strong second half for the Hawkeyes, who thwarted Iowa State's offense at every turn after halftime.
"I think we got too complacent in the second half," ISU linebacker Jordan Harris said. "We had a seven-point lead. It's not that much, especially when you're playing a Big Ten football team. We got a little comfortable and took our foot off of the gas."
On a perfect late-summer day that featured a pregame stadium walk-through by Donald Trump, Beathard finished 15 of 25 for 215 yards and no interceptions. Most of his passes went to Matt VandeBerg, who finished with career highs of nine catches for 114 yards and a touchdown, though he didn't actually catch the ball on that play.
Teammate Henry Krieger-Coble fumbled on his way to the end zone after catching a pass, but the hustling VandeBerg picked the ball up on the bounce at the Iowa State 3 and carried in to tie the game at 17 earlier in the fourth quarter.
Both defenses then dominated until the Hawkeyes struck late.
"The most impressive thing about the way C.J. played was him keeping his poise," Ferentz said. "When you talk to him or see him on the sideline, he never looks any different. He doesn't get rattled."
Iowa State's Sam Richardson finished 19 of 35 for 247 yards, two touchdowns and the late interception. But he was sacked four times and Iowa State managed only 63 yards rushing and 310 total yards, just 66 in the second half when Iowa hassled Richardson with a stronger pass rush.
Richardson's 29-yard strike to Jauan Wesley, who returned from a one-game suspension, gave Iowa State a 17-10 halftime lead. The Cyclones seemed to have momentum after thwarted Iowa State's fake field goal on the final play of the opening half, but went three-and-out to start the second half and never again found any offensive rhythm.
Beathard also rushed for 77 yards and showed his elusiveness on a 93-yard drive the pulled the Hawkeyes into a 10-10 late in the first half.
He avoided a safety by stretching out of the end zone on a sack, broke three tackles on a 44-yard scramble, then danced away from pressure on a 19-yard completion to Canzeri. Beathard completed the drive with a 14-yard strike to Tevaun Smith in the back corner of the end zone.
"It just feels good," Iowa center Austin Blythe said after hoisting the trophy that goes to the game's winner. "It's what we want to do as a senior class is go out and win those trophy games, and this was a good start."
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