Howard's big day gets Hoosiers off ground, but No. 10 Iowa stays perfect with 35-27 win

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BLOOMINGTON, Indiana — Jordan Howard finally looked healthy Saturday.

He ran over Iowa defenders, around them and was able to cut hard on an injured ankle that slowed him down for a month.

Indiana's running back gashed one of the nation's top defenses for 174 yards and two touchdowns, but it still wasn't enough on a day quarterback C.J. Beathard overcame his own nicks to help No. 10 Iowa hold off the Hoosiers 35-27.

"I feel I am very healthy," Howard said. "Physically, you're never going to be 100 percent, but I feel like I am good enough to go."

He proved it against a defense that came into the weekend allowing just 85.8 yards per game and had given up one rushing score all season. Howard did more than that in a half — rushing for 116 yards and two scores.

But it was another frustrating finish for the Hoosiers (4-5, 0-5 Big Ten).

They've lost five straight overall, three of them to unbeaten teams. They still need two wins to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2007, and they've now lost 30 straight to top 10 teams dating to an October 1987 win at then-No. 9 Ohio State.

"I think there's a team in there that might be a little disappointed," coach Kevin Wilson said. "But it's a good group and we're going to them going and push forward."

The problem Saturday was Beathard.

After battling a groin injury for the past month, he hurt his back on a leaping go-ahead touchdown run late in the first half. It didn't stop him. Beathard's 10-yard TD pass to George Kittle with 6:03 left in the game wrapped up the crucial win.

"Nothing serious, I just bruised my back," he said. "I'm not 100 percent, but when the adrenaline's going, it felt pretty good."

Beathard refused to let anything derail the Hawkeyes' surprising playoff push.

Iowa (No. 9 CFP) is 9-0 for the first time since 2009 and only for the second time ever.

At 5-0 in conference play and with three regular-season games remaining — home against Minnesota and Purdue and at Nebraska — the Hawkeyes have a clear path to their first Big Ten West title and a return trip to Indiana for the conference championship game on Dec. 5.

And Beathard, the first Iowa quarterback to win his first nine starts, improved to 10-0 with a gritty performance. He finished 19 of 31 with 233 yards and the touchdown and ran five times for 38 yards to continue Iowa's pursuit of perfection.

In fact, he may have saved that quest with a daring 7-yard quarterback draw that had him diving over a pile of defenders and the ball coming out at the goal line. When the replay review didn't show enough to overturn the call, Iowa led 21-17 with 17 seconds left in the half.

The Hawkeyes never trailed again.

"That was a great effort on his part, and I guess we can all quit asking about what percent he is because I have no idea and certainly he doesn't either," coach Kirk Ferentz said. "It's a good enough percent to look like a football player out there."

Indiana certainly had its chances.

Griffin Oakes made a 28-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 21-20 early in the fourth quarter.

But Beathard answered with a methodical drive, capped by LeShun Daniels' 1-yard TD run. On the next series, Beathard extended the lead to 35-20 with the TD pass to Kittle.

Nate Sudfeld gave Indiana one last gasp with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Michael Cooper with 2:24 left, but Iowa recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.

Sudfeld wound up 16 of 37 for 180 yards with one interception and his 49th career scoring pass — one more than Kellen Lewis to put him atop the school chart.

"Just not enough plays in the passing game," Wilson said. "A few dropped passes, probably could have been a lot cleaner."

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