AMES, Ia. — Something rare happened at Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday. And it wasn’t just Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz being on the winning side.
Sophomore Jake Rudock became the first Hawkeye quarterback since Nathan Chandler in 2003 to win his first road start at Iowa State.
“I didn’t know that,” Rudock said after the 27-21 victory over Iowa State. “It’s a big team win. We’re all just trying to get better, trying to get the win and trying to put ourselves in a good situation at the end.”
The win is all that matters to Rudock, as it should.
It doesn’t matter that he threw for 100 fewer yards than Iowa State quarterback Sam Richardson.
It doesn’t matter that he fumbled on Iowa’s second possession or that he didn’t complete a pass longer than 26 yards.
Rudock made just enough plays to complement the bruising running of junior Mark Weisman. But it was the plays Rudock didn’t try to make that contributed to Saturday’s victory, which was just the third for Ferentz in eight games in Ames.
Rudock resisted the temptation to force things late in the fourth quarter when Iowa was trying to hang on for the victory.
One play in particular showed his poise and intelligence. Rudock rolled out to his right, but instead of forcing a pass, he dove to the turf to secure the football.
“I thought Jake did a great job,” Ferentz said. “To come into an environment like this is never easy for a first-time quarterback.
“He continues to play with real good poise, and maybe as impressive as anything to me is when something bad happens, he just keeps playing. He doesn’t really show it and that’s a real positive attribute.”
Ferentz was referring to Rudock’s fumble in the first quarter.
A lot of quarterbacks might have succumbed to the circumstances after experiencing adversity.
Rudock blocked it out of his mind and just kept playing. He knew there was plenty of time for redemption.
And that’s what Rudock achieved in the end.
When the game was over, the Hawkeye quarterback walked up to his Cyclone counterpart near midfield and the two Florida natives had a brief conversation. Rudock then patted Richardson on the back and they went their separate ways.
“I think it’s a quarterback thing,” Rudock said when asked why he approached Richardson. “I always try to find the other quarterback. But the Florida thing kind of helps, too.”
The word poise gets repeated over and over when Ferentz and the Iowa players talk about what makes Rudock effective. Ferentz said it at least twice in his post-game press conference, as did sophomore tight end Ray Hamilton.
“Jake’s a great leader and he’s really come a long way,” Hamilton said. “Since day one, he’s always been a real poised guy. I think that’s the first thing that a lot of people would say about Jake.
“He’s very smart and he prepares better than probably anybody in the country. So he’s definitely the guy you want to get in the huddle with and have calling your plays.”
I’ve said for a while that redshirt freshman C.J. Beathard had the most upside of all the Iowa quarterbacks, partly because of his arm strength. Beathard might prove me right some day.
But for now, the position belongs to Rudock and deservedly so. He has the trust and respect of the players and coaches.
He also has more talent than I originally thought. He’s more elusive than I expected him to be. And he threw some nifty passes into tight windows on Saturday, none more impressive than the bullet to Tevaun Smith that gained 25 yards.
Toughness is another part of Rudock’s game that was on display Saturday. He took some bone-jarring hits, but kept getting up.
“I thought also he caught a mouthful on one of those touchdown passes,” Ferentz said. “That’s a couple times he’s done that and that’s a good sign.”
Seeing how comfortable Rudock was while running Greg Davis’ offense makes you wonder why he didn’t take a single snap as James Vandenberg’s backup last season. But now is certainly not the time to dwell on that controversial subject, although, Ferentz brought it up Saturday.
“I know it was a big deal about him not getting his 11 snaps last year, but when guys are in there it’s not the same as starting the ball game and all that,” Ferentz said. “He’s done a lot of good things and he’ll keep getting better. He works at it extremely hard. But again, he’s not making dumb mistakes out there.
“He’s protecting the football. And then when it came out he came right back and played. And those are all positives. He’s just got a real good demeanor about him. And he really works hard. There is an investment in his work. And we’ve had good run with quarterbacks like that.”
Ferentz said the same things about Chandler when he led Iowa to a 10-3 record in 2003. The current team is still a work in progress and probably a long shot to win 10 games.
But the Hawkeyes have found a quarterback they trust and respect.
And that’s what they need heading into next Saturday’s game against Western Michigan. Defeat the Broncos and Rudock will have accomplished another rare feat.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football