IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Jake Rudock saw Kevonte Martin-Manley get a step against Purdue’s man-on-man coverage. Iowa’s quarterback also saw a second defender, in position to drop off his man, trying to bait him into making the throw.
Throw it to Kevonte’s back shoulder, Rudock told himself, putting some extra mustard on the pass so he could thread it between those two defenders.
“Sometimes you get lucky and it gets in there, which it did,” Rudock said.
The 22-yard touchdown pass gave Iowa a 14-7 lead late in the first half at Purdue, and provided some momentum for an eventual 38-14 victory a week ago.
More importantly, it painted a picture of the maturation of Rudock as a college quarterback. The pass to Martin-Manley is one the redshirt sophomore probably couldn’t have made early in the season.
“I think that’s fair,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “And it was a good play by Kevonte, too. Good concentration. But it was a big-time throw, certainly. He’s made a couple of them now.”
Like the play in overtime against Northwestern, Ferentz pointed out. On third-and-goal from the 8-yard-line, with an all-out Wildcat blitz in his face, Rudock found tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz for what turned out to be the winning touchdown pass in the 17-10 victory.
“We’re encouraged by the way Jake is doing things,” Ferentz said.
Rudock, who played at prep power St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., won a three-man race with C.J. Beathard and Cody Sokol for the starting quarterback spot in fall drills. He took his first snap in a college game in Iowa’s season opener against Northern Illinois.
With just over a minute remaining and the score tied, 27-27, Rudock tried to throw an out route to Martin-Manley. It was intercepted, leading to the Huskies’ winning field goal. Nine games later, Rudock zipped a dart to Martin-Manley for a touchdown at Purdue.
“Having more games under your belt, you see things a little bit differently,” Rudock said. “Just a combination of things makes it a little bit easier to pull the trigger.”
Rudock hasn’t gone back to watch video of himself from early in the season.
That footage would show a different quarterback.
“Everything is so week-to-week,” Rudock said. “So much concentration. On a bye week you can look back a little, but you can never look back a lot. The important thing is to try and get a jump-start on the next game we have.”
That next game is Michigan in the season’s home finale Saturday. At 6-4, Iowa is already bowl eligible. Rudock has passed for 1,916 yards, completing 59.9 percent of his passes, with 14 touchdowns to nine interceptions.
Rudock injured a knee Nov. 2 against Wisconsin and wore a knee brace against Purdue.
The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time. He feels fine, but he’ll likely wear the brace for the rest of the season as a precaution.
“When you play with it, you kind of forget it’s there,” Rudock said.
With two more regular-season games and a bowl appearance to go, Rudock has three more chances to become a better quarterback heading into the 2014 season.
“We all have confidence in him now, and we all have great respect for the way he prepares, the way he practices, and the way he competes physically and mentally, his toughness,” Ferentz said. “Those are things that you start to earn in practice, and you earn them out-of-season. Especially for a quarterback, until you get on the field it’s really tough to solidify those things. To his credit, he’s done a great job there.”