TAMPA, Fla. — Jake Rudock is ahead of the curve when it comes to selective analysis.
While other quarterbacks might drown in data, Iowa’s sophomore starter takes a more practical approach.
Rudock knows the pitfalls of over-preparing, especially in the days leading to a Jan. 1 Outback Bowl matchup with No. 14 Louisiana State.
“It’s kind of understanding what they do most,” Rudock explained, “and try to attack as best you can.”
The kid’s no dummy. He is, after all, a microbiology/pre-medicine major who spent the past semester breaking down game film and studying organic chemistry.
The Outback Bowl, however, is something different.
It’s a final exam held at Raymond James Stadium, in front of a national television audience on ESPN.
And fair or not, Rudock’s performance on New Year’s Day will figure heavily into how he is graded for the season.
“We appreciate that he knows what he’s doing,” left tackle Brandon Scherff said. “As a first-year starter, he’s doing a heck of a job for us.”
Rudock deserves high marks for what he’s accomplished so far.
And even beloved Hawkeye quarterbacks have bombed in bowls.
Chuck Long was a miserable 13-of-28 passing with four interceptions during a 1983 Gator Bowl loss to Florida.
Brad Banks went 15-of-36 with an interception when Iowa lost the 2003 Orange Bowl to Southern California.
But Rudock is still in the process of solidifying his reputation.
A win over LSU is the stuff legends are made of. A loss lingers until next August.
“We want to get that ninth win,” Rudock said of the Hawkeyes’ 8-4 record. “Being able to get that next win would be a good thing for the entire team and the entire organization.”
Good study habits will help.
LSU’s defense was on the field for 805 snaps this fall, allowing an average of 5.2 yards and giving up one touchdown every 28.8 plays.
The key for Rudock is determining which alignments reveal the Tigers’ true tendencies. In other words, knowing the difference between a blitz and a bluff.
“If you watch closely, he’ll check probably 10-15 plays a game,” tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz said. “He knows his stuff.
“We have all the confidence in the world in him.”
Rudock is deceptively nimble in the pocket, and walks a fine line between being thorough and obsessive.
“You try and understand what they’re going to do,” Rudock said. “But if there is one snap out of 600 plays where they do this thing, (and) you think too much … it might never happen.”
Nobody knew what to expect when Rudock stepped under center Aug. 31 against Northern Illinois.
He was Iowa’s first starting quarterback since 1994 to make his debut in a season opener, and went on to help the Hawkeyes earn four road wins (something Ricky Stanzi did as a junior in 2009.)
Rudock is one of just three major college quarterbacks in the last six years to pass and run for four-plus touchdowns in their first four career games — joining future Heisman Trophy winners Robert Griffin III (who became a starter in 2008) and Johnny Manziel (in 2012).
Of course, LSU smothered Manziel back on Nov. 23, holding him to 54 rushing yards and 16-of-41 passing for 224 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
“You have to give a lot of credit to them,” Manziel said afterward. “I think they came out and played a heck of a game defensively, scheme-wise and all.
“They continued to get a free rusher at will.”
Rudock, meanwhile, talks like a young man who knows what’s ahead of him.
“We’ll have our hands full,” he said of the Tigers. “We know that.”
Andrew Logue covers Hawkeye football and sports media for the Register. Follow him on Twitter: @AndrewMLogue.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football