IOWA CITY, Ia. For a fleeting second, Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock thought he had overthrown wide receiver Derrick Willies at a crucial moment.
“I thought I threw it in a pretty good rhythm,” Rudock said. “When I saw him start putting his head down I thought, “Did I really overthrow him?’ “
Willies stretched out and made a fingertip catch. He lost his balance on the stretch and fell down at the Northern Iowa 8. But the 46-yard gain, with Iowa clinging to a one-point lead in the fourth quarter, led to a very important touchdown in Iowa’s 31-23 win.
It was also the first career catch for Willies, a redshirt freshman who was the sensation of spring practice in April.
“He’s had his ups and downs (in fall camp), like he did in the spring,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He’s a second-year player, so that’s a big part of the deal. But for him to make that play, that should give him some confidence.”
Willies saw the safety bite as he made a move, and knew he had a chance to make a big play.
“I knew when I looked back the ball should be in the air, and it was,” Willies said. “I had to stretch out for it. I just wanted to secure the catch first. When I stretched for it, I was off balance. I just wanted to stay on my feet as long as I could.”
Two plays later, Rudock found Damond Powell on a screen pass for a 12-yard touchdown and an eight-point Iowa lead.
Willies, who didn’t enter the game until the second quarter, said it was good to get a game under his belt.
“It feels good to get those first game jitters out of the way,” Willies said. “Now I can get comfortable and settle down. I’m ready to move forward now.”
Rudock and Willies could become a big part of the Iowa passing attack in the future.
On Saturday, their first connection was crucial to the outcome.
“He caught it,” Rudock said. “That’s the most important thing.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football