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Hawkeye receivers catching on, but does Iowa earn passing grade?

[ 0 ] September 1, 2014 |
The Iowa passing game is far from on its head, but there is a sentiment that Kevonte Martin-Manley (11) and other receivers should be a more prevalent part of big-yardage plays. (Bryon Houlgrave/The Register)

The Iowa passing game is far from on its head, but there is a sentiment that Kevonte Martin-Manley (11) and other receivers should be a more prevalent part of big-yardage plays. (Bryon Houlgrave/The Register)

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Faith in Iowa’s passing game seems fleeting for now.

Midway through the first half of Saturday’s season-opening victory against Northern Iowa, a former Hawkeye receiver began expressing his frustrations via Twitter.

“C’mon Ruddock [sic] trust the (receivers) down the field,” Marvin McNutt tweeted, in reference to quarterback Jake Rudock.

McNutt, who earned all-Big Ten honors as a senior in 2011, followed with, “All I’m saying is give the (receivers) a chance, (you) see what we do with it, even on a reverse.”

It’s difficult to argue with McNutt about Tevaun Smith’s 35-yard, sideline-to-sideline run on a third-quarter end around. Smith also made a one-handed touchdown catch, helping the Hawkeyes hold off the Panthers 31-23.

But it takes two to tangle up an offense, and Smith admitted he was thrown off stride when Northern Iowa started jamming him at the line of scrimmage.

“I struggled in the beginning,” Smith said, “because I had no clue they were going to do that.

“I just trusted in my technique and trusted in my release.”

Smith and his fellow wideouts eventually found room to roam – thanks partly to some creative play calling by offensive coordinator Greg Davis – helping Rudock complete 31 of 41 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns.

Rudock connected with 13 different targets (five receivers, five running backs and three tight ends).

“I love all those guys,” Rudock said. “Whoever comes in and has a big game, whoever catches it, I’m happy.”

Rudock averaged a modest 8.1 yards per completion, which might be cause for concern. Then again, the Hawkeyes weren’t exactly chewing up yards on the ground.

Running backs Mark Weisman, Damon Bullock, Jordan Canzeri and LeShun Daniels combined to average 2.9 yards on 28 carries.

Rudock was Iowa’s most effective option.

“You go through what the defense throws at you,” Rudock said. “And you go through the progressions, you go through what coach Davis is trying to tell you.

“All those things are going in your head.”

It’s also notable that none of Rudock’s 41 attempts was intercepted, while Iowa’s lone turnover came on Jacob Hillyer’s fumble.

So, if Rudock seemed a little cautious, he probably had good reasons.

“That just comes with what he sees on the field,” receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley said. “We’ve got guys who can go deep. We have guys who can make those plays, but we just have to keep working on them in practice.”

Martin-Manley was among those who credited coaches for making halftime adjustments.

When the Panthers pulled within 24-23 early in the fourth quarter, Davis had Iowa air things out.

A 46-yard bomb to freshman Derrick Willies set up a 12-yard screen pass to Damond Powell.

“Things opened up,” Powell said. “We were running the ball in the first half, and in the second half we tried something different.”

Will the Hawkeyes go deep this Saturday against Ball State (2:30 p.m. on ESPN2)?

“The gameplan is to win,” Rudock said. “Sometimes, it will turn the other way. We don’t throw it much, but we’ll run the ball.”

 

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Andrew Logue: Andrew has been with the Des Moines Register for 19 years, covering everything from preps to Hawkeye and Cyclone sports, as well as the Drake Relays. View author profile.