IOWA CITY — It’s a long way until Aug. 31 and the home opener against Northern Illinois, but sophomore Jake Rudock might’ve given coaches something to really think about in his final drive Saturday.
With two minutes left on the clock in the fourth quarter, Rudock completed six consecutive passes to set up fullback Macon Plewa’s 1-yard TD run. The final score was offense 61, defense 37, but that didn’t matter as much as the impression the three quarterbacks left during the Hawkeyes’ spring scrimmage before 16,500 fans at Kinnick Stadium.
Offensive coordinator Greg Davis said last week there wasn’t much separation between Rudock, junior Cody Sokol and freshman C.J. Beathard. Saturday was Iowa’s second open scrimmage this spring and Rudock has had the best numbers in both, including a pretty two-minute drill to end things Saturday.
Iowa game planned the drive as if it were the end of the first half and not the end of the game. So, the idea was to get into field goal position. Rudock stayed hot and turned it an easy TD. The caveat here is that it was the second-team offense against the second-team defense.
“We always want to go down and get points,” said Rudock, who completed 18 of 29 for 174 yards. “You want to get into field goal range and conserve the points, but you also want to keep attacking and be smart with the football.”
Davis said he wanted a QB who can extend plays and avoid mistakes. All three pretty much did that. Sokol, who completed 13 of 18 for 183 yards and a TD, tested cornerback B.J. Lowery and nearly threw a pick. He also fumbled a center exchange, but the QBs were spotless beyond that.
Rudock led three scoring drives, two for TDs and one field goal. Sokol led three scoring drives, also two TDs and one FG. Beathard completed 10 of 20 for 110 yards and a TD, a 46-yarder that was a 10-or-so yard pass into the flat that running back Jordan Canzeri, along with a brilliant block from wide receiver Jacob Hillyer, turned into six.
Sokol was happy with his performance overall, but there was one series where he had a first down at the 6 and only milked it for a field goal.
“There was an audible down here in the red zone, it was a chance to score,” Sokol said. “I had an audible to go pass or run and I went with the run. They brought a blitz. That’s something I wish I would’ve had back. I could’ve hit a receiver.”
Ferentz was asked if he thinks the decision on QB could go to Aug. 30, the Friday before Northern Illinois.
“I don’t foresee that,” he said. “You never want to say something is absolute, but I have to think somewhere in August . . . at some point we have to make a decision. We’ll have to make a call and if it’s dead even, you do what you have to do. I don’t know if things are dead even ever.
“At some point you have to get the team ready and there has got to be a little bit of flow and continuity. We’ll make a call when it’s appropriate and just go from there. The good news is right now, there’s no pressure to do that.”
Some other reveals on Saturday:
– Running back Damon Bullock carried the ball nine times for 5 yards. He said after the scrimmage that he’s been practicing at wide receiver. Canzeri, who redshirted after suffering a torn ACL last spring, and redshirt freshman Michael Malloy look to be in the running back mix with junior Mark Weisman.
“We really haven’t worked Damon much in the passing game this spring,” Ferentz said. “. . . But I think that’s something we might realistically use more of because I think he’s proven he’s a guy who can help us move the football and make some plays. We’ve never had too many of those guys.”
– Defensive tackle Carl Davis has had his knee cap pop out of place twice in his career at Iowa. It’s been a slow climb to 100 percent, but Saturday the 6-5, 310-pounder was all over the field. He collected three sacks and batted down two passes.
Davis was a constant source of good vibes on the defensive sideline. The whole group seems to more on the same page than at any point last season. Defensive coordinator Phil Parker only once yelled “Know your leverage,” during the scrimmage. (Defensive coaches also rode the officials when they didn’t call sacks they thought were earned.)
“Our whole defense, we always hang out together,” Davis said. “We’re always doing something, having fun. Like [linebacker Christian] Kirksey here. He’s behind you guys, having fun.”
– The breakout redshirt freshman performer clearly was wide receiver Cameron Wilson, who caught 10 passes for 131 yards. He showed excellent hands and body control.
“We’ve been seeing him,” Rudock said. “First-year guy, he has some work to do, but he definitely picked up his game.”
Throw junior wide receiver Blake Haluska in the intriguing category, too. He caught four passes for 58 yards, including a juggling 23-yarder that set up a TD.
– The first-team offense didn’t run the ball particularly well. But, Weisman, the 238-pound workhorse, carried just five times, so the pedal wasn’t exactly to the metal.
Malloy, 6-0, 215, looked sort of Ladell Betts-ish rushing 12 times for a team-high 56 yards. He played Saturday despite not being fully cleared from an ankle injury that kept him out of the beginning of spring practice, Ferentz said.
“I thought he did some really nice things today, too,” Ferentz said. “He’s a guy we’re kind of intrigued with.”
– The QBs alternated drives except for one sequence when Rudock was allowed to stay in when it was Sokol’s turn to run the show.
Maybe that’s a tell. Maybe not. Aug. 31 and Northern Illinois are coming.
TE C.J. Fiedorowicz
QB Cody Sokol
QB Jake Rudock
CB Jordan Lomax
DE Dominic Alvis
DT Carl Davis