MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — In the run-up to last weekend’s game, Minnesota coach Jerry Kill pointed out some of the intricacies of Iowa’s running game. It is a grind and it is physical, but there are margins for advantage.
Kill pointed out how sophomore quarterback Jake Rudock finds and maximizes those. It was a clip of Iowa’s loss to Northern Illinois. He put the laser clicker on NIU’s nose tackle and where he lined up, on the outside shoulder of the center. He said Rudock recognized that player could be “reach” blocked and how that set the wheels in motion for a play that was a 15-yard gain for running back Mark Weisman.
That all came to life without the laser clicker during the Hawkeyes’ 23-7 victory at Minnesota last weekend.
“[Jake Rudock] played a good football game,” Kill said in the postgame. “I’ve said all along Iowa is a better football team than they were a year ago. He’s a more mobile quarterback than who played last year. They had a good quarterback last year, but Rudock plays the game differently and makes a lot of calls on the line of scrimmage.
“I credit him and their coach, who put the team in the right position to win.”
There are the “boom goes the dynamite” moments, such as Rudock’s 2-yard tunnel screen completion that wide receiver Damond Powell ripped off for a 74-yard TD. And then there are the little maneuvers that put the pieces in place for a play like the short pass in the flat to fullback Adam Cox for a 35-yard gain that led Rudock’s 4-yard TD run and a 10-0 lead.
This was a play Iowa practiced during camp. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis called the number for the first time this season.
Iowa faced a third-and-3 at its 38. Weisman, who ended up with 147 yards rushing, was replaced by Damon Bullock. Iowa had a tight formation with two tight ends and Cox. Rudock faked a handoff to Bullock. Wide receiver Jordan Cotton ran a slant and cleared out the flat. Cox showed outside zone and peeled out to the flat wide open.
“He tells us, ‘This is in the game plan, we might throw it out there,’” said Rudock, who finished 15 of 25 for 218 yards, a TD and interception. “I think you understand the meaning of the play. That’s something he always stresses, ‘Hey, understand why I’m calling it and what I’m thinking when I call it.’”
Two plays later, Rudock, whose 61.7 completion rate is highest since Ricky Stanzi’s 64.1 in 2010, audibled to a fade in the end zone to wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley. It drew a pass interference and gave Iowa a first-and-goal at the 8. He called play checks on the next two plays before, finally, on third down from the 4, Rudock dropped back, saw the right side of Minnesota’s defense clear out and sprinted to the end zone for his fifth rushing TD this season.
“He does a lot of subtle things that you probably don’t notice he’s doing,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He does a good job of getting us where we need to be. Very cerebral. We’ve been lucky we’ve had very smart quarterbacks, he fits that bill, certainly.”
Seeing advantages in the margins and making them work, it’s almost as if Rudock, whose fourth-quarter interception jarred because it was his only glaring misstep, majors in football. Of course, he doesn’t.
“That’s football, it’s going to happen,” Rudock said of the interception, which ended an eight-play, 54-yard yard drive that had “kill shot” written all over it. “You can’t dwell on it. Next play, let’s get ready to go.”
Rudock is a microbiology/pre-med major. He had a test in his organic chemistry II class at 6:30 p.m. last Wednesday. That forced Iowa to switch around some meeting and practice schedules. That’s something no coach anywhere is going to complain about.
“My only criticism of him right now is he had a 6:30 organic chemistry exam on Wednesday,” Ferentz said, with a growing smile. “So, we had to adjust our schedule a little bit. You’ve got to be flexible.”