IOWA CITY — If this were the tightrope, Jake Rudock wouldn’t have gotten almost four quarters worth of do-over.
With a Michigan linebacker wrapped around him like spandex, Rudock threw his first pass up for grabs. Michigan defensive end Brennan Beyer made the grab and returned it 7 yards for a TD and 7-0 Michigan less than two minutes into Saturday’s game.
So, there was that. And then there was Rudock’s pass into a clogged zone that was picked off and eventually turned into another TD. There was another interception from Rudock, but there was never a white flag in Iowa’s 24-21 win at Kinnick Stadium.
“He’s a little banged up, but he’s a tough kid,” senior tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz said. “He’s smart and that’s what we want our quarterbacks to be.”
Rudock was smart enough to know that one pass doesn’t make a game. Or three.
“It’s one of those where you can’t think too much about it,” said Rudock, who finished 19 of 30 for 239 yards, two TDs and three interceptions. “There was plenty of time left. You couldn’t let it get to you too much.”
Rudock turned it around the next drive, which ended in a missed 36-yard field goal. But the next drive came together nicely after an 18-yard pass to Kevonte Martin-Manley and Rudock’s 19-yard scramble set up a 5-yard TD pass to Fiedorowicz, pulling Iowa to 7-7.
But Rudock was like a house settling in the 18-degree weather that came with the 18 mph breeze. Another pick turned into another Michigan TD and Iowa fell behind 21-7 at halftime.
Then, it was Rudock’s turn. His first pass in the second half was a 55-yard TD to wide receiver Tevaun Smith.
“He’s resilient and determined,” said running back Mark Weisman, who helped things along with 88 yards and a TD, his best output since September. “He doesn’t let good plays affect him or bad plays affect him. That’s what you need from your quarterback.”
The Rudock play coach Kirk Ferentz appreciated most was a run check at the line of scrimmage. Iowa faced third-and-9 from Michigan’s 33 going into the wind and down 21-14. Rudock put Iowa into an outside zone handoff to running back Damon Bullock, who gained 8 yards to set up a fourth-and-1.
“That might’ve been as big of a play as there was in the game,” Ferentz said.
Weisman cashed in the fourth-and-1 and scored a 9-yard TD to tie the game 21-21. After Iowa recovered a fumble, Rudock started the game-winning drive with a 21-yard completion to Smith. The drive ended in Mike Meyer’s 34-yard field goal, giving Iowa a 24-21 lead that the defense made stand over the final 6:02.
So, Rudock’s first pass was a play-action that was sniffed out and went for a pick 6. His final pass was a play-action naked bootleg that said what he wanted to say all along.
Rudock had a run-pass option. He also could’ve thrown the ball away if the play wasn’t there. He zipped a 12-yard completion to Fiedorowicz to convert a third-and-10 and allow the Hawkeyes to close out Michigan by taking a knee. It also capped Iowa’s first comeback win this season.
“Just because a play doesn’t work one time doesn’t mean it’s never going to work again,” Rudock said. “We had to stay with the nudes because it’s important. It keeps teams off-balance and it worked.”
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