Iowa vs. Northern Illinois: Saturday Exam Grades

Here’s how Iowa performed in some keys to the game we laid out this morning in their first game of the season.

Establish the Run

Today is the first time Jake Rudock will ever take a snap as a college football player, and if the sophomore starting quarterback is to have any success, he will likely need to utilize Iowa’s established offensive line and running game as a crutch if his confidence ever wavers. Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock will likely be used early and often out of Iowa’s backfield, taking the pressure off a ripe Rudock.

Iowa gained 202 yards on the ground off of 43 rushes, with running backs Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock leading the charge. Weisman gained 100 yards off of 20 carries, with Bullock amassing 76 yards off of 17 carries. While neither scored a touchdown, Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock had a six-yard rush for a score late in the first half. Iowa’s rushing totals likely would be even higher if Iowa had elected to run the ball instead of pass in several 3rd-and-short situations. Grade: B+

Contain Jordan Lynch

The Husky quarterback ran for over 100 yards and a touchdown on this Iowa defense a year ago, but didn’t reach the century mark through the air. Even though the senior finished seventh in the Heisman voting last year, Iowa has a more than capable group of linebackers in Anthony Hitchens, James Morris, and Christian Kirksey to disrupt Lynch and make him uneasy in and outside of the pocket.

While Lynch was widely ineffective on the ground, he torched the Hawkeyes through the air. The senior rushed for just 56 yards on 22 carries and was held out of the end zone, but completed 25 of 41 passes for 275 yards and three scores. Even though he didn’t gain much yardage on the ground, Lynch kept many plays alive with his feet and was able to buy a lot of time outside of the pocket. Grade: C-

Protect Jake Rudock

The Jake Rudock era begins today. It’ll be his first start in a collegiate football game. In order for him to be as good as many Hawkeye fans believe he is, the offensive line needs to protect him. This is crucial for young quarterbacks. Give him time, and we’ll see what his arm is truly made of. Don’t protect him, and he could be shaky and hesitant all game. Northern Illinois’s defense ranked ninth and 11th in the country last season in tackles for loss and sacks, respectively. This is a team that can get into the backfield. Iowa’s offensive line can’t let that happen.

Safe to say the offensive line did their job for the most part in this department. Rudock wasn’t sacked once and was given plenty of time to throw. The lone incident (other than Rudock’s final interception that ultimately ended the game) was when Rudock’s first interception occurred. Northern Illinois’s defensive line got enough pressure into the backfield to get a hand on the Iowa quarterback while he was getting ready to throw the ball. It came out like a wounded duck and made for an easy pick. Rudock was hurried a few times here and there, but for the most part, this job was well done. GradeB+

Stay Hydrated

This seems silly and obvious, but the heat in Iowa City the past week has been brutal. The high is supposed to hover around the high 80’s, low 90’s all day and it’ll feel even hotter on the field in those black uniforms. The Hawkeyes need to keep hydrated and stay fresh. Heat strokes are real things that can happen.

Some Iowa players had to take a few plays to rest and let cramps relax. Perhaps this was because of the heat, among other possible things. But hydration never seemed to be an issue. The defensive line was always fresh, the linebackers all had outstanding games and the skill players on offense never looked fatigued. GradeA-

-By Ben Ross and Cody Goodwin

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