Iowa may have found its desired scrambling quarterback in Jake Rudock.
By Ben Ross
Jake Rudock started off his fourth quarter performance with an interception. The sophomore quarterback didn’t see Missouri State defensive lineman Rique Bentley as he dropped back in coverage and snagged the errant pass intended for Iowa receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley. Bentley returned the interception 28 yards to cut Iowa’s lead 21-14 with just under an entire quarter of football to be played.
Rudock responded the following drive, though. He let Iowa’s ball carriers march down the field for 63 yards and bring the ball to Missouri State’s two yard line following a 35-yard kick return by Jordan Cotton. On first and goal Iowa ran a play action pass, and Rudock saw his 6-7 tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz all alone in the end zone.
But instead of plopping the pigskin in Fiedorowicz’s massive palms, Rudock decided to tuck the ball and run for an easy two-yard score, causing Fiedorowicz to become visibly upset. Even though the senior tight end likely would have made the catch, Rudock said after the game that choosing to run the ball was the educated choice.
“[Choosing to run] was just the smarter play,” Rudock said. “I’m sure I could have flicked it to him, but I was also able to walk right in so it was more of, ‘hey we can run it and not worry about it, toss it,’ and I mean, crazy stuff happens. When I came around the corner it was the play and it was the right play to me.”
Rudock easily could have alluded to his receivers dropping the ball as that ‘crazy stuff,’ but he said that wasn’t the case. Still, it’s easy to see why he would rather tuck it and run than entrust a pass to one of his teammates: Iowa receivers had at least four dropped passes in Saturday’s game, three alone came on one drive in the second quarter.
And it’s hard to blame him for being selfish with the ball. Rudock has the speed and carrying ability to be a threat on the ground, finishing the day with 33 yards on seven carries and two touchdowns. His first rushing touchdown of the game came towards the beginning of the first quarter, where Rudock rushed right for six yards on a quarterback option. t now has three rushes for scores on the year, after scrambling for a touchdown in a 30-27 loss to Northern Illinois a week ago.
“He had the [option to] pass to C.J. too, so things were working right, he got us into the end zone and that’s all we need,” Iowa offensive tackle Brandon Scherff said after the game. “We always strive to give him as much time as he needs, and that [first touchdown run] play was designed to run on the outside, we did our job and we gotta keep doing it.”
And with the addition of Rudock as a threat on the ground, Iowa has found itself the owner of a three headed rushing attack alongside running backs Mark Weisman, Damon Bullock, and whoever else Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz decides to throw in the backfield. The Hawkeyes had six different players carry the ball Saturday to amass 296 yards on the ground. Weisman led the way with 180 yards on 30 carries, Bullock gained 40 yards, and Rudock rounded up the top three rushers with his 33 yards.
After the game Ferentz said he wasn’t wholly aware of Rudock’s ability to make plays with his feet as he was entering the Iowa program, but said he’s embracing his scrambling prowess as it makes things more difficult for the opposing defense.
“…As far as improvising with your feet, that’s something you find out when the real rush starts coming because we don’t let our guys get him in practice,” Ferentz said. “I’m all in favor of it. I’m a former line coach, and any time a quarterback can pull the ball down and make yardage, positive yardage, and be aware, I think for the most part he was pretty aware of what he was doing in that aspect. That’s a good thing, because otherwise people are just teeing off and not worried so much about containing those types of things.”