Feature: Iowa offense struggles under two signal callers

By Ryan Probasco

ryan-probasco@uiowa.edu

Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock was knocked out of Saturday’s 28-9 loss to Wisconsin in the third quarter due to a knee injury, which forced the Hawkeye offense to operate with redshirt freshman C.J. Beathard for the remainder of the game.

The Franklin, Tenn. native did an admirable job considering the circumstances in the face of a howling wind, which limited both teams’ passing attacks. Beathard showed confidence by taking chances down field in an effort to ignite the Hawkeye offense.

The offensive struggled and looked stagnant under the inexperienced signal caller. But Greg Davis’ unit already had been for much of Saturday’s tilt.

“From the start, I was trying to stick to the gameplan and get the running game going,” Beathard said. “We broke a big run, Canzeri did … But we weren’t executing like we should have and couldn’t get the job done today. It was windy out there, but both teams had to face it so it really didn’t make a difference.”

On several occasions — mostly in the first half — Iowa’s offense was given ample opportunity to open up a sizeable lead on the favored Badgers. The Hawkeye defense forced several punts early on, and the wind rendered Wisconsin’s punts ineffective, resulting in advantageous field positions for the Hawkeyes.

But Iowa was only able to muster 6 points in the first half despite the good field position fortune. And in total, Iowa averaged just narrowly above 4 yards per play Saturday, which is significantly lower than its already less-than-stellar average of 2013.

“[Wisconsin had a great game plan coming in,” offensive lineman Brandon Scherff said. “…I thought we were there for the first three quarters, but we have to keep pushing. Whenever we get in the redzone, or close to the redzone, we have to come out with 7 points instead of 3.”

Neither quarterback was able to complete more than 50 percent of his passes Saturday. Combined, Rudock and Beathard threw for 179 yards on 40 attempts, including two interceptions that led to 14 points for the Badgers.

It’s expected that Rudock will be ready to go next week when the Hawkeyes visit Purdue, a team that has been demolished by Big Ten competition thus far. Rudock was riding a bike and staying loose for much of the fourth quarter, but head coach Kirk Ferentz decided that keeping him out was the “smart move”.

A win next week is likely, meaning the Hawkeyes will be present when bowl season begins later in the year. But Iowa knows it must keep improving, and won’t be satisfied just by reaching the 6-win mark.

“We have to finish, that’s one thing we need to do to improve,” cornerback BJ Lowery said. “In the fourth quarter, that’s where we struggle the most. After halftime, we have to improve on that.”

Ferentz echoed that point, but added that it isn’t time to panic, seeing as he believes in his team’s talent, despite the unfortunate results of Saturday.

“I don’t think we’re that far away, it’s hardly a hopeless case here,” Ferentz said. “But we still have to finish a game on defense and then, again, I go back to the offensive part of things, if you’re going to play teams like that, you’re going to have to, when you get down in there you’ve got to come away with points, field goals are better than nothing, but they’re not going to win in a game like this.”

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