Three games into his career, I wrote a post comparing Jake Rudock to past Kirk Ferentz era quarterbacks. Then, Rudock’s career was young. He spent most of his time handing the ball off to Mark Weisman. And while with a year under his belt Rudock is starting to make a name of his own, it’s hard not to draw comparisons to QBs of the past…and one in particular.
Jake Rudock and Ricky Stanzi
When Stanzi finally won the starting job as a sophomore in 2008, he benefited from an outstanding running back and a good offensive line. His job was mostly to manage games and hand the ball off. A lot of the time, he didn’t even have to throw it 20 times in a game because the running game was so strong. He also benefited from a fantastic defense that kept games in reach even without having to do too much on offense. Though Iowa suffered a couple of tough, close losses early in the season, by the end of the year Stanzi came into his own, led a game-winning drive against #3 Penn State, and didn’t lose again for a year.
Rudock got his start a little sooner, without the same level of QB controversy (though had a little throughout the season). He too benefited from a solid rushing attack and a very good defense. In a few games last year, he probably could have handed it off every single play… and he practically did in the 4th quarter against Iowa State and again against Minnesota in the second half. But the running game slowed a little as the season wore on and the opposing defenses were better. Rudock also stepped up his game late in the year and led Iowa to two big wins over Michigan and Nebraska.
Even their stats were very similar in their sophomore years. The big difference in the number is really in the snaps that Stanzi lost to Jake Christensen early in the season. If you project out Stanzi’s numbers to have the same number of attempts as Rudock, he would have gone 204/346 for 2664 yards with 19 TDs and 12 INTs… pretty similar. The one key difference is that Rudock is running Greg Davis’s offense and his yards per attempt are a bit lower thanks to the more horizontal nature of the passing game.
More than similar sophomore seasons, the Stanzi in Rudock is maybe most evident in his ability to shake off a mistake. In Stanzi’s case, he was so good after throwing an interception (or, uh, four against Indiana) and so prone to throwing them (in 2009 at least), you’d almost hope that he’d throw one just to get it over with and get him going. Even in one of Iowa’s most dominant games (against Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl), Stanzi was able to keep it close early with a pick-six.
Rudock has had his share of STANZIBALLS, too. The Michigan game was probably the most obvious example of that trend. Rudock threw a pick-six on Iowa’s first offensive play of the game (which Stanzi managed to do against Michigan also in 2009…except he at least waited until the second play). He threw two more interceptions before getting it together in the last third of the game and leading two scoring drives that completed a 17-point run to end the game after trailing by 14 at halftime. The start of Ferentz 3.0?
Going forward, the hope is that Rudock's track will mirror Stanzi’s. Pat already broke down some of the similarities with this year’s team to 2009. Part of what made that team so successful was Stanzi’s improvement from the year before. He no longer had Shonn Greene to carry the load and started becoming a playmaker in his own right. And while Stanzi’s overall stats didn’t improve a ton and he had those aforementioned interceptions that sometimes kept him from being even more successful, the way he closed out games was spectacular. With some question marks at kicker this year and almost certainly a large number of close games on the horizon (it's Iowa football under Kirk Ferentz, after all), having a QB that can succeed late in games is going to be imperative. And I have confidence that Jake Rudock is ready to take that step forward to be the player Iowa needs to have another special year.