University of Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock is a redshirt freshman who today started just his sixth collegiate game and second Big Ten conference game. Against the best defense in the country, it was apparent that Rudock is still adjusting, as they lost 26-14
Rudock finished the game 26-of-46 for 241 yards and two touchdowns, but 11 of those completions, 134 of those yards and both of those touchdowns came on two possessions near the end of the first half. Outside of those two drives, Rudock was 15-of-34 for 107 yards and two interceptions by Michigan State‘s Darqueze Dennard.
Rudock’s inefficiency was further emphasized by Michigan State’s refusal to give Iowa’s running game any room to operate, and an injury that sidelined Iowa’s leading receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley. The Hawkeyes, averaging 244 yards per game on the ground coming in, totaled a mere 23 yards against the top-ranked Spartan defense. The Hawkeyes had a shoddy four third-down conversions for the game.
While Rudock struggled, Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook had arguably the best game of his career. Cook consistently made good reads and crisp throws to beat Iowa’s seventh-ranked defense, especially on third downs.
Cook finished the game 25-of-44 for 277 yards and two touchdowns. On third downs, he completed 64 percent of his passes to help the Spartans beat the Hawkeyes at their own game, and hold a nearly 14-minute advantage in time of possession. Coming into the game, Iowa had averaged a 12-minute time of possession advantage.
What enabled Cook to make the plays he needed to keep the Iowa defense on the field were his receivers consistently winning their one-on-one matchups with the Iowa coverage. Receivers Macgarrett Kings and Bennie Fowler found holes in zones and beat their man to the tune of 14 combined catches, 186 combined yards and a touchdown each.
In a game where Rudock and the Hawkeye offense needed to avoid turnovers and convert on third downs to win, they couldn’t do either. Michigan State shut down Iowa’s game plan and dared Rudock to try to beat them. He showed that he is not yet up to the task.
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