IOWA CITY, Ia. — Maybe Kirk Ferentz knew what he was doing.
The Iowa football coach was criticized last season when he failed to get quarterback Jake Rudock any game experience.
But when comparing Rudock’s performance to previous Hawkeye passers, through four games, there seems to be little statistical difference in whether the new starter has experience or doesn’t.
Rudock enters Saturday’s Big Ten Conference opener at Minnesota completing 62.1 percent of his passes (64 of 103) for 743 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions.
Those numbers are pretty much on pace with the three quarterbacks who preceded Rudock — all of whom took at least a few snaps before becoming a starter.
“He just seems to make good decisions out there on the field,” Ferentz said of Rudock. “Just has a good awareness and good common sense.”
We’ll find out more about Rudock when he leads the 3-1 Hawkeyes against the 4-0 Gophers. But here’s how the sophomore from Weston, Fla., measures up, so far:
–James Vandenberg gained considerable experience as Ricky Stanzi’s backup – making a 2009 start at Ohio State, and at home against Minnesota — before earning the job in 2011.
Vandenberg’s first four games of that season resulted in a 62.8 completion percentage, 1,095 yards, 10 touchdowns and just one interception. His signature performance may have come in a third week win over Pittsburgh, when he threw for 399 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-27 come-from-behind victory.
His final numbers that year were impressive — a 58.7 percent completion rate, 3,022 yards, 25 touchdowns, just seven interceptions. But he struggled in 2012.
–Stanzi began 2008 as Jake Christensen’s backup, but the two were soon locked in a midseason duel.
Stanzi completed 60.4 percent of his passes through four games, covering 426 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Christensen replaced an ineffective Stanzi during a win over Iowa State. But by season’s end, Stanzi was the man.
–Christensen took over for an injured Drew Tate in 2006, making his starting debut in a 24-14 win over Northern Illinois.
He was the undisputed No. 1 quarterback heading into 2007, but the first four games brought mixed results.
Christensen’s completion rate was a modest 52.9 percent for 698 yards, but he threw six touchdowns and only one interception.
Rudock threw a costly interception in an opening loss to Northern Illinois but has guided the Hawkeyes to three straight wins — including his first (and only) road start, at Iowa State.
Is it possible Rudock would have been even better in his first four games had he taken a few snaps last year? We’ll never know. That was Ferentz’s call, and it’s in the past.
A more pertient and present question: Is he ready for the Big Ten?
“Just looking forward to the next game, whoever that is,” Rudock said. “If it’s the Big Ten, great. If not, the next game is all that matters.”
WHO: Iowa (3-1) at Minnesota (4-0)
TIME, TV: 2:30 p.m., ABC
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football