IOWA CITY, Ia. – A debacle was averted late Saturday afternoon.
By engineering two touchdown drives in the final 6 minutes, Jake Rudock lifted Iowa's football team to a 17-13 win over Ball State.
He also sidestepped a possible quarterback controversy leading into this weekend's Cy-Hawk showdown with Iowa State.
"At the end of the day, a win is a win," Rudock said after completing 33 of 52 passes for 322 yards. "It wasn't pretty, but we were able to pull it out."
The listless Hawkeyes trailed 13-3 when Rudock and the offense jogged to their own 31-yard line with 5:50 remaining.
His 12-yard scoring strike to Derrick Willies capped a 10-play, 69-yard march, trimming Iowa's defict to 13-10 with 2:52 left.
"Obviously, we don't want to wait until the end of the game to come out and play the way we're supposed to," Rudock said. "I was really proud of the guys, the way they stuck in there."
The Hawkeyes' regained possession at their own 41-yard line with 2:23 remaining. Rudock drove them 59 yards in six plays.
The winning touchdown came on a 12-yard catch-and-run to tight end Jake Duzey, who burrowed into the end zone with 1 minute left.
"It was just a little shallow route, and I happened to be the one who was open," Duzey said. "When I turned around, I thought I was going to get hit."
None of this seemed possible midway through the fourth quarter.
Iowa was held to just 113 rushing yards, including 76 by its four primary running backs: Mark Weisman, Jordan Canzeri, Damon Bullock and LeShun Daniels.
The receivers were also having limited success, with none making a catch for more than 19 yards.
"It wasn't any one area," coach Kirk Ferentz said. "There were just a lot of mistakes, and it's tough to play good offense if you don't have guys playing cohesively."
It was beginning to look like the day's most talked about play would be one that didn't count.
In the first quarter, backup quarterback C.J. Beathard lofted a 38-yard bomb to Damond Powell, who appeared to haul it in for a touchdown.
It was overturned after a video review showed Powell was not in bounds once he had full control of the ball, and the Twittersphere blew up.
The chatter would have continued if the Hawkeyes had lost.
"That was the last thing on my mind," Ferentz said of a quarterback controversy. "There were a lot of other things I was thinking about."
Nobody was questioning Rudock's focus once Iowa moved to 2-0.
"We really had to step up in that moment, and he came out as a leader," Duzey said of Rudock. "It just shows we can come back and respond to adversity and do what we have to do."
Des Moines Register reporters Rick Brown and Andrew Logue discuss the Iowa Hawkeyes' come-from-behind win against Ball State at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014.