Brown: Hello, defense concerns; Goodbye, QB controversy

Rick Brown
Iowa cornerback Desmond King (14) celebrates with his teammates after scoring an interception against Indiana on Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Iowa scored first-quarter touchdowns on three consecutive offensive plays Saturday. And that doesn't include cornerback Desmond King's pick-six for a score.

The Hawkeyes didn't score three touchdowns against either Ball State or Iowa State the entire game. Where were the big plays in those games? Not reflected on the Kinnick Stadium scoreboards, that's for sure.

Those scoreboards were humming Saturday, when Iowa took a 38-21 halftime lead and outsprinted the Hoosiers, 45-29. Iowa is now 5-1, and Jake Rudock showed why he deserves to be the starting quarterback.

Iowa entered play Saturday averaging 22.6 points a game.

The Hawkeyes nearly matched that in three consecutive snaps — Jake Rudock's 12-yard pass to Jake Duzey, his 72-yard strike to Damond Powell and Jonathan Parker's 60-yard jet sweep touchdown.

They surpassed it if you factor in King's first career interception and 35-yard touchdown scamper. 28 points. Elapsed time: 3 minutes, 38 seconds.

That 22.6 number coming in included a paucity of big plays. And it opened the door for a quarterback controversy of sorts. When Rudock was injured late in the first half at Pittsburgh, C.J. Beathard stepped in and rallied the Hawkeyes to a 24-20 victory.

Rudock healed while Beathard won his first collegiate start the following week, at Purdue, and during Iowa's bye week that followed.

When Ferentz named Rudock the starter this week, the Beathard camp voiced disapproval.

But Rudock, making his 18th career start, made Ferentz look like a sage coach. He completed 14 of 18 passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns in the first half alone. He played with composure. And he showed an ability to throw downfield.

Beathard played one series in the first half, three in the second and engineered Iowa's only second-half scoring drive. But Rudock will get the start at Maryland next week, when the Hawkeyes can get bowl eligible.

Rudock acknowledged the doubters who wanted Beathard at the controls.

"You don't really listen to the noise, but sometimes you're going to hear stuff," Rudock said. "You just have to flush it out. Everyone is an expert until they put a helmet on. That's just the way it is."

Getting off to a fast start Saturday was a nice change of pace. Iowa had scored a total of 21 points in the first quarter of the season's first five games. And 28 Saturday. Ferentz admitted he wasn't in his comfort zone.

"I'm not fond of a scoring contest, that's for sure," Ferentz said. "But boy, it looked like it had a chance to be one."

Iowa's quick-strike offense — yes, quick-strike offense — was a Band-Aid to some glaring miscues. Iowa had to take two timeouts in the first quarter Saturday, once when they had 12 players on the field and another when they had just 10.

Indiana attempted two on-side kicks and recovered them both. One of them was wiped out when the Hoosiers were offsides.

"Burned two timeouts for really dumb things," Ferentz said.

The Hoosiers tried an onside kick the week before against North Texas State. It was discussed as a staff and a team.

"But you'd never know it watching us play," Ferentz said.

Iowa's defense entered the game seventh nationally in rush defense at 93.2 yards a game. Indiana's Tevin Coleman, the nation's second-leading runner, scored on runs of 83, 45 and 69 yards. He finished with 219 in just 15 carries.

That's more real estate than any team had managed against Iowa this season. That's a major concern.

So now Iowa heads to Maryland with questions about its defense. But the quarterback debate? Silence is golden.

Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.

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Stretching the field is something that Iowa's football team has struggled to do this season.

But not Saturday. The Hawkeyes ran 76 plays from scrimmage. A dozen of them went for at least 10 yards in a 45-29 victory over Indiana at Kinnick Stadium.

"Big plays open up a lot more things when you're able to stretch the field like that," Iowa wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley said. "It helps everyone."

Martin-Manley wasn't involved in any of those double-figure gains – eight passes, four rushes. He had three catches for 13 yards against the Hoosiers.

But right in the mix was fellow wide receiver Tevaun Smith. He had four catches for 69 yards. One of them, a 14-yard gain, came on a third-and-6 play from Iowa's 45 that kept the first drive alive. The Hawkeyes scored a touchdown on that drive.

Smith also had catches of 10, 14 and 31 yards. And twice Indiana defenders were called for pass interference trying to keep him from making a catch.

"Tevaun made some big catches for us (Saturday)," Martin-Manley said. "He's very talented. He's confident as well."

Smith, a junior from Ontario, Canada, now has 19 catches on the season for 220 yards.

"The more plays he's making, he's starting to get that edge," Martin-Manley said.

—Rick Brown