Brown: Two quarterbacks? Why not?
FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. – Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz ended the suspense, not that there was any, with three words Tuesday morning: "Jake will start."
Jake Rudock will be Iowa's starting quarterback Friday against Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl at EverBank Field. That doesn't qualify as a surprise. Ferentz also repeated what offensive coordinator Greg Davis said Monday, that C.J. Beathard also would get snaps in the first two quarters. The coaching staff then will decide at halftime which direction to go for the final 30 minutes.
"I don't think it's a huge deal, and it won't be a huge deal for our opponent, either," Ferentz said. "I go right back to what I said in August, we have two really good quarterbacks. I wish we had this depth at every position."
So we'll see "Sunshine," a nickname Beathard picked up at Iowa, in the Sunshine State on Friday. And we'll see Rudock, the Florida native who has started every game but one the last two seasons. Beathard replaced an injured Rudock in the second half of last season's 21-14 Outback Bowl loss to LSU in Tampa.
"There's little differences," center Tommy Gaul said of the two quarterbacks. "They have different cadences. But when it comes down to what plays we're running, I don't think there's much difference, really."
Quarterback competitions are always polarizing. This one is no different. But really, why not play them both? Iowa is 7-5. An eighth win would be nice, and give the program some momentum heading into 2015. But let's see what they've got. May the best man win.
Ferentz pretty much threw everyone under the bus Tuesday, himself included, for the team's performance in the final regular-season game against Nebraska. It was a 37-34 overtime loss that sent the Hawkeyes limping into bowl season.
"We were disappointed with that last football game, for sure," Ferentz said.
"We were sloppy in a lot of areas. Coaching included. I said that after the game. We have to do a better job in all areas. I think the team has really responded."
Ferentz said there was no shame in losing to a nine-win Nebraska team he called good "despite popular opinion." But Iowa frittered away a 24-7 third-quarter lead, a Nebraska comeback fueled by two long punt returns and a long list of sqandered opportunities.
"There were a lot of things about that game that didn't measure up," Ferentz said. "I said that to the team right afterwards, we're going to look at everything and just see what we can do and let everybody compete and go from there."
That included the quarterback position, where Rudock took 402 snaps to Beathard's 74 during the regular season. Ferentz acknowledged he had read comments from Beathard's dad, Casey, in Nashville's Tennessean newspaper last week. Comments that said C.J.'s future at Iowa would be determined by what happened at the bowl game.
Those words seemed to put Ferentz in a no-win situation. Tough position to be in, coach? Ferentz sidestepped that issue with aplomb Tuesday.
"Not really," he said. "We had a decision to make back in August. This was an open competition in August. The same things were on the table then. Not that anyone presented them. But that's the reality of sports. Players, especially in this day and age … if it's basketball, forget it. Everyone transfers in basketball. I'm not worried about that. We have to do what's best for our team and what gives us the best chance to win."
On Friday, we'll find out if two quarterbacks are better than one.
Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.
Tennessee vs. Iowa
2:20 p.m. Friday, ESPN