Hawkeyes could find consistency, QB answers at Purdue

Andrew Logue
Jake Rudock looks back at running back Mark Weisman during Iowa's 20-17 loss to Iowa State on Sept. 13.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Is C.J. Beathard the best bet?

What if Jake Rudock is healthy and ready for Saturday's 11 a.m. game against Purdue?

Should the Iowa football team rotate quarterbacks?

One man, Hawkeye coach Kirk Ferentz, knows the answers. Everybody else, it seems, has an opinion.

"I like it when coaches make a decision," Big Ten Network analyst Stanley Jackson said. "If they think C.J. is the guy for the future, then you make that decision.

"If you like what Jake has been able to do, if you feel confident in his ability to manage games and lead the team … then I think you keep the ball in his hands."

Jackson, a former Ohio State quarterback, will be part of the BTN's telecast from Ross-Ade Stadium.

And he's uniquely qualified to explain the impact of flip-flopping passers.

Jackson and Joe Germaine split snaps in 1996 and '97, helping the Buckeyes post an overall record of 21-4, despite being in a constant state of flux.

"I can tell you from experience, there were times when I made decisions that I would not have made had I known I was coming back the next series," Jackson said.

"I thought late in my career, I lost a little of my mental edge, because you're always worried about when you're going to be pulled.

"So I'm not a fan of it."

The Hawkeyes kick off Big Ten play with a 3-1 record, thanks to Beathard's second-half performance a week ago at Pittsburgh.

Rudock, meanwhile, suffered a leg/hip injury, but could be available to face 2-2 Purdue.

"I wouldn't have a knee-jerk reaction," Jackson said. "Right now, I think Jake probably gives you the best chance to win.

"Not to say C.J. hasn't played well, but we just haven't seen that much of him."

The way Jackson sees things, Iowa's lack of consistency goes beyond the quarterbacks.

"Let's face it, the offensive line has struggled at times," he said. "The run game isn't where it has historically been.

"It got better last week, and that's going to help whoever the quarterback is."

The Hawkeyes have gone seven games without a 100-yard rusher, dating to last November, but Mark Weisman gained some traction against Pittsburgh, finishing with a season-high 88 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.

"The bigger challenge is running the ball effectively," Jackson said. "Your offense is predicated to establishing the line of scrimmage, mixing in play-action passes."

Rudock owns a 10-6 record as a starter – subtracting last week's win, which most would attribute to Beathard – but he's sometimes criticized for being too cautious.

The skeptics were especially harsh following a Sept. 13 loss to Iowa State.

"There was a lot of things that didn't go well in that game," Jackson said. "I thought the play calling was a little suspect, quite frankly.

"You need to push the ball vertically more. It's tough to play football just within 10 yards. You've got to at least try and make the defense think you're going to go over the top."

The Hawkeyes may be more aggressive against the Boilermakers, but Ferentz continues to be coy when comes to picking a starting quarterback.

"We'll just play it by ear," he said. "The good news is, and I really mean this, we have two guys we have a lot of confidence in."

Jackson leans more toward Rudock.

"If he's healthy, he should play," Jackson said. "I think Jake played really well this year. And then of course, it's good to have a guy who can come off the bench and be effective."