The long Iowa nightmare that was James Vandenberg now seems like a distant memory around Kinnick Stadium—and there's one person to thank for that: Jake Rudock.
Iowa had a bit of a battle in training camp between Rudock and two other quarterbacks (Cody Sokol and C.J Beathard), but it was the sophomore who emerged as the winner, and he hasn't looked back since.
However, there was still a serious lack of trust in the quarterback position overall. Given the results of the past few seasons, you could see why Hawkeyes fans were rattled.
Last season read like a textbook of what not to do at quarterback. Iowa finished 11th in Big Ten in passing efficiency (107.72) and yards per attempt (5.8) in 2012. They also had only seven passing touchdowns all season, easily last in the conference.
Fast-forward through the 2013 nonconference season and things are looking up.
Under Rudock's leadership, the passing offense now ranks eighth in passing yards (199.2 yards a game) and passing efficiency (134.4), the latter of which is the most important takeaway from those stats.
Rudock has completed 62.1 percent of his passes (64-of-103) for 743 yards and has five touchdowns to three interceptions passing in just four games as a starter.
Perhaps the biggest change is that unlike his predecessor, who more resembled the statue of Niles Kinnick than an actual human being at times, Rudock gives defenses two things to think about—the passing attack and a running option from the quarterback.
Through four games, Rudock has 93 yards rushing and, more importantly, four touchdowns to his credit. Vandenberg had minus-17 yards at the same time a season ago.
Couple a quarterback who can throw and run with Mark Weisman (468 yards, second in Big Ten), one of the best running backs in the Big Ten, and one can begin to see the old formula for winning games at Iowa returning.
Most importantly, though, the Hawkeyes are winning football games this season because they rank first in the Big Ten in time of possession, holding on to the football for 35:48 a game.
For Iowa, keeping the opposing offense off the field is about as good as anything the actual defense has put down so far this season.
While Rudock has things to improve on, the trend is going up instead of down like it did for Vandenberg. That alone gives Iowa a fighting chance heading into the Big Ten season—that's more than we could say this time last year.
Now the challenge for Rudock and Co. will be proving that improvement can still happen while playing a conference schedule. There are still doubters out there. After winning three games against teams who have a combined 0-10 record, you can see why they still exist.
It will be on Rudock's shoulders to get those folks back on their side and to prove that recent performances were no fluke.
Nothing will quell the uneasiness better than keeping Floyd of Rosedale this week against Minnesota.
*Andy Coppens is the Big Ten Lead Writer. Join the conversation on Twitter by following him there.
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