CEDAR RAPIDS - The Cedar Rapids Titans and Sioux Falls Storm have met in the conference title game in each of the past four seasons.
If the Titans have any hope to make it five, they will need to dig out of an ever-increasing hole.
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No. 20 ... So, everything was going swimmingly at quarterback this spring. Junior Jake Rudock led the show during the Des Moines practice. Sophomore C.J. Beathard spoke afterward. He was the No. 2 QB, a role he’s not used to playing. He didn’t complain, not the case at all. He just spoke truthfully.
“You don’t want to be the backup quarterback,” Beathard said. “ ... It’s crazy. When you’re coming out of high school you’re the big guy. When you get here, you have to work your way back up. It’s humbling.”
Then, a few weeks later, offensive coordinator Greg Davis said that Iowa’s offensive staff had thrown around the idea of a package for Beathard. He also said junior Jake Rudock was the definite starter.
After Iowa’s April 26th spring game, head coach Kirk Ferentz said playing two quarterbacks in games is “very realistic,”
“It was on the board coming out of the recruiting phase,” Ferentz said, “and after watching this spring, I think it’s very realistic. They both do somethings well.”
Ferentz said both quarterbacks have improved during spring. Beathard got the longer look in the spring game. He led the first-team offense in the second half and finished 21 of 39 for 349 yards and a touchdown. Rudock was the starter and completed 11 of 22 for 165 yards with a TD and interception.
“I’ll be clear about this,” Ferentz said. “Jake has really elevated his performance. He’s a better player than he was in January. When you have two players who you have confidence in, I think it makes sense to play them in a game. The tricky part is with quarterbacks, it’s a little bit different, but I think that’s realistic and it’s certainly something we’re going to talk about when we get back together football-wise in June.”
So, Beathard is probably playing, in some situation, at some point. Probably.
The force is with him, but not as much as it was ... I think we need to kind of throw out 2013 as far as what we know about Beathard (6-2, 203). He finished three games that Rudock (sprained knees in all three) couldn’t finish. Against Wisconsin, Iowa couldn’t move the ball and so it was desperation time in the second half (translation: Throw it far, throw it deep, throw it with little regard for percentage).
Against Nebraska, Iowa just didn’t want to give the Cornhusker any light at the end of the tunnel. So, Beathard was a handoff machine and game manager (which was hugely important). In the Outback Bowl against LSU, just as it went against Wisconsin, Iowa couldn’t run the ball consistently and so it was left trying to force something through the air.
Beathard has a strong arm and he likes to use it. Here’s a pretty good anecdote from last August, when Beathard, Rudock and Cody Sokol (who’s since transferred to Louisiana Tech) were in the race:
Davis speaking on Beathard: “He’s got a really quick arm. He’s got the ability to extend plays. He has a little bit of a ... I don’t know what the right term is ... sometimes you want to say ‘no, no, no, OK, that turned out pretty well.’
Like a 3-point shooter?
“Yeah, and he’s not afraid to keep shooting.”
And he’s not. The trick is learning the nuance. Beathard showed some of that in the Nebraska game, when he checked a run play at the line of scrimmage and running back Jordan Canzeri popped it open for 37 yards that eventually led to a game-sealing TD.
Rudock on CJB ... Rudock is the incumbent. He is the starter. The Beathard thingie sounds limited in scope at most, if it ever even happens at all.
This spring, Rudock said that Beathard has sharpened his game. Beathard was better in the Kinnick scrimmage than he was in Des Moines. He showed some touch and didn’t jump to the deepest option every chance.
“He’s improved, you can see that,” said Rudock, whose interception came on an underthrown ball that cornerback Desmond King gathered. “He definitely understands our offense better than he used to. That comes with time. When you’re in a system for a certain number of years, you start to get more comfortable with it and think he’s done a good job of grasping that.”
Outlook ... Whether he plays or not, it was hugely important that Iowa got Beathard to August. Remember after the bowl game, Beathard was asked if he planned to return to Iowa City. He said yes and added on the possibility of the QB job being open, “From what I hear it is. We’ll see.”
And then all of that other stuff this spring about Beathard playing in games. It may or may not be true. We will see. The important thing for Iowa was that Beathard sees opportunity and stays engaged. You don’t want a despondent No. 2 QB who’s looking to transfer. You really don’t want that if you have a starter who couldn’t finish three games because of injury last season and then a No. 2 that is a redshirt freshman (Nic Shimonek) and just getting into the playbook.
It’s almost August and Beathard is No. 16 for Iowa. That right there makes the QB depth chart as healthy as it can be. Going into camp, Beathard gives Iowa a backup QB with experience. He’s worth his weight in Ben & Jerry’s.
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