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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We start with QB ... I’ve written a lot about the possibility of QB C.J. Beathard getting some sort of share of playing time in games that matter. That still could be a reality, but Saturday, it didn’t show at all and I think here’s why: Junior Jake Rudock sees the field and goes through progressions more fully than the sophomore Beathard.
Too many times during Saturday’s scrimmage, Beathard seemed to lock into the middle third of the field. He looked off one or two options and went for the jackpot. Those completions come with a much lower percentage, of course. Beathard had a streak of 2-for-9 before finishing 13 of 28 for 172 yards. His best drive came right after a Rudock 58-yard TD pass to WR Kevonte Martin-Manley that was a beautiful catch-and-run on Martin-Manley’s part, slipping a tackle attempt by strong safety John Lowdermilk and sprinting away from a cover 0 on a blitz.
Beathard answered with a 45 pass to TE George Kittle, who got behind safety Anthony Gair and made a nice adjustment on the ball, and a 17-yarder to Kittle. The drive went five plays and ended with RB Akrum Wadley scoring from the 1.
Later in the scrimmage, Beathard looked for check-down throws and moved the ball more efficiently.
This all said, they didn’t finish that far apart in the numbers. Rudock completed 15 of 26 for 169 yards and a TD.
Head coach Kirk Ferentz said he liked both QBs after the scrimmage. It’s easy to see why. Rudock maximizes his skills by making smart decisions. Beathard has a big arm. Somewhere between the two, Iowa has a chance for an attack quarterback.
One great thing for both Saturday, no turnovers.
Rush is coming right ... DE Nate Meier played really well. Ferentz mentioned the 6-2, 244-pounder from Fremont-Mills as one of the defenses most improved players. He really got under right tackle Andrew Donnal’s pads and rode leverage to more than a few pressures and at least one sack. Last year against Nebraska, Huskers all-Big Ten DE Randy Gregory was stalemated against left tackle Brandon Scherff, so he tried the right side. Right tackle Brett Van Sloten, who’s in the Baltimore Ravens camp, held his own.
Get ready for a lot of that this season. Teams will try Scherff, but they won’t waste their time if they think they can have success on the other side. Donnal is going to see a share of top-tier pass rushers.
Walk-on stars of the day ... I’m probably going to miss someone, but here are three walk-ons I really liked:
1. Tight end Peter Pekar — I know, it’s hard to take seriously a tight end who wears a number in the 90s, but Pekar, a 6-4, 235-pound redshirt freshman from Greendale, Wis., had a day. His best moment was a back-shoulder completion from Beathard. It was a beauty of a pass and catch for 15 yards that linebacker John Kenny couldn’t have covered any better. Give Kenny credit. That duo tried to hookup with another back-shoulder throw, but he made the play.
2. WR Andrew Stone — The senior from Cedar Falls caught four passes for 33 yards for the second team. Really smooth transition from catch to run. Soft hands.
3. LB Bo Bower — Senior LB Quinton Alston called this “tryout day” for a lot of the linebackers, meaning guys were being tried in different roles than they had seen in camp. Bower, a 6-1, 220-pound redshirt freshman from West Branch, has definitely made some headway on the depth chart. He’s probably the fifth LB who’ll go into games, mostly as an outside linebacker. He’ll definitely be a special teams stalwart.
Wadley showing up ... It’s hard to read anything into running back. Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock logged no carries and haven’t seen much live action in camp. Jordan Canzeri saw just a handful (BTW, Canzeri has a knack in the passing game — one reception for 19 yards — and can make defenders look silly in space) of carries.
Wadley made the most of his chance. He 10 times for 39 yards and scored on a 1-yard run.
The 5-11, 180-pound redshirt freshman probably doesn’t see the rotation, but could work his way into consideration for kick return.
Arrow up on Daniels ... I thought sophomore RB LeShun Daniels had a productive scrimmage, rushing 10 times for 32 yards and two TDs. Daniels gained 15 yards on an outside zone rush that showed he understands when to press the hole and how to be patient. He chops his feet on the goal line, but showed decent lean behind the pads for two successful short-yardage runs Saturday.
Carl Davis looked in midseason form ... The 6-5, 315-pounder’s first step is shockingly quick. He was a force all day Saturday. It’s almost ridiculous how quickly he can dip his shoulder into a rip move. The training here is apparent. He smelled double teams and went right at them. It’s camp practice No. 16 for a fifth-year senior DT and he looked like a true freshman trying to impress coaches.
Kicking ... Yikes ... Ferentz said Saturday was an uncharactistically bad day for the kickers. He said they’ve been solid in camp and that they’ve looked much better since spring, when he had legit worries on how it might turn out.
Marshall Koehn, Mick Ellis and Miguel Recinos combined for 10 of 16 on field goal attempts Saturday. Koehn made the longest (43 twice), but missed the most (2 of 6). Ellis made all five of his attempts, including the only successful FG in live scrimmage (a 37-yarder from the left hash), but his long was 38. Recinos, a walk-on, made 3 of 5 (long of 38, twice).
Punters ... Ferentz said it’s been a dead heat between Dillon Kidd and Connor Kornbrath. Kidd was the first one to get a chance and punted three times (39, 49 and 43). Kornbrath, the incumbent starter, punted twice 36 and 38 yards.
It was one showing. I’m not going to pretend to know anything here.
Penalties ... The 2013 Hawkeyes were called for 4.0 penalties a game that resulted in 32.7 yards lost. Iowa led the Big Ten in both categories and the 2013 squad was the least penalized team during the Ferentz era.
The Hawkeyes’ defense had too many big ones Saturday. A defensive holding kept a drive alive (linebacker Travis Perry). On the same drive, CB Maurice Fleming was called for a pass interference and helped the offense to a TD. There was a second PI on freshman corner Joshua Jackson that led to a fumble and TD by fullback Drake Kulick.
DT Jaleel Johnson was ejected after throwing a punch at redshirt freshman OL Boone Myers. That also helped keep a drive alive, as did a facemask penalty on corner Sean Draper.
There weren’t a lot of penalties, but there were some bad ones.
And ... Two players I didn’t see at all and I’m wondering if they were invited to camp (remember, you can only have 105 in camp) were D-linemen Daumantas Venckus-Cucchiara and Dean Tsopanides.
No sign of the “Raider” package, the third-down rush defense Iowa showed last season.
— Marc Morehouse
LT — Brandon Scherff; LG — Sean Welsh; C — Austin Blythe; RG — Jordan Walsh; RT — Andrew Donnal; TE — Henry Krieger Coble; TE — George Kittle; WR — Tevaun Smith; WR — Kevonte Martin-Manley; WR — Jacob Hillyer; FB — Macon Plewa; RB — Jordan Canzeri; QB — Jake Rudock
Others: RB — LeShun Daniels, Jonathan Parker, Akrum Wadley; LT — Ike Boettger; TE — Ryan Ward (goal line); WR Matt VandeBerg
Withheld: TE Ray Hamilton; TE Jake Duzey; WR Derrick Willies; WR Damond Powell; FB Adam Cox (out for season); RB Mark Weisman; RB Damon Bullock; WR Andre Harris
DE — Mike Hardy; DE — Nate Meier; DT — Carl Davis; DT — Louis Trinca-Pasat; MLB — Quinton Alston; WLB — Reggie Spearman; OLB — Travis Perry; CB — Desmond King; CB — Sean Draper and Maurice Fleming; FS — Jordan Lomax; SS — John Lowdermilk
Nickel: Maurice Fleming in, Reggie Spearman out
Others: LB — Josey Jewell; CB — Malik Rucker; DE — Drew Ott; DT — Jaleel Johnson; DT — Faith Ekakitie; DT — Nathan Bazata
Withheld: CB — Greg Mabin; DT — Darian Cooper; LB — Chad Gilson; DE — Riley McMinn; DE — Terrence Harris; DB — Jalen Embry
LT — Ike Boettger; LG — Boone Myers; C — Eric Simmons; RG — Mitch Keppy; RT — Cole Croston; TE — Peter Pekar; WR — Riley McCarron; WR — Derrick Mitchell Jr.; WR — Andrew Stone; FB — Drake Kulick; RB — Akrum Wadley; QB — C.J. Beathard
Others: RB — Jonathan Parker; C — Tommy Gaul; T — Ryan Ward; WR — Drew Zaun; FB — Drake Kulick
DE — Melvin Spears; DE — Matt Nelson; DT — Jaleel Johnson; DT — Faith Ekakitie; MLB — Cole Fisher; WLB — Travis Perry; OLB — Josey Jewell; CB — Malik Rucker; CB — Sean Draper; SS — Miles Taylor; FS — Anthony Gair
Others: LB — Bo Bower; LB — Ben Niemann; LB — John Kenny; DT — Brant Gresell; DT — Nathan Bazata
LT — Lucas LeGrand; LG — Reid Sealby; C — Steve Ferentz; RG — Tommy Gaul; RT — Ryan Ward; TE — Peter Pekar; WR — Drew Zaun; WR — Derrick Mitchell Jr.; WR — Trev Hadacheck; RB — C.J. Hilliard; FB — Drake Kulick; QB — Tyler Wiegers
Others: LT — Keegan Render; LG — Colin Goebel; RG — Ross Reynolds; RT — Dalton Ferguson
DE — Will Rathjen; DE — Matt Nelson; DT — Kyle Terlouw; DT — Brant Gressel; MLB — Luke Lindah; WLB — Aaron Mends; OLB — Parker Hesse; CB — Joshua Jackson; CB — Marcel Joly; S — Brandon Snyder; S — Solomon Warfield
Others — LB — Jameer Outsey; LB — Eric Grimm
(Left to right): Desmond King, Jordan Lomax, Reggie Spearman, Macon Plewa, John Kenny, Bo Bower, Travis Perry, Cole Fisher, Anthony Gair, Matt VandeBerg. Kicker — Marshall Koehn
Kick returners: Akrum Wadley, Jonathan Parker
(Left to right): Sean Draper, Omar Truitt, Ben Niemann, George Kittle, John Lowdermilk, John Kenny, Chad Gilson, Derrick Mitchell Jr., Miles Taylor, Malik Rucker. Kicker — Mick Ellis
Linemen — Reggie Spearman, Macon Plewa, Tyler Kluever (snapper), Cole Fisher, Travis Perry. Wingbacks — Jordan Lomax, John Lowdermilk; Gunners — Malik Rucker, Matt VandeBerg; Fullback — Quinton Alston; Punter — John Kidd/Connor Kornbrath
FIELD GOAL/EXTRA POINT
(Left to right): Ike Boettger, Jordan Walsh, Andrew Donnal, Tyler Kluever (snapper), Brandon Scherff, Eric Simmons Cole Croston; Wingbacks — Macon Plewa, Henry Krieger Coble; Holders — John Kidd/Connor Kornbrath; Kickers — Marshall Koehn, Mick Ellis, Miguel Recinos
— Scott Dochterman
Jake Rudock — 15 of 26 for 169 yards, TD
C.J. Beathard — 13 of 28 for 172 yards
Tyler Wiegers — 4 of 6 for 69 yards
Jordan Canzeri — three carries for 4 yards
Akrum Wadley — 10 for 39 yards TD (1)
LeShun Daniels — 10 for 32 yards 2 TDs (1,1)
Drake Kulick — 1 for 2 TD (2)
C.J. Hilliard — 10 for 24 (fumble, Kulick recovered)
Jonathan Parker — 5 for 0 yards
Matt VandeBerg — 1 for 11
TE George Kittle — 5 catches for 98 yards
WR Andrew Stone — 4 for 33 yards
WR Kevonte Martin-Manley — 4 for 68 yards TD (58)
RB Jordan Canzeri — 1 for 19
WR Jacob Hillyer — 1 for 2 (drop)
TE Peter Pekar — 3 for 47
WR Drew Zaun — 2 for 8
FB Drake Kulick — drop
RB LeShun Daniels — 1 for 7
WR Tevaun Smith — 1 for 4
WR Matt VandeBerg — 3 for 31
TE Henry Krieger-Coble — 1 for 5
WR Trev Hadachek — 1 for 53
WR Derrick Mitchell Jr. — 2 for 15
RB Akrum Wadley — 2 for 16 (drop)
RB Jonathan Parker — 1 for 3
C.J. Hilliard (FB Drake Kulick recovered for TD)
FS Anthony Gair
Defense — offsides (??), defensive holding (LB Travis Perry), pass interference (CB Reese Fleming), pass interference (CB Joshua Jackson), facemask (CB Sean Draper), personal foul ejection (defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson)
Perry, LB Quinton Alston, LB Ben Niemann, LB John Kenny
DE Drew Ott (2), DT Brant Gressel, DE Nate Meier, DT Faith Ekakitie, DE Melvin Spears, LB Ben Niemann (2), DE Matt Nelson
Dillon Kidd — 3 punts for 43.6 average
Connor Kornbrath — 2 punts for 37.0 average
Marshall Koehn — 2 of 6 (37 right hash wide right; 40 left hash wide right, 43 right hash good, 38 left hash wide left; 43 right hash good; 28 left hash wide right)
Mick Ellis — 5 of 5 (37 left hash good, 38 right hash good; 21 middle good; 20 middle good; 28 right hash good)
Miguel Recinos — 3 of 5 (45 right hash wide right; 28 left hash good; 28 right hash wide right; 38 right hash good; 38 left hash good)
FB Adam Cox (torn ACL, out for season; WR Derrick Willies (muscle strain, not serious according to Ferentz); DB Jalen Embry (unspecified); TE Ray Hamilton (unspecified), TE Jake Duzey (unspecified); DT Darian Cooper (unspecified); WR Damond Powell (hernia); WR Jay Scheel (unspecified); CB Greg Mabin (unspecified); LB Chad Gilson (red jersey, no contact, but participated); DE Riley McMinn (unspecified); DE Terrence Harris (unspecified); TE Jon Wisnieski (ACL); WR Riley McCarron (unspecified, injured during scrimmage after hitting the turf making a catch); S Kevin Ward (unspecified); WR Andre Harris (unspecified)