IOWA CITY, Iowa -- It wasn't pretty, but the Iowa Hawkeyes (2-0) grind out a Kirk Ferentz type game against a focused, but tired Ball State (1-1) team, out of the MAC, at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday. Iowa played for 60 minutes, especially finished strong in the fourth quarter for the second straight win of the '14 season.
Trailing 13-3 with 5:50 remaining, junior QB Jake Rudock led the Iowa team on two fourth quarter touchdown drives to send the Hawkeyes to a 17-13 come-from-behind victory over Ball State to give the Kinnick fans something to celebrate, after a unproductive three quarters, highlighted by two Iowa turnovers and three missed field goals by the Hawkeyes.
Taking over at its own 31 with 5:50 remaining, Iowa used a 10-play, 69-yard drive to stay alive. Rudock completed 5-of-7 passes for 38 yards and rushed for 26 more during the series. On third-and-6 from the Ball State 30, Rudock connected with sophomore Matt VandeBerg for eight yards for a first down.
After Rudock scrambled for 10 yards on first down, the junior tossed a 12-yard touchdown pass to redshirt freshman Derrick Willies, cutting the Cardinals' lead to 13-10 with 2:52 remaining. The touchdown catch was the first of Willies career.
Needing a three-and-out, the Hawkeye defense produced bottling up Cardinals' senior running back Jahwan Edwards for a three yards on first down before tackling him for a 3-yard loss on second down. Ball State was forced to punt after its third-down pass was incomplete, and Iowa took over at its own 44 with 2:23 left.
Rudock opened the go-ahead drive with a 16-yard completion to junior Tevaun Smith and a 9-yard pass to senior Damon Bullock, moving the ball to the Ball State 34. Rudock followed with a 6-yard pass to junior Jake Duzey, and two plays later he connected with the junior tight end for a 12-yard touchdown catch, giving Iowa its first lead 59 minutes into the contest.
Rudock shined in the clutch, finishing 9-of-11 for 81 yards and throwing two touchdowns during the final two series. He also had 33 yards rushing over the final 5:50.
"We needed to make a stop there at the end, and we didn't do it," said Ball State head coach Pete Lembo, in his fourth season. "We had a shot, and we didn't finish. We have good kids in the program and a good staff, but that doesn't take the sting away."
Iowa's defense sealed the victory when junior Drew Ott sacked Ball State sophomore quarterback Ozzie Mann on second-and-2 from the Ball State 33. Senior Carl Davis recovered, sending the Hawkeyes to their second victory.
Iowa doubled up the Cardinals in total offense, out-gaining Ball State, 455-219, in the game, and it had 27-13 advantage in first downs. The Hawkeyes had 113 yards rushing on 29 attempts, while Rudock had career-bests in completions, attempts, and yards, finishing 35-of-55 attempts for 322 yards and two touchdowns. He also led the team with 36 rushing yards on seven carries.
Eleven different Iowa players had at least one reception in the game. Senior Kevonte Martin-Manley had eight catches for 70 yards, while Smith and Bullock caught six balls apiece for 59 and 32 yards, respectively.
The Hawkeye defense limited Ball State to 90 yards rushing on 36 attempts, 129 yards through the air, and the Cardinals were just 4-of-16 on third downs. Ott led the team with a career-high 13 tackles (six solo), including three tackles for loss, one sack, and a forced fumble.
Ott was clearly the MVP of today's defense. He was active all game.
"Iowa's defense was as advertised," said Lembo. "They are big, strong, physical, and you have to earn everything you get against them. This is an Iowa football game they just played. They don't panic, stick to the plan, and they aren't going to give you cheap ones. They wear you down in the second half, and that is what they did to us."
Mann completed 15-of-30 attempts for 129 yards for Ball State, while Edwards rushed 21 times for 81 yards. Junior wide receiver KeVonn Mabon had three catches for 44 yards, and sophomore middle linebacker Zack Ryan had 10 tackles (seven solo) in the game. Ryan is the younger brother of Michigan linebacker Jake Ryan.
After trailing 7-3 at the break, the Cardinals used an 11-play, 50-yard drive to push their lead to 10-3 on the first possession of the second half. Ball State was set to punt after a three-and-out, but the drive churned on when senior Louis Trinca-Pasat was flagged for a running into the punter.
Ball State moved into Iowa territory on a pass interference penalty and a 26-yard pass to Mabon moved the Cardinals into the red zone. Iowa's defense held, getting an 11-yard sack on an intentional grounding call, before Ball State was forced to settle on senior Scott Secor's 42-yard field goal.
The Cardinals forced Iowa's second turnover on the ensuing kickoff when senior Quintin Cooper knocked the ball loose from redshirt freshman Jonathan Parker and sophomore Aaron Taylor recovered, giving Ball State possession at the Iowa 23. The Hawkeyes gave up an 11-yard Banks rush on the first play of the series before buckling down and holding Ball State to Secor's 27-yard field goal attempt.
Iowa drove 59 yards to the Ball State 11-yard line on its first series of the second half, using seven rushes by senior Mark Weisman and junior Jordan Canzeri and a pair of Rudock-to-Smith passes to the 11. Iowa came away pointless when true freshman Mick Ellis missed a 29-yard field goal wide left -- the team's third missed field goal of the game.
Ball State led 7-3 at the half, despite the Hawkeyes outgaining the Cardinals, 208-91. Ball State scored the game's first touchdown off an Iowa turnover, and the Hawkeyes left six points on the field, courtesy of two missed field goals.
Iowa had seven points taken off the board on its second drive of the game after a 38-yard senior Damond Powell touchdown reception was ruled incomplete by instant replay. Sophomore quarterback C.J. Beathard led Iowa into Ball State territory in his first playing time of the season, completing 2-of-3 passes for 20 yards.
After forcing a three-and-out, Iowa's offense took over in Ball State territory and moved the ball into the red zone courtesy of a pass interference penalty and three-straight sophomore LeShun Daniels, Jr., rushing attempts. Iowa couldn't capitalize, and it came away empty, as junior Marshall Koehn's 35-yard field goal missed wide left.
Ball State's defense scored the game's first points, forcing a turnover on Iowa's first possession of the second quarter. On first-and-10 from its own 37, Parker fumbled on a jet sweep, where Cardinals' reserve defensive lineman Blake Dueitt scooped up the ball and rumbled 35-yards for the touchdown, giving Ball State a 7-0 lead.
The Hawkeyes answered on the ensuing possession, driving 67 yards over six plays to cut the lead to 7-3 with 11:23 left in the second quarter. Rudock opened the series with a 12-yard completion to junior Jacob Hillyer before finding junior Jordan Canzeri for a career-long 50-yard reception down to the Ball State 13.
After a five-yard completion to Smith to the 8, junior tight end Henry Krieger-Coble dropped a crossing route at the 2, forcing the Hawkeyes to settle on Koehn's 26-yard field goal.
Iowa had its best drive on its final series of the first half, moving 57 yards over 12 plays. Rudock completed his first six passes on the drive for 7, 6, 19, 11, 3, and 19 yards to three different receivers, moving the ball to the Ball State 26. After a pair of incompletions and a seven-yard Rudock scramble into the red zone, Iowa elected to go for the points with the clock winding down, but it came away empty when Koehn's 37-yard field goal sailed wide left.
Iowa has a couple new placekickers and a new punter leading the special teams in '14. Iowa is using a new kick returner and punt returner. The Hawkeyes have new holder and deep snapper. The special teams didn't play well, with three missed field goals and one turnover.
With a big in-state rivarly game ahead, Iowa needs to clean up in all three phases of the game. Many expected an offensive game from either of today's opponents, but it turned out to be a grind out defensive game.
The Hawkeyes return to action Saturday, hosting Iowa State (0-2) in an Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series matchup at 2:30 p.m. (CT) on ESPN. The game is sold out.