Iowa has produced many outstanding quarterbacks over the years, but some of the best were not starters as sophomores.
Two played for Coach Forest Evashevski nearly 50 years ago. Kenny Ploen (1956) and Randy Duncan (1958) were both all-Americans and Big Ten most-valuable players who led their teams to conference titles and decisive Rose Bowl victories. But neither started as a sophomore.
Chuck Hartlieb was all-Big Ten in 1987 and 1988 and owns many of Iowa’s passing records. He quarterbacked the Hawkeyes to a Holiday Bowl victory as a junior and the Peach Bowl as a senior. He did not start a sophomore.
As a senior in 2002, Brad Banks quarterbacked the Hawkeyes to the Big Ten championship and an Orange Bowl berth. His many honors that year included being named the Associated Press Player of the Year. Banks came to Iowa from junior college and did not start until his senior season.
Which brings us to Drew Tate, who will call signals for the Hawkeyes at the Capital One Bowl in Orlando on New Year’s Day. Tate is only the second Iowa quarterback in history to be named all-Big Ten as a sophomore.
The other is Chuck Long, who was the Big Ten’s best quarterback for three straight seasons beginning in 1983, a year before Tate was born. Long went on to become the first Big Ten quarterback to pass for 10,000 yards. As a senior, he led the Iowa to a Big Ten championship and was a consensus all-American.
This is not intended to put pressure on Tate, or to suggest he is the next Chuck Long. But in comparing Tate’s passing statistics this year to Long’s in 1983, Tate is ahead in nearly every category.
Tate has more completions for more touchdowns, and has thrown for a better percentage than any sophomore in Iowa history. Barring injury or a steel-curtain defense by LSU, Iowa’s opponent at Orlando, Tate will finish the season with the most yards passing. (See statistics below.)
Long was the first of Hayden Fry’s great run of quarterbacks. Over a 10-year period, the all-conference quarterback was a Hawkeye seven times. Hartlieb and Matt Rodgers each won the honor twice.
Like Long, Rodgers started as a sophomore and quarterbacked the Hawkeyes to a Big Ten title in 1990, his junior year. He also played a big part in a Holiday Bowl victory the following season.
Matt Sherman was also a three-year starter for Fry and quarterbacked Iowa to decisive victories in the Sun Bowl in 1995 and the Alamo Bowl the following season. Iowa got another Sun Bowl bid in 1997, Sherman’s senior year.
Iowa had a strong running game in the sophomore seasons of Long, Rodgers and Sherman. Owen Gill and Eddie Phillips combined for some 1,500 rushing yards in 1983. Nick Bell was named the Big Ten’s MVP in 1990 when he ran for more than 1,000 yards. Sedrick Shaw rushed for a school record 1,477 yards in 1995.
Iowa’s 2004 offense has been one-dimensional by necessity. Knee injuries ended the season for the top four running backs, leaving Coach Kirk Ferentz with an offense that relies heavily on the forward pass. But Tate accepted the challenge and became the first sophomore in school history to quarterback Iowa to a Big Ten championship.
Here are the passing statistics of Iowa’s four sophomore quarterbacks:
Year Comp-Att Pct. Yards Int. TD
Chuck Long 1983 157-265 .592 2,601 12 14
Matt Rodgers 1989 178-312 .571 2,222 13 12
Matt Sherman 1995 170-295 .576 2,567 15 14
Drew Tate 2004 213-343 .621 2,499 12 18="http:>