Dec. 28, 2013
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By MATT WEITZEL
TAMPA, Fla. — The University of Iowa football team resumed preparation for its New Year’s Day Outback Bowl game against Louisiana State University on Saturday at Jesuit High School.
Offensive coordinator Greg Davis said after practice that the Tigers’ defense mirrors Iowa’s defense in some ways.
“They’re a four-down team that plays aggressive,” said Davis. “They’re big man-to-man on normal down-and-distance, and play a lot of two safeties on third-and-long. It’ll be a challenge.”
Davis added that because of the pressure LSU’s defensive front, the Hawkeyes will need to do a good job mixing things up offensively.
“They’re ends can really rush and their inside guys are big and push the pocket well,” said Davis. “We’ll have to employ different personnel groupings — find ways to run the ball and create some play action passes.”
Sophomore Jake Rudock is the Hawkeye signal caller who has had success making checks at the line of scrimmage all season based on the defensive look. Rudock enters the bowl game completing 60-percent of his passes (195-of-324) for 2,281 yards and 18 touchdowns. Davis has had confidence in his first-year starting quarterback from day one.
“We started the year knowing he was smart,” said Davis. “Sometimes book smarts and football smarts don’t always coincide, but in his case it does. We started the season with some easier thing, and as the season progressed, he has handled more and more. He works at it — watching a lot of film on his own.”
“We’ll have to be productive running and catching, and running after the catch. Hopefully, we’ve taken steps in that direction.”
UI offensive coordinator
The Tiger defense ranks 20th in the country in total defense, allowing 349.7 yards per contest. Preparing for a team as skilled as LSU, Davis said the Hawkeyes need to be two-dimensional in order to have success.
“We’ll have to be productive running and catching, and running after the catch,” said Davis. “Hopefully, we’ve taken steps in that direction.”
Leading the Hawkeye ground attack this season has been Mark Weisman. The junior running back enters the bowl game 63 yards shy of 1,000 for the season, something that has been accomplished 17 other times in Iowa history. Davis continues to praise the former walk-on’s work ethic.
“Mark is someone you have to like,” Davis said. “He comes to work every day and works hard. Mark has a terrific approach to the game.
“I think we’ve been a little smarter with him too, letting Damon [Bullock] and [Jordan] Canzeri get in there because his style is not going to change. When he carries it in the 25-30 range, he’s going to take some collisions — he’s going to dish out some collisions, too. We have tried to be smarter with him, not only during games but also during the week.”
In the air attack, Davis has been pleased with what sophomore Tevaun Smith has done recently.
“The play against Michigan (55-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter) did a lot for his confidence,” said Davis. “Tevaun has practiced with more confidence since that game. This will be another big challenge because he’ll be one-on-one a lot during the game.”