Fiedorowicz finding his stride for Iowa
Jake Rudock was back-pedaling when a window opened up — the kind of window that quarterbacks hate. This window gave Northwestern’s Ibraheim Campbell a clear, unblocked path to Rudock, who impressively held his poise as Campbell closed in.
It was Iowa’s fourth play in overtime, a third-and-seven from the Wildcat 8. Rudock, just five plays removed from an interception that secured extra time, threw up a floater just as Campbell pushed him backwards. But as it descended, C.J. Fiedorowicz came into the frame and snagged the game-winning touchdown.
“You don’t know if they’re going to try to defend or bring pressure, and they brought the house, it looked like,” Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz said about the score that helped Iowa to a 17-10 overtime win over Northwestern on Oct. 26.
“[Rudock] did a great job of waiting until the last second and then had faith that C.J. would be in the right spot,” the coach said. “Looked like he put the ball out there, and C.J. went and got it.”
That Fiedorowicz caught his fourth touchdown of the season to help seal a win isn’t surprising. What is, though, is how much his presence has become an added dynamic to the Iowa red-zone offense.
Through eight games this season, the Hawkeye offense has changed a lot with respect to the passing attack. This year’s team has scored 12 times through the air compared with just three times through eight games in 2012.
One-third of those scores have gone to Fiedorowicz, which is twice as many as any other Iowa receiver on the roster — Kevonte Martin-Manley, Damond Powell, and Jacob Hillyer each have two touchdown catches on the year.
But each of Fiedorowicz’s 4 touchdowns have come in the red zone. Iowa, as an offense, has scored 16 touchdowns on 31 trips to the red zone, compared with just 18 red-zone touchdowns in all of 2012.
And it’s easy to see why the 6-7, 265-pound tight end gets those looks inside the 20-yard-line — Rudock says nearly every time he and Fiedorowicz connect for a score, his frame and reliable hands aid in the decision to get him more touches.
“We’ve worked [certain plays] enough times that he knows where to go, and I know he’ll be coming free,” Rudock said. “And that’s all the off-season work. You’re coming in on days off and after a workout, throwing routes and understanding ‘Hey, this is where you’re going to be,’ and doing one-on-ones.”
Comparatively, Fiedorowicz’s 2012 stats through eight games are down from what they were a year ago with James Vandenberg behind center. He had 24 catches last year at this time last year and only 17 this season, and he had 236 receiving yards while only 153 so far in 2013.
But Rudock’s using Fiedorowicz more within 20 yards to the goal line makes Ferentz a very happy coach.
“C.J. is tough to defend down there,” he said. “He’s doing a great job for us down in that tight area, and those are the kind of plays you’ve got to be able to make at some point if you’re going to be able to win conference games.”
Fiedorowicz enjoys the success, too. After the game, while talking with members of the media, Iowa’s star tight end stood in the corner of the room, smiling and giving happier answers than normal. His phone was in his pocket, constantly buzzing, likely with text messages from friends and family about his game-winning touchdown.
“That whole thing was in slow-motion, I swear,” he said and smiled. “That’s just a great ball from Jake. He had guys in his face and he knew where to go with it. And my job was to just make a play.”
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