Hawkeye receivers in for a challenge


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Iowa’s Jake Rudock has spent the first five games of the 2013 season flinging passes to 16 different receivers. He’s connected on 61.7 percent of his passes. He’s tossed 6 touchdowns.

But the five opponents Rudock has thrown against haven’t had the best passing-efficiency defenses. Iowa’s foe with the strongest passing defense thus far has been Western Michigan, whose passing efficiency defense stands at 121.12 —the 52nd ranked unit in that category in the country.

Michigan State (3-1, 0-0 Big Ten) ranks first in that category with a passing-efficiency defense of 72.63. The Spartans’ secondary is touted, statistically, as the toughest in the nation, allowing just 153.8 yards through the air per game.

Rudock will have to find a way to sling the pig skin through the nation’s top pass defense on Saturday when Mark Dantonio’s squad visits Kinnick Stadium for Iowa’s (4-1, 1-0) Homecoming.

“The back four cover very well,” Rudock said on Tuesday. “We’re going to have our hands full. It’s very evident on film.”

The Spartan’s pass defense has allowed just a 36.3 completion percentage this season and has intercepted 4 passes — two for touchdowns. Their first four opponents have scored just four times through the air and have combined for a total of 522 passing yards.

These stats suggest that Iowa’s passing attack might be in a heap of trouble Saturday. Though Rudock has spread the ball around with better-than-average accuracy, he’s also tossed 4 interceptions. His 192.2 passing yards per contest ranks just sixth in the Big Ten.

“When they lock down on you, they’re in your face; it’s not a lot of breathing room there,” Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz said. “You look at their pass statistics; they’re probably comfortable with the style of play they have.”

‘Veteran’ King

Ferentz wasn’t very clear on whether Jordan Lomax would be ready to play against Michigan State. The most-recent depth-chart shows true-freshman Desmond King still as the starter at right cornerback.

“[Lomax] has only played part of one game, and King really is the veteran right now, which seems funny to talk about a guy who was in high school six months ago,” Ferentz said. “But [King]’s been able to practice and able to play, and that’s where we’re at right now.”

Ferentz didn’t specify when Lomax would return. It could be advantageous for the Iowa defense if the sophomore played against Michigan State, as Dantonio tabbed sophomore Spartan quarterback Connor Cook as the starter during Tuesday’s teleconference.

Cook has been Michigan State’s most consistent quarterback this season, connecting on 53.1 percent of his passes for five scores. More importantly, though, is that he hasn’t thrown an interception.

“What we’re looking for him to do is grow and gain experience as he enters his second full start,” Dantonio said on the teleconference. “He’s got a lot of ability … We have a lot of confidence in him.”

Hamilton growing

Last weekend, against Minnesota, the usual starting tight end, C.J. Fiedorowicz, wasn’t on the field when Iowa’s offense ran its first play from scrimmage.

It was, instead, Ray Hamilton. Hamilton, a junior, has been a serviceable backup to Fiedorowicz this season, accounting for 6 catches for 81 yards.

It’s unclear if Hamilton has overtaken Fiedorowicz for the starting spot on Iowa’s roster — Fiedorowicz is still listed as the starter on the most-recent depth-chart. But Ferentz said on Tuesday that Hamilton might see more playing time as the season progresses.

“Last spring [Hamilton] did some good things, and it’s been a continual thing for him,” Ferentz said. “We like all our tight ends. They all bring something positive to the team.”

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