With 2:52 left in regulation of the Michigan football team’s game at Indiana on Saturday, fifth-year senior quarterback Jake Rudock had to lead one of his biggest drives as a Wolverine.
Michigan set up at its own 34, down by seven. Rudock quickly led his team down the field: an in route to junior tight end Jake Butt for 16 yards, an out route to Butt for nine more. Two plays later, he found redshirt junior wide receiver Jehu Chesson for 41 yards to the Indiana two-yard line.
But then, the Wolverines began to let time tick off the clock, putting pressure on Rudock. The crowd ramped up to the loudest it had been all day, and the students crowded into the first few rows of their section. If Rudock didn’t lead Michigan into the end zone, they would rush the field to celebrate Indiana’s first win in the series since 1987. The quarterback entered the huddle to call the play.
“He was the exact same he was the entire game,” said fifth-year senior center Graham Glasgow. “He literally was the exact same. He came out to the huddle, made eye contact with us and didn’t really say anything besides the play call. I had a feeling we were going to complete the pass and be good to go.”
The fans stayed put. After three rushing plays stalled inside the five-yard line, Rudock calmly took the snap and delivered a touchdown throw to Chesson with two seconds left.
After the game, Rudock maintained the same even keel. He avoided getting too high after the win, just as he avoided getting too low after a season-opening loss to Utah in which he threw three interceptions.
“He’s very mature,” said redshirt junior offensive lineman Erik Magnuson. “He’s played a lot of games. He’s had ups and downs, but the biggest thing is he’s consistent. If he throws an interception or he throws a touchdown, he’s the same guy. He’s not going to melt down or all that type of stuff.”
It was that kind of quarterback, an experienced two-year starter at Iowa, whom the Wolverines knew they were getting when they recruited him as a graduate transfer this summer. After mixed results earlier in the season, Rudock has proved to be a capable leader of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh’s offense.
“Myself, I look at him and go, ‘I gotta be more like Jake,’ ” Harbaugh said. “It’s working really well for him. (I’ll) see if I can’t incorporate that into my own game, my own personality.”
Harbaugh entrusted Rudock with the keys to the offense in his first season in part because of his leadership. In Rudock’s opinion, a quarterback doesn’t have to be a big “rah-rah guy” to be a leader. Rudock prefers to talk with a small group individually and make sure they’re on the same page.
“It’s nice to have that type of guy leading the team, instead of somebody who comes into the huddle screaming, or somebody who seems like he needs to be screamed at,” Glasgow said.
Rudock, his teammates say, is the same way off the field. At 22, he’s one of the oldest members of the team, though his personality makes him seem much older in the eyes of his teammates. He doesn’t normally frequent bars or parties after games, preferring instead to stay in. He isn’t much for social media, which puzzles the other players.
He has already graduated from Iowa and hopes to attend medical school one day, finding helpful resources at Michigan’s hospital and master’s program to that end.
Soon after he arrived this summer, his persona earned him a nickname from the other quarterbacks: “Dad.” Rudock said he doesn’t mind it, though not everyone joins in.
“No, I don’t call him Dad!” Glasgow said. “I’m older than him!”
The other quarterbacks, on the other hand, stand in stark contrast to Rudock.
“The QBs are kind of like ‘Mean Girls,’ ” Glasgow said. “They talk about girls and stuff, and gossip.”
Rudock doesn’t take part.
“He doesn’t want to be bothered with that, you know?” Glasgow said. “He’s just all business all the time, and that’s what I like.”