When Iowa State (1-4) visits Oklahoma State (3-2) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday there will be plenty of curious eyes in South Carolina watching what is for them a quarterback rematch from the state's Division II-AAAA State Championship Game from 2013.
Cowboys quarterback Mason Rudolph led his unbeaten Rock Hill Northwestern Trojans into the title game against Stratford and their Elite 11 quarterback Jacob Park. Rudolph had been committed to Oklahoma State since early in the summer and Park had pledged to Georgia around the same time. They were the top passers in the state and would see their talents become entwined a couple of other times in the next month.
On that Saturday in Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C., Rudolph was untouchable. The future Cowboy completed 40 of 57 passes for 488 yards and a South Carolina Championship Game record eight touchdown passes. He threw one pick and also rushed for 27 yards and another touchdown on seven carries. Rudolph and the Trojans won the championship going away at 62-35 over Stratford and Park.
For the season, Rudolph, who had skipped the national competitions like Elite 11 and Nike's The Opening, to stay home and throw to his receivers, had completed 350-of-482 attempts for a 72.6 completion percentage. He threw for 4,377 yards with 64 touchdown passes and just eight interceptions. He also ran for 543 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Yet, it was Park a week after the championship game that was awarded the Mr. Football Award for South Carolina. Park had earned U.S. Army All-American honors and would go on to play in the game in January in San Antonio. He was also a two-time All-State quarterback who as a senior threw for 3,665 yards and 33 touchdowns. Park was kind of surprised he was named Mr. Football after the show Rudolph had put on the week before.
“I watched it first hand,” Park told The State newspaper of the lopsided loss in Columbia the previous week. “It was a phenomenal performance he put on. I didn’t really understand how good they were, how good their receivers were and how he could manage a game like that. He’s got good wide receivers, but at the same time, you have to have a quarterback who can get it to them. He did a phenomenal job and led them to that state championship.”
The next week the two were on the same team as Rudolph threw two touchdown passes, including the game winner with just over a minute to go, as South Carolina beat North Carolina 28-23 in the 77th annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas.
The two parted and went their separate ways. Rudolph had his redshirt broken late in his freshman season and Oklahoma State fans know the legend well as he finished with a Bedlam win in overtime in Norman and a strong performance in the Cactus Bowl win vs. Washington.
Park left Georgia, and actually got a call from Rudolph endorsing a junior college in his adopted state. Park did end up at NEO A&M Junior College in Miami, Okla. Park wasn't there long as the NEO staff helped him get his academics on track, play some spring football and then report to Iowa State, who with new coach Matt Campbell had learned Park was at NEO and eligible to sign and transfer to a four-year school.
Park has now played in three games and completed 28 of 49 passes for 334 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Now the two will once again be on opposite sidelines.
"I actually have a good buddy from South Carolina that is a quarterback there now and to be able to talk to him and see him will be good," Rudolph said on Monday. "I haven't talked to him since he's been there. It will be kind of strange to be in a game against each other again after so long."
The college football world can be a small place.