Let’s eliminate the “yeah, but” right off the bat. Iowa started with the No. 3 FCS team at South Dakota State. The Hawkeyes did it without their top running back and two of their top three wide receivers with Gavin Williams and Keagan Johnson sidelined and wide receiver Nico Ragaini reported as out to start the week.
Those injuries are in addition to wide receiver Jackson Ritter and offensive lineman Justin Britt, both lost for the season. Also, wide receiver Diante Vines isn’t expected to return from injury until at least the middle of this season, that doesn’t appear to be the case.
It’s an offensive line that’s young in places and looking to replace a 2022 NFL first-round pick in former center Tyler Linderbaum. Just to reiterate, South Dakota State is really good at FCS and beat FBS competition as recently as last season at Colorado State and hung with Minnesota in a 28-21 loss to start 2019.
All of this is true. That doesn’t change or excuse the fact that it looked like rock bottom for Hawkeye quarterback Spencer Petras and the Iowa offense.
It was a downright embarrassing offensive performance for a program that has spent the entire offseason looking to address a group that finished 121st nationally in total offense a season ago, averaging 303.7 yards. per game.
Iowa ranked 101st in the nation in rushing yards per game with 123.6 and 109th in passing yards per game with 180.1 last year. In 2021, Iowa averaged 16.5 first downs per game. In scoring offense, the Hawkeyes finished 99th, averaging 23.4 points per game.
So far not so good in the improvement department. Iowa managed to do worse than each of those averages last season. The Hawkeyes finished with a meager 166 total rushing yards, 109 passing yards and 57 rushing yards. Even though the scoreline looks like the Hawkeyes threw a conventional touchdown and a PAT on the board, Iowa scored all seven of its points thanks to a field goal and a pair of safeties. Oh, by the way, Iowa finished with 10 first downs and finished 4 of 17 on third down conversions.
In fact, Iowa’s seven points were the lowest of a Big Ten winning team since Iowa’s 6-4 triumph over Penn State in 2004. The Hawkeyes are also the first Big Ten team to win a game without scoring a touchdown since Nebraska beat Michigan State 9. -6 in 2018.
At halftime, Petras was 6 of 15 passing for 41 yards with one interception. He finished 11 of 25 for 109 yards. Any talk of it being a new offense certainly didn’t hold up during the first game.
It could be as simple as Iowa really doesn’t have a better option than Petras at quarterback. That’s what Ferentz said to start this season.
“It’s a long evaluation, and we evaluate everything, we tell our guys from January. Obviously we don’t do football stuff, and Spencer and Alex are both quality guys, but just the time on the pitch, I think Spencer has a little outdone Alex at this point. He is further ahead and gives us a better chance of success. This is not to diminish what Alex has done. Both have improved.
“Now the problem is we can put it all together and be a little more productive offensively. Both guys did a good job. Spencer just kept climbing,” Ferentz said earlier this week when asked why Petras got the starting quarterback job from Iowa.
If so, so be it, but it’s hard for fans to reconcile not seeing other quarterbacks like Padilla or Labas get their chance outside of practice and in a game for try to do better for Iowa.
After all, as many in the Iowa echo chamber would pass, right now, it doesn’t look like it could get any worse. So why not give these other two a chance and see if that can provide a spark?
It will be sold and painted as a positive that Iowa won the game 7-3 over South Dakota State despite offensive struggles. It’s not. It’s negative that Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz were able to stay with Petras the entire game and win.
This allows the Hawkeyes to stay with one quarterback, which means the cap on this team isn’t a Big Ten championship or maybe even a comeback appearance in the Big Ten championship game. Today was the day to try and see what it looked like once again with backup quarterback Alex Padilla or redshirt rookie Joe Labas.
Instead, the time has come and gone and now it’s at Iowa State where tinkering at quarterback in the game could mean losing to your biggest rival for the first time in the last seven meetings. Obviously, the Iowa coaching staff hopes it doesn’t come to that.
The results against the Jackrabbits indicate that it’s probably only a matter of time before that happens. Like the frustrating play that defined Petras’ career at Iowa in the past, the San Rafael, Calif. native knocked down targets with consistency, battled pressure to identify where his open receivers were, he was intercepted on a pass behind his target. in tight end Sam LaPorta, and missed a deep shot to wide receiver Alec Wick that could have helped seal the game.
To be fair, Petras deserves a pass in this regard: like the below-average play that defined the back half last season, it really isn’t and wasn’t entirely his fault. The offensive line showed serious weaknesses in Game 1.
Petras was under regular duress and the offensive line could never establish the Hawkeyes’ patented running game. Leshon Williams ended his day with 24 carries for a hard-earned 72 rushing yards, though he even had a costly fumble on Iowa’s only offensive drive that seemed destined for the end zone. As a team, Iowa averages just 1.6 yards per carry.
It’s week one, so overreacting is a dangerous game, but it was hugely uninspiring offensively from a program that needs improvement on this side of football in the worst possible way.
All Iowa Football Opponents Players on 2022 Senior Bowl Watch List
Contact us/Follow us @HawkeyesWire on Twitter, and like our page on Facebook for ongoing coverage of Iowa news, ratings and views.
Follow Josh on Twitter: @JoshOnREF
Let us know your thoughts, comment on this story below. Join the conversation today.
The story originally appeared on Hawkeyes Wire