116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
ORLANDO, Fla. — OK, before the unsilent minority gets its fangs ready yet again, here’s a statement to try to cool their jets:
No, Iowa’s quarterback play wasn’t optimal. Duh.
If Spencer Petras had made just a few better throws and a couple less big mistakes Saturday, Iowa would have returned home with a Citrus Bowl trophy. Fact, not personal attack.
By the way, if you’re in the personal attack group toward Petras, might I consider you consider a long winter vacation in Yakutsk, Siberia?
Two sets of statistics lead one to believe that a quarterback-switch is a step toward an Iowa offensive renaissance.
First, Iowa averaged 23.4 points (99th in the nation) and 303.9 yards (121st) this season. NG. Not good.
Last year, which ended with the Hawkeyes winning six straight games, they averaged 31.8 points and 368.9 yards. That was playing only Big Ten teams, not Kent State and Colorado State.
So how did things get so much worse this season? It was the same quarterback, except for the three games Alex Padilla started.
Well, Iowa’s offensive line didn’t look like a standard Iowa offensive line until Saturday, when the blockers did a good job protecting Petras and run-blocking. Hawkeye quarterbacks had been sacked 2.4 times per game, but Iowa surrendered none in its 20-17 loss to Kentucky.
The Hawkeyes rushed for 173 yards, over 50 above their season-average.
For most of the season, though, the line was mundane. Last year’s team had Alaric Jackson, now in the O-line rotation of the Los Angeles Rams, and second-team All-Big Ten guard Cole Banwart.
With the line up to snuff Saturday — albeit against a Kentucky defense torn asunder by injuries and COVID — Iowa’s offense overturned a 13-3 second-half deficit and didn’t make you wince on every possession. On many, yes. But not all.
Does a year under the belts of very promising linemen Connor Colby and Mason Richman lead to a more-competent offense next season? Probably. Iowa will have to find a center to fill the huge shoes of Tyler Linderbaum, though.
Also, last year’s Hawkeyes had current Minnesota Viking Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Brandon Smith at wide receiver. Smith-Marsette recently became the first former Iowa WR to catch an NFL touchdown pass since Tim Dwight in 2007, which also says something.
This season, freshman Keagan Johnson led Iowa wideouts in receiving yards with 352. That’s five more yards than Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba had in Saturday’s Rose Bowl.
The second stat that’s shared here is Iowa completed 55.0 percent of its passes this season, 114th in the nation. The national average is 60 percent. Purdue was at 70.8 percent, Ohio State at 70.6, Iowa State at 70.2.
Petras hit on 57.3 percent of his. Not great. Padilla, the people’s choice to play Saturday, completed just 49.1 percent, and had a 112-pass sample size.
This isn’t a one-year accuracy tailspin. The last time an Iowa team completed 60 percent of its passes was 2015, and only six of Kirk Ferentz’s 23 Hawkeye teams have done it. Seventy-four teams completed 60 percent this season alone.
The Chicago Tribune had a wonderful columnist named Bernie Lincicome who once wrote “The Bears’ best quarterback is always their next quarterback.”
That’s the way it is at Iowa, too. I’m not saying Petras should be the guy in 2022. Yet, is there anyone coming back you’re positive would get better results?
Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops looked to shore up his quarterback position last offseason and lured Penn State transfer Will Levis. He got the ball to playmaker-extraordinaire Wan’Dale Robinson, who had 104 completions, including 10 for 170 yards against Iowa.
Robinson was lured to Kentucky after he left Nebraska.
Will Iowa pound the portal for more than players on the periphery? History says no.
So if you’re looking for change, congratulations on being an eternal optimist. We could use more of your type in general. Whether you’re dealing in reality in this particular case, though, is debatable.
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