116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MADISON, WIS. — As Iowa fans learn more about the 2021 Hawkeyes, so is head coach Kirk Ferentz.
“You just continue to learn more about your players as the season goes on,” Ferentz said.
Saturday was quite the lesson for Ferentz as Wisconsin schooled Iowa, 27-7. Here are a couple takeaways from re-watching the game:
Petras’ lack of protection proves costly
Quarterback Spencer Petras certainly did not have his best game against the Badgers.
He completed just 9 of 19 passes for 93 yards. His longest completion was for 23 yards, and it didn’t come until the Hawkeyes were already down by 20.
The blame goes well beyond just the junior quarterback, though.
When offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz called a pass play for Petras against Wisconsin, there was about a one-in-five chance it would end in a sack.
It wasn’t like he was holding onto the ball for an eternity, either.
Petras rarely had more than two seconds before either throwing the ball, tucking it to run or making contact with a defender.
At one point in the third quarter, a Wisconsin defender went unblocked on his way to hitting Petras about two seconds after the snap. Petras bounced off the defender and escaped before having to throw it away another two seconds after that.
Some Petras critics on Twitter have suggested starting Alex Padilla at quarterback. It wasn’t like Padilla was much better, though, when he replaced a banged-up Petras in the fourth quarter. Padilla completed 3 of 6 passes for 39 yards in garbage time.
Two seconds to throw are two seconds to throw, regardless of who is under center.
Defense not perfect, but good enough
Iowa’s defense did not have an easy set of circumstances against Wisconsin.
Iowa’s secondary had to play without two of its top three corners after cornerback Terry Roberts suffered an injury in practice. Iowa was already without fellow corner Riley Moss.
Defensive lineman Deontae Craig was also hurt and did not play, giving Iowa’s defensive line one less option against a physical Wisconsin offensive line.
Had Iowa’s defense struggled against Wisconsin’s physical offense, there would’ve been some understandable reasons why. But it fared much better than the 27-7 score might suggest.
Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz tried to pick on Jermari Harris early, but the cornerback who replaced Roberts had tight coverage on Wisconsin’s Danny Davis III on a critical third-down stop in the first quarter.
Mertz got the better of Harris and the rest of the secondary at the beginning, completing 9 of his first 10 passes. Then the defense adjusted, and Mertz completed just 2 of his next 12 passes.
On the ground, Iowa’s 166 rushing yards allowed are disappointing for a defense that entered Saturday’s game allowing only 89.7 rushing yards per game.
“As a defensive line, I feel like we shot ourselves short,” defensive lineman Noah Shannon said.
Allowing more than 150 yards on the ground “is not like us,” Shannon said.
That number isn’t quite as disappointing as it might first appear, though.
Wisconsin averaged 218.9 rushing yards in its first seven games, so Iowa held the Badgers to about 53 fewer yards on the ground than usual.
At the same time, Iowa’s 89.7 rushing yards per game allowed before Saturday came against many teams that were not as run-heavy as the Badgers.
Iowa’s defense allowed 2.7 yards per carry in its first seven games. It held Wisconsin’s top running back Chez Mellusi to 2.5 yards per carry. However, backup back Braelon Allen burned the defense for 5.2 yards per carry.
The red-zone defense was likely the most impressive aspect of the defensive showing.
The 10 points Wisconsin scored on three drives that started in the red zone would’ve been 17 or 21 against a lot of other defenses, which could’ve turned the already-ugly 27-7 score into possibly 38-7.
Was the defense perfect on Saturday? Of course not. Did it do enough to give the Hawkeyes a chance? It seems so.
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