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IOWA CITY — After scoring 14 points through two games via a touchdown, field goal and two safeties, it’s clear Iowa football is not on a sustainable path in 2022.
“We're not going to win moving forward if we can't score more points than that, and we have a really good defense,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “But you're not going to win a game, 7 points, 10 points a game, as a rule.”
Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz brought up some of the statistics he values at Iowa’s media day, including yards per carry, third-down conversion rate and completion percentage.
The Hawkeyes are flailing in all three of those categories.
Iowa is averaging 1.9 yards per carry, converting on third downs 25 percent of the time and completing passes at a 44.2-percent clip.
Now as Iowa tries to revitalize its offense, the levers it can pull — or at least are willing to pull — are relatively limited with the season already underway.
“I don’t see us making a wholesale change in what we do,” Ferentz said.
In these circumstances, coaches would make a quarterback change. Ferentz has been reluctant to pull that lever so far, and he continued to defend Spencer Petras after Saturday’s loss.
“He’s still not getting enough help to really do a fair assessment,” Ferentz said, also pointing to shortcomings at offensive line and wide receiver in Saturday’s news conference.
That being said, the 24th-year head coach did not rule out a switch to Alex Padilla for Week 3.
“We’ll reassess everything tomorrow,” he said Saturday when directly asked about the Week 3 starter.
If Iowa indeed makes the switch to Padilla, there’s no guarantee the junior will produce better results.
In 2021, Padilla completed just 49 percent of his passes and had two touchdowns and two interceptions. Petras, on the other hand, completed 57 percent of his passes that year and had 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Iowa already has the worst completion percentage of any Power Five program in 2022, though, so there’s not much to lose.
The Hawkeyes have incorporated plays out of the wildcat formation earlier in Brian Ferentz’s tenure as offensive coordinator. But Kirk Ferentz did not seem to be keen on adding wildcat plays or making other schematic changes.
“I’m not sure that’s going to help us right now,” Kirk Ferentz said.
The longest-tenured FBS coach rejected the premise that more mobility at the quarterback position — something Alex Padilla or Joe Labas may provide — would be the solution either.
“I don't think it's necessarily quarterback runs that are going to do it,” Ferentz said, “although we had a good one today, and that's a good thing.”
That doesn’t leave Iowa’s staff with many more options.
It’s possible for the offensive line to show incremental growth throughout the season. As last year’s line progressed, top running back Tyler Goodson’s yards per carry increased from 3.6 in October to 5.5 in November.
But the group has a short window to make a significant jump. Michigan’s trip to Kinnick Stadium is three weeks away, and even conservative pressure from the Cyclones often proved troublesome for the offensive line.
Iowa’s wide receiver position could become healthier in the coming weeks and give Petras a few more options.
A Week 3 return of Keagan Johnson is a “possibility,” Ferentz said, and Nico Ragaini is “getting close” to returning.
A deeper receiving corps can only do so much, though, if Petras continues to struggle to connect with open targets.
Pro Football Focus calculates an adjusted completion percentage, which accounts for dropped passes. Petras’ adjusted rate has fallen from 67 percent in 2021 to 56.8 percent in 2022.
Petras targeted his top wide receiver Arland Bruce IV 11 times, but Bruce only had one catch.
The offensive distress has forced the defense to spend more time on the field.
Before Iowa State’s lengthy 21-play, 99-yard drive in the third and fourth quarters to take the lead, the Cyclones already had a 49-39 advantage in plays run.
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