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Iowa football rewind: What to take away from Alex Padilla’s performance against Ohio State
Breaking down punter Tory Taylor’s ill-fated rushing attempt against Buckeyes
The change many Iowa football fans had been seeking for a while happened in the Hawkeyes’ 54-10 loss to No. 2 Ohio State on Saturday — a change in quarterbacks.
Exit, Spencer Petras. Enter, Alex Padilla.
Petras already was having an adverse season, but it reached a new level against the Buckeyes.
He threw two interceptions directly to Ohio State defenders. Other times, he either threw passes that were not catchable or did not see an open receiver.
Meanwhile, Iowa fans received their first glimpse of Padilla in a game situation since last year’s Big Ten title game.
At first glance, Padilla’s 5-for-10 day with one interception is undoubtedly not glamorous. The fumbled snap officially doesn’t belong to him on the box score, but he had a role in that, too.
But Saturday’s stat line does not tell the whole story.
Two of his misses were throwaways after he used his feet to buy some time. What offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz referred to as “backyard football” during the bye week had some benefits for the Hawkeyes.
Another two misses, including his interception, physically hit his receiver, but the receiver couldn’t haul it in.
While far from an ideal result, the interception — the pass likely would’ve been a Sam LaPorta reception if it was a foot to the left — at least came on a much better throw than either of Petras’ two interceptions.
One of Padilla’s 10 passes — a pass well above the reach of wideout Arland Bruce IV on fourth-and-1 — was an obvious overthrow.
Any evaluation of Padilla comes with a big asterisk. Ten throws, of course, are a small sample size, and some of them were with the game already out of reach.
Iowa had a prime opportunity last month to play him when it had a 27-0 lead in the lightning-delayed win over Nevada. Instead, Padilla’s first game action in 322 days came against the No. 2 team in the country in front of more than 100,000 opposing fans.
It’s unclear who will be the starter against Northwestern. Ferentz even declined to say what factors he most values when making the decision in his postgame news conference.
Iowa’s alternative to Padilla is Petras, who has completed 53.1 percent of his passes this season while throwing two touchdowns and five interceptions. Since last year’s Purdue loss, Petras has three touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
If Kirk Ferentz continues to stick with Petras after the Ohio State debacle, it likely would not help any efforts to retain Padilla for his senior season.
Tory Taylor’s fourth-down run
Tory Taylor, usually a special teams stalwart, had a costly play in the first quarter of the loss for himself and for the team.
On fourth-and-6 at Iowa’s 30-yard line, Taylor took advantage of the soft coverage from Ohio State’s punt return unit and ran a couple yards before punting, as many college punters do.
But after stepping up to about the 21-yard line — about five yards from where he started and still nine yards behind the line of scrimmage — Taylor tucked the ball to run for a first down.
Ohio State’s Caden Curry stopped him about two yards short of the line of scrimmage. The play resulted in a nasty hit on one of Iowa’s most valuable players and great starting field position for the Buckeyes.
Taylor was visibly wincing afterward, but it did not stop him from taking the field for Iowa’s four other punting opportunities.
Ferentz made it clear afterward the Taylor run was “not a sanctioned play.”
“I’m not sure what he saw, and we didn’t have a discussion,” Ferentz said. “I just know that wasn’t part of our plan.”
When watching the replay of the game, one can see what Taylor likely noticed. Only one Buckeye was in front of the line to gain when he was at the 21, and Iowa’s Turner Pallisard was nearby to block the player.
But Taylor’s decision seemed to catch his own team off guard more so than Ohio State. Neither Pallisard nor Monte Pottebaum, the other player on the punt shield, were trying to block for him, presumably because they weren’t expecting it.
By the time Taylor crossed the 25-yard line and still had another 11 yards to gain, two Ohio State players were at the 36-yard line. Another Buckeye was at about the 44-yard line.
All three of them made it to Taylor before he could make it to the 36 for a first down — not a surprise considering punters usually are not known for their speed.