116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — The second quarter felt like a marathon.
Iowa’s offensive endurance deserves praise. In response to questions about the 20-play, 95-yard drive, which soaked up more than eight minutes of game clock against the Kent State Golden Flashes, Iowa players usually responded with a deep sigh and a nod of the head, saying something about how long it was. Especially in the heat of the afternoon Saturay at Kinnick Stadium.
“I don’t know how many different guys caught the ball there, but we spread the ball there quite a bit,” Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras said. “When you’re backed up like that, we think about: let’s get to first down so that we can flip the field.”
Like it or not, this is a product of play-calling with the goal of efficiency in mind. It seemed endless, especially after two dropped passes and a fumble that almost threatened the entire drive.
How the QB play felt
By the end of the game, Kent State’s Dustin Crum and Petras had nearly identical completion percentages (around 69 percent).
But after the first half, it seemed like Crum was the one putting on a show, despite having fewer completions. Crum had amassed 138 passing yards on seven completions, while Petras had 125 yards on 17 completions, meaning Petras was averaging 7.3 yards per completion while Crum averaged 19.7.
Crum’s main amplification of that statistic was his two 40-plus yard completions to wide receiver Keshuun Abram. The second half caught up to him, completing nine passes for 47 yards while Petras completed eight for 84, including a 48-yard pass to wide receiver Nico Ragaini.
Iowa’s defense is designed to not give up the big plays, but occasionally, it’s going to happen. On the flip side, Iowa’s offense doesn’t go for a lot of big plays. Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz said the key to making Petras’ accuracy go up is to leave most of the work to the receivers by having him complete short, low-risk throws.
“A lot of times, when you have a guy downfield, trying to be too accurate is a problem,” Ferentz said in the spring. “Those aren't high-percentage throws. But when you're talking about those shorter and intermediate throws, now your percentage of completion should go up.”
If you want to nail Petras for being less than impressive, or lacking the dessert to the buffet, fine. But he’s the pawn on the chess board of any game, doing exactly what he’s supposed to do and doing it well because he still hasn’t had an interception in his last five games.
His accuracy throughout the 95-yard drive against Kent State shows the plan to increase his completion percentage is working.
Technically, marathons are 26.2 miles and the game that holds the record for the longest drive in college football history was the 2004 Emerald Bowl featuring Navy vs. New Mexico, where the Midshipmen drove 94 yards in 26 plays to eat up 14 minutes and 42 seconds of game clock in the fourth quarter for a field goal to cap off a 34-19 win over the Lobos.
This was Iowa’s longest drive in the Kirk Ferentz era and the longest scoring drive in terms of plays since an 18-play touchdown against Illinois in 2003.
Take a 95-yard drive by Iowa and divide it by 20, you get 4.75 yards per play. Obviously, that’s not how this drive played out, but maybe that’s how it felt because of its plentiful screen passes and outside pitches.
During this drive, Iowa lined up in 11 (one back, one tight end), 21, 12 and 20 personnel.
11 — nine plays (two run, seven pass), running back Tyler Goodson runs for 11 yards, Petras completes 6 of 7 passes for 48 yards
The 11 personnel formation is one of Iowa’s favorites, especially when it passes the ball. In this formation, junior wide receiver Tyrone Tracy Jr. has the one dropped pass, but later takes an inside screen up for 10 yards (circled in yellow). This is where the quarterback throws a short pass to a wide receiver who follows his blockers the rest of the way. It’s one of those situations where Ferentz hopes Petras is putting his receiver in space to make plays.
Other notable passes in this personnel grouping: an 11-yard completion to running back Ivory Kelly-Martin, which he fumbles and tight end Sam LaPorta recovers and an 11-yard completion to running back Gavin Williams up the middle. Ragaini gets the ball on the outside for a 2-yard quick out, but doesn’t make much of it. LaPorta catches his 5-yard touchdown pass.
21 — seven plays (five run, two pass) 17 yards rushing, 2 of 2, 5 yards passing
True freshman wide receiver Arland Bruce IV catches a 6-yard bubble screen, and Goodson sees most of his success running in the trenches, but not on the outside pitches, where he loses 3 yards on two plays.
12 — three plays (one rush, two pass) 1 yard rushing, 1 of 2 for 2 yards passing
Petras throws short to senior Charlie Jones. Kelly-Martin gains 1 yard, and LaPorta goes in motion to catch a 2-yard pass en route to the next play, which is his touchdown catch back in 11 personnel in the flat.
20 — one play (one pass to LaPorta for 11 yards)
Petras lines up in shotgun and throws to LaPorta in the flat for a first down on third-and 9.
It’s those small screen passes that gain short yardage, coupled with a hefty running game that can make an offensive drive seem endless. It’s effective because Iowa prides itself on having receivers and tight ends that are strong in the blocking game and the low risk means low reward, and fewer chances of turning the ball over
Tally the score and by the end of the drive, Iowa has run the ball 29 yards, and Petras has completed 9 of 11 passes for 66 yards. That’s an 83-percent completion rate.
Call it boring, but it’s effective.
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