WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — His fastball is a true fastball. No question about that.
There was a play late in the second quarter of Saturday’s Iowa-Purdue game in which Spencer Petras threw a dime, a bullet over the middle to slot receiver Nico Ragaini for a 28-yard gain that put the Hawkeyes into field-goal territory.
It was, quite frankly, a NFL throw from a guy making his first college start who’s obviously a long way from the NFL. But it was a throw that showed you the potential of the redshirt sophomore from California.
And the reason he was quickly annointed in the offseason the replacement for Nate Stanley at quarterback for the Hawkeyes.
“We’ve had a couple of years to watch him now,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said, after his team’s tough 24-20 loss to Purdue. “I said publicly last November, December (he) really started to come around and looked like he was ready to go. He has prepared extremely well in a very unsual offseason, which we all know. Nobody is more committed or more prepared. This film will be a really good film for him. I thought he played well.”
Petras was kind of emblematic of his team: some good, some bad, stuff to work on, stuff to work off of. He finished 22 of 39 for 265 yards, not throwing a touchdown or interception and completing passes to eight different teammates.
As you’d imagine, he was wonky at the beginning, completing just two of his first eight throws, but he finished the first half connecting on 12 of his final 13. Let’s just say he’s the least of Iowa’s worries right now: not really a worry at all.
“I was definitely nervous at the beginning of the game, first game there,” Petras said. “I think I just got into a rhythm, and we were able to run the ball effectively. That makes it easy. We get the ball to our playmakers, that makes my job easy. We’re getting good protection, that kind of thing. It helped me settle down, for sure.”
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Petras had a chance for instant-hero status at the end of the game. Iowa took over at its 28 with 2:08 left and down four points, and he made a nice sideline throw to tight end Sam LaPorta for 16 yards on first down.
LaPorta had team highs in receptions (five, tied with running back Tyler Goodson) and yards (71).
But four straight incompletions ended the drive, even though it appeared Ragaini was held by a Purdue defensive back on fourth down, a penalty that wasn’t called. The misfires included an attempted screen pass to Goodson that seemed to lack timing that very likely would have gone for big yardage.
A pretty symbolic near-miss play overall.
“Off the top of my head, I know there are some plays I would like back,” Petras said. “I know the makeable plays. Yeah, I’ll have to reserve judgement (on how he played) until I watch it on tape.”
“I thought he led our team, had good control and awareness out there,” Ferentz said. “He’ll see some things on the film that he’ll say ‘Jeez, I wish I had gone here or gone there,’ but that’s part of the process. It’s his first game playing ... I thought it was a real good start from him, we’ve got total confidence in him as well. The way he operates, I’m confident he’ll be a better player next week, and I’m confident we’ll have a better week next week, as long as we really look at this film objectively tomorrow and learn from the things that kept us from being victorious today.”
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