MINNEAPOLIS — It’s not always pretty. There were chunks of Friday night’s game at Minnesota that were far from pretty for Spencer Petras. A string of incompletions, an interception late in the first quarter.
Then there were two throws in the fourth that were perfect, beautiful. Showed you the potential.
The first was an 18-yard slant to Tyrone Tracy Jr. fit into a tight window that gave Iowa a first-and-goal. Two plays later was a pass to receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette for an 8-yard touchdown, in which Smith-Marsette went in motion left to right, turned and had the football right there for him to stride into the corner of the end zone.
“I think every week I’m improving and getting more comfortable,” Petras said. "The one thing I’ve got to continue to eliminate is turnovers. That really hurts the team. I had one today, which was a really bad decision. But, you know, those are going to happen. You’re going to make bad decisions. But I think just like our football team, we’re getting better week to week, and I think I’m doing the same thing.”
The key word when you use the phrase "new quarterback" obviously is new. Petras never had an important snap until the opener last month at Purdue.
The sophomore from California is halfway through his first season as a starter and most definitely still feeling his way. He is 72-of-134 passing for 759 yards and three touchdowns.
Three of his four interceptions came in that Week 2 loss to Northwestern. There are times he shows he can make all the throws, the proper decision, then others when he is wildly inaccurate, gets happy feet in the pocket and has a difficult time going through his progressions.
Which is exactly what everyone should have expected.
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“I’ve always said Spencer is a great quarterback,” said Iowa running back Tyler Goodson. “He has grown tremendously. His first two games were obviously not the way he wanted them to go, but Spence comes in with a fresh mind each and every week, ready to lead the team and ready to get a victory. His growth, he is growing tremendously.”
Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz was asked after his team’s 35-7 win over Minnesota if he ever considered going to redshirt freshman backup Alex Padilla while Petras sputtered late in the first quarter and into the third with a stretch where he completed just one of nine throws, and the offense became stagnant.
The next QB always is the best QB, of course. Anyone who knows Ferentz knows the answer he gave about pulling Petras.
“I never thought about changing him,” Ferentz said. “You live and die with everything going on out there. It’s just the way it is. With a new quarterback, there are going to be some growing pains, we all knew that. I’ll remind everybody that it’s a new quarterback without the luxury of a spring practice, which is huge.
“You talk to anybody who has played quarterback ... that’s major. I think that’s part of what you’re seeing right now. But I think I speak on behalf of every coach and every player on our team ... we just all have great confidence in Spencer. We have confidence in Alex, too. He’s really grown. We’re just going to keep pushing forward. There’s no question about our confidence in Spencer.”
It’s a work in progress. And don’t forget Iowa has won two games in a row and scored 84 points in those wins.
The running game has been huge, of course. Petras may not have been great, but it’s a bottom-line deal, and the bottom line is he’s 2-0 in his last two games.
Iowa is at Penn State this coming Saturday.
“Being a first-year starter, Spencer has taken command of the offense,” said Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum. “Getting guys where they need to be. I’ve said in interviews before, he just has a leadership mentality, a leadership personality. Which is very beneficial to our team.”
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— Cedar Rapids Xavier senior Jaxon Rexroth announced Saturday he is accepting a preferred walk-on offer to Iowa. Rexroth led the Saints to the Class 3A state playoff semifinals this season as a quarterback and defensive back.
His college position is yet to be determined, but most likely a linebacker-safety type. Iowa already has four Xavier grads on its team in offensive lineman Josh Volk, defensive lineman Ethan Hurkett, safety Quinn Schulte and tight end Bryce Schulte.
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