Spencer Petras inconsistent in first game as Iowa’s starter

When the Hawkeyes needed Petras to make plays late in the fourth quarter, he came up just short.

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West Lafayette, Indiana, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Spencer Petras (7) passes the ball in the second quarter against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross-Ade Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (Trevor Ruszkowski – USA Today)

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor


Spencer Petras’ highly-anticipated debut as Iowa’s starter had its high points — and some low ones.

Petras struggled early in Iowa’s 24-20 loss to Purdue, completing just two of his first eight passes  – the lowlight of which being an errant throw over the head of a wide-open Shaun Beyer on 2nd-and-10 from the Iowa 39-yard line at the beginning of the second quarter.

After missing Beyer, it appeared Petras had finally settled in. He completed 15 of his next 16 throws, helping Iowa manufacture 17 second-quarter points.

“I just played nervous to begin the game,” Petras said. “I think it’s just as we got into a rhythm we were able to run the ball really effectively. That makes it easy. When we can get the ball to our playmakers, it makes my job easy. We were getting good protection, that kind of thing. It really helped me settle down for sure.”

Unfortunately for Iowa’s offense, Petras’ rhythm didn’t last. He stumbled to the finish line, converting on only five of his last 15 pass attempts.

Petras’ final four attempts were perhaps his most pivotal misses of the game. After the Hawkeye defense surrendered a six-yard touchdown to wide receiver David Bell, Iowa trailed by four with 2:15 remaining in the fourth quarter.

With the ball in his hands, Petras connected with tight end Sam LaPorta on his first throw of the drive. He then proceeded to miss wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette, who finished Saturday’s game with zero receptions, on first down and throw an inaccurate ball to an open Tyrone Tracy on second down.

Petras threw a screen pass over running back Tyler Goodson’s head on a play that appeared to be well-blocked for the sophomore.

“The timing seemed off just because any screen [pass] it’s about trying to beat the rush to get the ball there,” Petras said. “I didn’t see what happened because I got hit on that play, but bottom line, if I can get [Goodson] a better ball, you know, I’m sure he makes it easy. I didn’t really see what happened, I was on the ground.”

On fourth down, Petras’ last-ditch fourth down throw was out of reach for a triple-covered Nico Ragaini.

Petras was not aided by Iowa’s issues with fumbles and penalties throughout the game either. In total, the Hawkeyes committed 10 penalties that cost the team 100 yards.

“All those little things add up in the course of a game, and we typically have done a pretty good job in that area,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Probably as much as anything, just not a lot of live work. I think we had one major scrimmage this year. Maybe that was that showing up. Hopefully we can do a better job with that.”

Goodson and fellow running back Mekhi Sargent both fumbled once, losing both to the Boilermakers. Wide receiver Brandon Smith also fumbled once, but the Hawkeyes recovered.

“Ball security is emphasized throughout practice daily,” Goodson said. “It’s been a while since last August, but that’s no excuse for fumbling the ball. We’re just going to go into next week, work on the fundamentals of ball security again, and then just keep working at it, keep working at it until it gets better and better throughout the season.”

For Petras, the path forward will be paved by focusing on the little things and taking responsibility for the product the Hawkeyes put on the field each week.

“It starts with me, making the makeables,” Petras said. “Attention to detail, it seems, got us. Ball security — can’t turn the ball over. Penalties, bad decisions on my part, bad throws, but all that comes down to attention to detail, practicing, practicing better, a better week of preparation, that kind of thing.”

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