Iowa football notebook: Petras stresses need for consistency, Cronk talks facing his former roommate

Coy Cronk and Peyton Ramsey played and lived together in their time at Indiana. They’ll be on opposite sidelines on Saturday.



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)

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

Iowa right tackle Coy Cronk lived with Northwestern’s new starting quarterback Peyton Ramsey when they were both playing football at Indiana. They won’t be speaking to each other this week as the Hawkeyes prepare to take on the Wildcats.

“He’s one of my best friends in the entire world,” Cronk said. “I love him to death. He knows this week we’re not going to be talking with each other.”

In his Wildcat debut against Maryland, Ramsey completed 23 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing for 47 yards and a score. From 2017-19, Ramsey was a Hoosier and threw for 42 touchdowns and 6,581 yards. Ramsey, like Cronk, left Indiana as a graduate transfer after last season, but he chose Northwestern.

Iowa defeated Indiana in 2018 when Ramsey was the starting quarterback for the Hoosiers. The Cincinnati, Ohio, native threw for 263 yards and accounted for two total touchdowns and two interceptions in Iowa’s 42-16 victory.

“The new quarterback I think has really kind of given [Northwestern] stability at that position,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We had a lot of respect for him when he was at Indiana… I was always impressed with how he carried himself on the field, the way he operated. It’s not like he’s got a tremendous arm or this or that, he’s just a good football player.”

Cronk made his Iowa debut against Purdue and played the entire game at right tackle. It was his first time on the field in over a year after missing most of his 2019 season at Indiana with an injury.

In Week 2, Cronk makes his Kinnick Stadium debut, as will Ramsey on the other sideline.

“The type of heart he has, the toughness he possesses, he’s going to bring that to the Northwestern offense, and probably the entire team because that’s the type of leader he is,” Cronk said. “I’ve got nothing but love for that kid, but he’s our enemy on Saturday. We’ve got to get after him.”

Nixon focused on building off impressive performance

Defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon’s disruptive performance against Purdue was a highlight for Iowa’s defense in an otherwise frustrating game.

Nixon totaled seven tackles, including 2.5 for loss, against the Boilermakers, and was only off the field for 11 defensive snaps the entire game. That’s more than Nixon ever played last season in his first year as a Hawkeye. Nixon isn’t a rotational player anymore, he’s a starter and one of Iowa’s best players in the front seven.

“When you’re in the game, your blood is rushing and your adrenaline is rushing,” Nixon said. “You’ve got to keep it going, whether you’re tired or not, and catch a second gear.”

During the Purdue game, former Iowa offensive lineman James Daniels tweeted that this was Nixon’s last year as a Hawkeye, a hint that he thinks the redshirt junior may soon be ready to play at the next level.

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Nixon said Tuesday that he remains focused on improving throughout the season. One of his teammates who lines up across from him in practice stressed that Nixon is already a problem for offenses.

“I think the biggest underrated part to him is just his raw strength,” Cronk said. “The kid’s just really strong and he plays with great leverage, so it’s tough to root him out of there in the run game. And then he also has a nimbleness in the pass game to work an edge, to get upfield and disrupt the quarterback.”

Petras stresses consistency heading into second start

In his first game starting at quarterback for Iowa, Spencer Petras had an up-and-down performance. The redshirt sophomore missed five of his first six passes, but later in the game found a rhythm and had a stretch of 15 completions in 16 attempts.

By the end of Iowa’s 24-20 loss to Purdue, Petras was 22-of-39 passing for 265 yards.

Petras stressed that he needed to be more consistent moving forward, starting against Northwestern.

“I did some good things,” Petras said. “I did some things that I wish I could do better, wish I could go back and change.”

Ferentz said he was impressed with Petras’ poise in his first college start. Cronk wished that he and the rest of the offensive line could have given Petras more time in the pocket on some of his dropbacks.

RELATED: Iowa won’t be defined by early loss to Purdue

Petras’ leadership despite the tough circumstances to start a season is what stands out to Cronk the most.

“Obviously, he wanted to go out there and throw a million touchdowns and have a million yards,” Cronk said. “That’s always not realistic. Especially for someone’s first start, the poise and his ability to lead when it wasn’t perfect, I was really impressed with. I think Spencer’s heading in the right direction.

“I like the way he’s approaching this week, just flushing it and moving on.”

Depth a factor for Iowa, perhaps more than ever

Wisconsin’s starting quarterback from last season — Jack Coan — remains out after a foot surgery earlier this month, and two of the team’s other quarterbacks tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend. Graham Mertz and Chase Wolf are out for at least 21 days according to the conference’s medical protocols, leaving the Badgers with their fourth-string quarterback.

That’s another example for Iowa of how quickly the pandemic can change the outlook of a team.

“I know all of us quarterbacks, since we have such a small room, know it’s important what we do off the field,” Petras said. “Making sure that we keep our circles extremely small and just continue to do our best at avoiding getting [COVID-19].”

Wisconsin is the favorite in the Big Ten West, but going weeks without an experienced starting quarterback could open up the race. It’s also a reminder that depth this season is as important as ever, as any player at any position may be thrust into the lineup at any time.

“We’ve been saying that and probably every coach in the country has been saying that,” Ferentz said. “This year, everybody on your roster might have an opportunity to get out there on the field. It’s certainly not a scenario that any of us want to be part of, but it’s the reality of the world we’re living in right now.”