Week 11 scouting notebook | No. 20 Iowa faces Minnesota

The Hawkeyes will take on the Gophers with sophomore Alex Padilla making his first-ever start under center.


Grace Smith

Iowa quarterback Alex Padilla passes the ball during a football game between No. 19 Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois, on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats 17-12. Padilla replaced starting quarterback Spencer Petras during the first quarter of the game. Padilla completed 18 passes on 28 attempts.

Chloe Peterson, Assistant Sports Editor

The No. 20 Iowa football team will take on Minnesota this Saturday with a new quarterback under center.

Iowa and Minnesota are in the middle of a current four-way tie for the Big Ten West Division. Wisconsin, Purdue, Iowa, and Minnesota all have 4-2 conference records heading into the final three weeks of the season.

Minnesota head coach PJ Fleck is 0-4 against Iowa in his five seasons at the helm of the Gophers. 

The Daily Iowan previews the matchup ahead of the 2:30 p.m. kickoff at Kinnick Stadium. The game will be aired on Big Ten Network. 

Marquee Matchup — Iowa’s pass attack vs. Minnesota’s passing defense  

Iowa has a new quarterback on its hands.

Sophomore Alex Padilla will take over for injured starter Spencer Petras this Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. And Padilla, in his first-ever collegiate start, will go up against the fifth-best passing defense in the Big Ten.

Padilla and redshirt freshman quarterback Deuce Hogan are listed on the depth chart as the Hawkeyes’ quarterbacks against the Gophers. Petras, still recovering from his injury, was not listed.

Padilla has only played in garbage time behind Petras for the past two seasons. That is, until the sophomore took over for Petras in the first quarter of the Hawkeyes’ game against Northwestern last week.

After Petras went 2-for-4 for four yards on three drives, Padilla finished the game on 18-for-28 passing for 172 yards. Padilla marched the Hawkeyes down the field, completing touchdowns in his first two drives.

But throughout the entire second half, Padilla and the Hawkeye offense could only muster a field goal against Northwestern.

RELATED: Examining the four-way tie atop the Big Ten West

The new Hawkeye quarterback will have to bring a spark to Iowa’s offense — one that ranks 95th in the country with just 24.4 points per game — against a stout Golden Gophers defense.

While the 6-3 Gophers are coming off a loss to Illinois, the Minnesota defense only gave up 14 points in the defeat.

Minnesota is 15th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 18.33 points per game. The Gopher defense has also notched four interceptions on the season and conceded an average of 195.7 passing yards through their first nine games.

Getting to know the Gophers 

The Daily Iowan spoke with Minnesota Daily reporter Matt Kennedy over email to preview the Hawkeyes’ matchup with the Gophers. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Daily Iowan: Minnesota has a pretty big and experienced offensive line. How does that help Tanner Morgan in the pocket?

Kennedy: Lately, the protection hasn’t been the greatest. Morgan was sacked six times versus Illinois. Coincidentally, he was sacked four times versus Bowling Green. Those are both of Minnesota’s key upset losses. Otherwise, the O-line has done a fantastic job of giving Morgan time in the pocket. There’s not a huge sample size though because [offensive coordinator Mike] Sanford Jr.’s offense is run-heavy.

DI: The Gophers’ running backs have been pretty beat up, with Mo Ibrahim and Trey Potts both out for the season. How is the running back room responding, and how has the run game been for the Gophers?

Kennedy: The running back room has responded tremendously without Mo, Trey, and Bryce Williams. It is sort of a “next man up” type thing that has stayed strong the entire season. Redshirt freshman Ky Thomas and freshman Mar’Keise Irving have carried the load nicely. Irving is a bit shiftier and more used in pass situations as Thomas is more of a bruiser who can run through opponents.

DI: The Gophers suffered a pretty bad loss to Illinois this past week, as the offense could only muster six points — how are they looking to bounce back this weekend?

Kennedy: They need to have more explosive big plays and stay ahead of the sticks. Get to more 2nd and 2 situations and win the turnover battle. There also was a flurry of holding penalties that limited the Gophers to come back from against Illinois. Iowa has a very experienced defense that I expect will give Minnesota problems at every position. If the Gophers offensive line can pass protect, limit penalties and turnovers, and create holes for Thomas and Irving, you can expect the Gophers to have a good day in Iowa City.

DI: What is your score prediction for this weeks’ Iowa-Minnesota game?

Kennedy: I think this will be a 23-20 contest that could go either way. PJ Fleck is 0-4 against the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Gophers are coming off a loss should be extra motivated this time to finally give their coach the first win against the rival Hawkeyes. Iowa is having troubles on offense lately and I think their past success vs Minnesota combined with the Gophers striving to finally get that first win, will make this a close game decided by a field goal.