Sophomore quarterback Alex Padilla picks up win in first-ever start for Iowa football

The 6-foot-1, 197-pound Coloradan scored three touchdowns in his first college start.

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Jerod Ringwald

Iowa quarterback Alex Padilla drops back to pass during a football game between Iowa and Minnesota at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021. (Jerod Ringwald/The Daily Iowan)

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor


Sophomore quarterback Alex Padilla had played in just seven games as a Hawkeye prior to Iowa football’s Nov. 13 game against Minnesota.

In the seven games he played, Padilla never walked onto the field as the Hawkeyes’ starting quarterback.

That changed when he took Duke Slater Field Saturday afternoon. Padilla earned his first start in the Hawkeyes’ annual battle for the Floyd of Rosedale with the Golden Gophers.

The 20-year-old Coloradan didn’t disappoint the Hawkeye faithful in his first start either, completing 11 of his 24 pass attempts for 206 yards and two touchdowns. Padilla also added a score with his legs via quarterback sneak in Iowa’s 27-22 win over Minnesota.

“We just all acted like it’s his turn,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said after Padilla’s first start. “It’s his time. He’s a pretty even-keeled guy, as you’ve probably seen. So, I thought he did a really good job. He made some really good throws . . . We all have a lot of confidence in him because he prepares hard and works hard. He really cares.”

Padilla got his first start in front of a sellout crowd at Kinnick Stadium. And while the game started at 2:30 p.m., the lights were on at 825 Stadium Drive in Iowa City by the time Saturday’s game ended.

Postgame, Padilla noted that he couldn’t have dreamed of a better setting for his first college start.

“Just going out there before the first snap and seeing the entire crowd in Kinnick for my first start — I was just super excited,” Padilla said. “Couldn’t imagine being in this position. When I was a kid, this was something I always dreamed about.”

Padilla’s first start comes in the wake of a shoulder injury junior quarterback Spencer Petras sustained in Iowa’s 27-7 loss to Wisconsin Oct. 30.

The injury forced Petras out of the game and onto the bench. The Californian still started the Hawkeyes’ following game against Northwestern. Though, he only played Iowa’s first three drives before he exited.

At a meeting with reporters on Tuesday, Ferentz said Petras is medically cleared to play. The shoulder injury, however, has affected Petras’ ability to throw the ball, per Ferentz.

Petras did dress in game uniform Saturday. He didn’t appear on Iowa’s two-deep depth chart prior kickoff. Freshman Deuce Hogan was Iowa’s listed backup Saturday.

While Petras didn’t play a single down versus the Gophers, he still found a way to make an impact.

“[Petras] has supported Alex throughout this week,” freshman wide receiver Keagan Johnson said. “He’s still a great leader on the sidelines. Obviously, I didn’t have a great game, but Spencer was out there encouraging me. He’s just a great teammate, and I think that’s just a big testament to Spencer’s character.

“Since Alex has taken over at quarterback, I’ve seen no dipoff in Spencer’s attitude,” Johnson added. “He’s the same guy — just a phenomenal dude.”

Petras didn’t limit the advice and encouragement he dispersed to Johnson either. Petras imparted his wisdom upon Padilla throughout Saturday’s game too.

“He was really supportive,” Padilla said of Petras. “He was giving me a whole bunch of tips. You know, having an experienced starter who can see stuff from the sidelines was really helpful. He suggested a lot of great plays for us. I’m super thankful for him. He helped me all the way.”

Ferentz has yet to declare a starter for Iowa’s contest with Illinois next Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes update their depth chart every week on Monday.

“We’ll see what happens in practice,” Ferentz said. “I don’t know. Spencer couldn’t have thrown it today. We would’ve maybe used him in like a four-minute situation, just to manage things. But we’ll see what happens next week.

“Again, I feel good,” Ferentz added. “We have two good quarterbacks that I think all of us trust, if we survey internally. We all trust both of them.”

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