Week 13 Scouting Notebook | No. 16 Iowa faces Nebraska

Husker backup quarterback Logan Smothers will make his first collegiate start as Iowa takes on Nebraska on Friday.


Shivansh Ahuja

Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez carries the ball during a football game between Iowa and Nebraska at Kinnick Stadium on Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. Martinez threw for 174 yards on 20 attempts.

Chloe Peterson, Assistant Sports Editor

The matchup between the Hawkeyes and the Huskers on Friday will be the battle of the backup quarterbacks.

Or, in Iowa’s case, the formerly backup quarterback.

Hawkeye sophomore QB Alex Padilla will be making his third start as the 9-2 Hawkeyes take on the 3-8 Huskers at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska. And Padilla’s counterpart on the Nebraska sideline will be backup quarterback Logan Smothers — someone who has played primarily in garbage time this season.

Nebraska head coach Scott Frost announced on Monday at his weekly press conference that starting senior quarterback Adrian Martinez will not play because of a shoulder injury. Martinez is a four-year starter for the Huskers.

Smothers has seen action in five games in 2021 and went 7-of-11 with 119 passing yards. His longest throw has been a 54-yard pass against Buffalo on Sept. 11.

This week, Smothers will be going up against one of the top-rated secondaries in college football — also laden with backups.

Iowa’s secondary has been plagued with injuries in the back half of the season, as senior cornerback Riley Moss missed three games because of a PCL injury in his left knee. But as Moss returned, senior Matt Hankins went down with an injury and is now out for the second consecutive game.

Hankins is not listed on the Hawkeyes’ depth chart for the final game of the season. Sophomore Jermari Harris — who filled in for Moss earlier in the season — will take his place. Senior safety Jack Koerner and junior cornerback Terry Roberts are also “iffy” to play this week, head coach Kirk Ferentz said.

RELATED: Iowa football notebook | Adrian Martinez out against the Hawkeyes

The Hawkeye secondary has propelled Iowa to the sixth-best defense in the nation in 2021, according to Pro Football Focus. The Hawkeyes rank ninth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 16.91 points per game. Iowa has also accumulated 21 interceptions throughout 11 games — first in the nation.

As the Huskers’ starting quarterback, Smothers will be tasked with penetrating a potent Hawkeye secondary to make movement on the field.

Getting to know the Huskers

The Daily Iowan spoke with Daily Nebraskan football reporter Justin Slepicka to preview the Hawkeyes’ matchup with the Huskers.

DI: Obviously, a big storyline out of Nebraska this season is how it’s gotten so close to beating big teams like Ohio State and Wisconsin, but never gotten over the hump. What’s holding this Nebraska team back?

Slepicka: I think it’s just a lot of little things, really. I think the big thing across the common theme across most of the games has been just subpar special teams, particularly in Oklahoma and Ohio State. If you just turned the missed field goals into made field goals I believe that, you know, that makes it a very different game each time … Just little things like special teams and also, this team just isn’t really clutch, obviously. Like, when they have a drive in the final five minutes with a chance to tie or take the lead, I don’t believe they’ve scored points on any such drive so far this season. The offense just sort of picks the worst times to stall out.

DI: Speaking of the offense, Adrian Martinez was just ruled out for the game. What have you seen from Logan Smothers?

Slepicka: What have I seen from him? Not much, is the answer there. He’s definitely shown some potential in the little we have seen from him. He’s only taken like four snaps and conference games … But from what I can see, he’s a capable runner, certainly, so maybe look for that a bit in the playbook as well. Some more designed quarterback runs, which was a staple with Adrian when he’s fully healthy, and sort of tapered off a bit in the previous weeks with his injuries. So, I’d say maybe expect to make a big return. Throwing the ball, I don’t believe he’s thrown it much. But from what I remember his passes haven’t jumped out of the page as being spectacular. I think he’s been sort of growing in the backup role all season, so I at least hope he has some chemistry with these wide receivers and skill players. And that’s about all I really know about Logan so far.

DI: Finally, what’s your score prediction for Friday’s game?

Slepicka: Before the Adrian news, it was a bit more clear. And another interesting thing is that Rahmir Johnson, who’s been the Huskers’ primary running back since the Oklahoma game, will also not be playing. So I think it’s going to be a really ugly offensive game, particularly. I trust Nebraska’s defense well enough against Iowa, but without JoJo Domann, who was the leading tackler of the defense, he has had season ending surgery and he was sorely missed in the run defense against Wisconsin, particularly. So, I can see Iowa breaking some big plays that I’m not completely sure Nebraska can, given Smothers his inexperience and Iowa’s strengths on defense. So, I think a low scoring game. And, Nebraska has been kicked while they’re down so many times with a one score loss so I’d almost be a fool not to predict that train to keep rolling. So, I’m going 14-10, Iowa.

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