Iowa’s Petras, Padilla both struggle at quarterback in Big Ten championship loss to Michigan

With two quarterbacks taking the helm on Saturday, the Hawkeyes could only accumulate 279 yards of total offense.

Chloe Peterson, Assistant Sports Editor

INDIANAPOLIS — Iowa football continued its quarterback controversy on Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in the Hawkeyes’ 42-3 loss to Michigan in the Big Ten Championship Game

Junior Spencer Petras, Iowa’s two-year starting quarterback, took the helm at the beginning of the game. But head coach Kirk Ferentz said Petras suffered a torso injury sometime in the first half, leading to him not playing effectively. Petras played into the second half, finishing one drive before sophomore backup QB Alex Padilla entered the game.

Petras finished the game 9-of-22 passing for 137 yards. The Hawkeyes could only put up three points with Petras under center — a 22-yard field goal from senior Caleb Shudak.

But Iowa’s offense wasn’t any more effective with Padilla under center, as the sophomore went 10-of-15 for 38 yards. Neither Petras or Padilla could lead the Hawkeyes into the end zone.

Padilla entered the game as the Hawkeyes were down, 21-3.

“There’s not too much time to think about [going into the game],” Padilla said postgame. “You just have to go in and play, just run the offense as best as you can. It’s obviously a tough situation being down like that against a really good team. They made it hard on us today.”

The Hawkeyes made three red zone trips, but could only muster three points in the 42-3 blowout loss to the Wolverines.

“The red zone is hard as it is, because the field is so shrunk with so many people in a condensed area,” tight end Sam LaPorta, who led the Hawkeyes with 62 receiving yards, said. “You know, a lot of play calls, you can throw those out the window. It’s a much different playbook than the rest of the field. But, I don’t know, it just seems like the last couple of weeks we couldn’t really get much going in the red zone, which hurts.”

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Michigan’s defense especially pounded Iowa in the run game, as the Hawkeyes only amassed 104 rushing yards. Overall, the Hawkeyes could only muster 279 yards of total offense, compared to Michigan’s 461.

“Tonight, [Michigan] played really good defense on us and got us in a lot of tough third down situations with our rush,” Ferentz said. “That’s a concern, because you don’t want to give the game away. Just not on third down and early, that type of deal. I mean, we could just not get in there.”

Iowa’s struggles on the rushing attack came to light in the second quarter, when the Hawkeyes took a tripping penalty from offensive lineman Mason Richman to bring up second and 23.

The Hawkeyes turned to freshman running back Gavin Williams, who gave them a 3-yard rush to bring up third and 20.

The Hawkeyes called on Williams again on third down, and he came up well short of a first down with a 7-yard run. The Hawkeyes were forced to punt the ball with fourth and long staring them in the face.

Ferentz said the Hawkeyes wanted to protect the football on those two plays, leading to the run call.

“On second and long you’re trying to get it to third and medium or third and short,” Ferentz said. “… You don’t want it to get out of hand there, that was our thinking, try to be smart about it and give ourselves a chance to just keep pushing through it.”

Williams was the Hawkeyes’ leading rusher on Saturday night with 56 yards, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. 

Williams broke junior running back Tyler Goodson’s 15-game streak as the Hawkeyes’ leading rusher. Goodson finished the game with 50 yards — 2.8 yards per carry.

“I think it comes down to running the ball,” LaPorta said. “It’s really like the gel to the offense. If you can run the ball effectively, you can get those chunk plays, five, six yards to stay ahead of the chains. Third down conversions are a lot easier when you convert third and 1, third and 2 as opposed to third and 8, third and 10-plus. That’s always difficult.”