Iowa’s Citrus Bowl quarterback decision has been made, but not announced

Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz said that the Hawkeyes have decided who will start under center against Kentucky on Saturday. Iowa, however, has not publicly announced whether Spencer Petras or Alex Padilla will get the start.


Grace Smith

Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz answers questions during a press conference for the 2022 Vrbo Citrus Bowl between Iowa and Kentucky at the Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021. Ferentz discussed the quarterback situation for Saturday’s game. “I think we have pretty much made our mind up on what we are going to do on Saturday.” Ferentz did not specify a starter.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

ORLANDO, Fla. — Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz said at a press conference on Wednesday morning that the Hawkeyes have decided who will start at quarterback against Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl on Saturday.

Even if that is the case, Iowa’s coaching staff has been reluctant to publicly name the starter.

Redshirt junior quarterback Spencer Petras is listed as the starter on the depth chart the Hawkeyes released ahead of the bowl game. Redshirt sophomore Alex Padilla is listed as the backup. Even with Petras’ name at the top of the two-deep, head coach Kirk Ferentz and play-caller Brian Ferentz have not confirmed that the 6-foot-5, 233-pounder will be under center against Kentucky on Saturday.

“The goal right now is to win the football game on Saturday,” Brian Ferentz said. “I think we have pretty much made our mind up on what we’re going to do. But the reality is, we feel comfortable with both guys and we feel like both guys can give us a chance to win the football game. Both guys have strengths and weaknesses, as we’ve seen throughout the season. It’s my job as the play-caller to try and play to those depending on which route we go. We feel very good with where we are with both of them at this moment. But on Saturday, we’re going to go with the guy who gives us the best chance to win.”

Signs, including the depth chart seem to point to Petras starting for No. 15 Iowa (10-3 overall, 7-3 Big Ten) against No. 22 Kentucky (9-3, 5-3 SEC), even if Iowa won’t confirm that. Both quarterbacks took snaps with the first-team offense during an open portion of Iowa’s practice on Tuesday.

Petras started all eight of Iowa’s games in 2020 and entered the 2021 season as a starter. Petras started nine games during the 2021 regular season and played the first half of Iowa’s 42-3 loss to Michigan in the Big Ten Championship Game before leaving with a torso injury after one third-quarter drive. Padilla, who has started three games for Iowa this year, relieved Petras in the third quarter against the Wolverines.

RELATED: Iowa football team going for 11th win of the season against Kentucky in Citrus Bowl

Petras and Padilla, when asked who would start against Kentucky, both deferred to their head coach to answer. Kirk Ferentz, without naming a starter, said on Monday that Iowa does not plan on Petras and Padilla rotating in and out of the course of the game.

“We’re just watching guys practice right now,” Kirk Ferentz said. “They’re both doing a good job. We’re pleased with the play of both Alex and Spencer.”

Jerod Ringwald

Petras has completed 56.6 percent of his passes for 1,669 yards, nine touchdowns, and six interceptions this season. In a smaller sample size, Padilla has completed 49.1 percent of his throws for 636 yards and has tossed two touchdowns and two picks in 2021.

Kentucky’s game plan will not change much depending on the quarterback Iowa plays, Wildcat defensive coordinator Brad White said.

“I think from a scheme standpoint, I don’t think it changes,” White said. “I don’t think it’s as drastic a change as if it was a pure pocket passer versus a runner who they try to throw in. Their skillset is in the same ballpark. Padilla probably runs a little better. But I think decision-making, Petras understands where to know with the football and has been really successful in the offense. From that standpoint, it’s not a big difference for us in terms of how we scheme. It’s not going to be a different game plan. But you do have to be mindful of who is in and what that particular quarterback’s strengths are.”

Iowa’s offense was ranked 123rd in the FBS. The Hawkeyes are averaging 297.5 yards per game this season, the program’s lowest in 23 years under Kirk Ferentz. Iowa’s 23.9 points per game ranks 97th in the nation.

RELATED: Where to watch Iowa-Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl

Brian Ferentz said he can’t worry too much about how the quarterback decision for the Citrus Bowl will impact the future of the position for the Hawkeyes, specifically if Petras or Padilla will transfer after the season if they do not start.

“Ultimately, that’s a coaching decision,” Brian Ferentz said. “How players take that decision, you’d have to ask them. All I’ve ever tried to do with those guys is be transparent and communicate very clearly with them, but also understand that we live in a very different world. Guys have to make decisions for their own future and their own self-interest at some point, which I totally understand.”