Iowa football head coach Kirk Ferentz stays committed to coaching staff, quarterback

Despite a 3-3 start to the season and the Hawkeyes’ first loss to Illinois since 2008, Ferentz doesn’t see any ‘wholesale changes’ coming to the program.


Grace Smith

Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz reacts during a football game between Iowa and Illinois at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill., on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. The Fighting Illini defeated the Hawkeyes, 9-6. Iowa’s offense had 222 total yards compared to Illinois’ 316.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Editor

Iowa football head coach Kirk Ferentz won’t be making any changes to his coaching staff this season.

With a 9-6 loss to Illinois on Saturday night, Iowa is 3-3 halfway through the season and last in the 131-team FBS with an average of 238.8 yards per game. 

While fans have criticized offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz for his conservative play calling this season, Kirk Ferentz has reiterated the success the Hawkeyes have had in the past.

“Not sure if you’re aware, but we won 10 games,” Kirk Ferentz said. “So, I look at that, and we’ve won a lot of games since 2015. We’re not doing well enough right now, I think that’s fairly obvious. We’re going to figure out solutions in order to get better.”

Despite the Hawkeyes’ success last season, Iowa was 121st in total offense. The Hawkeyes scored 29 total offensive touchdowns and four defensive touchdowns. The 2021 Iowa football team started the season 6-0, climbing up to No. 2 in the AP Poll, before losing to Purdue and Wisconsin in back-to-back games. The Hawkeyes ended their season with a 42-3 loss to Michigan in the Big Ten Championship Game and a 20-17 loss to Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl. 

Brian Ferentz was first hired to Iowa’s coaching staff in 2012 as an offensive line coach. On Jan. 9, 2017, he was named Iowa’s new offensive coordinator, replacing Greg Davis. 

Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said he directly hired Brian Ferentz in 2012, so it did not breach the university’s nepotism guidelines. In Brian’s introductory press conference, however, he said his father reached out to him directly about the position, and “it was a no-brainer. You can’t say no to your father.”

To stay in line with Iowa’s nepotism guidelines, athletic director Gary Barta is technically Brian Ferentz’s supervisor. 

Iowa has gone 46-21 since Brian Ferentz took over as offensive coordinator in 2017, and the Hawkeyes won 10 games in 2019 and 2021.

This season, Iowa’s offensive has been struggling on all fronts. The Hawkeyes have seven touchdowns in six games and have been held to seven points or fewer in three games.

“I think he’s a good football coach,” Kirk Ferentz said of Brian. “I thought Greg Davis was good in ‘14, he got killed and then we ended up pretty good here the next year. We’ve had three good coordinators, in my opinion, but we have to play better. We have to do what we can to help our players … it’s easy to point fingers and call people out, but I don’t think I’ve ever operated that way for 23 years.”

Kirk Ferentz also defended quarterback Spencer Petras’ play following the loss to Illinois. 

The fifth-year senior has just two passing touchdowns this season, along with two interceptions. He averages 128.3 passing yards per game.

“Right now, I don’t think that was the problem tonight,” Kirk Ferentz said of Petras’ play. “In fact, I thought Spencer did some good things. Missed a couple throws, and probably going to be every quarterback every game … if it was that easy, we’d just switch him out or switch whoever out, a coach, whatever, and we’d be all good to go here in six weeks. But typically, it isn’t that easy.”

Iowa’s young and inexperienced offense has struggled so far this season. Petras was sacked five times against Illinois for a total loss of 38 yards. On the season, the offensive line has allowed 18 sacks for a total loss of 133 yards.

The Hawkeyes’ inexperienced running backs have also floundered. Sophomores Gavin Williams and Leshon Williams and true freshman Kaleb Johnson combined for 62 rushing yards on Saturday.

Petras went 18-of-36 for 170 yards and no touchdowns on Saturday night. When Iowa was trailing with less than two minutes left in the game, he threw an interception.

“It sucks to only put up six points,” Petras said. “But it’s a lot of self-inflicted, it starts with me. As a unit, we have to be better.”

Petras has been Iowa’s starter for three years, leading the Hawkeyes to 6-2 and 10-4 records in 2020 and 2021, respectively. 

Junior quarterback Alex Padilla, who started three games for the Hawkeyes in 2021, hasn’t played a snap yet this season. Padilla threw two touchdowns and two interceptions last season and won every game he started. He also won Iowa’s game at Northwestern, where he played all but one drive after Petras left with injury.

“We are who we are right now,” Ferentz said. “We can’t change dramatically, but hopefully we can find some ways to be more effective. To my point earlier, I don’t think you need to be a rocket scientist to know we need to score more points.”