‘A Hawkissaince:’ How Iowa football turned into a Big Ten West title contender

After its loss to Ohio State on Oct. 22, Iowa dropped to 3-4 on the season. The Hawkeyes have since won three straight, bursting onto the Big Ten West scene.


Grace Smith

Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras throws a pass during a football game between Iowa and Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. Petras threw 23 passes and completed 14. The Hawkeyes, defeated the Badgers, 24-10.

Iowa football’s three-game winning streak might have a new name.

After the Hawkeyes’ 24-3 win over Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette on Nov. 5, two fans — @adam_jacobi and @kalama_pat — took to Twitter to label Iowa’s midseason revitalization as “The Spennaissance” and “The Petrolution.”

The Spennaissance is named after Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras, who has thrown for 506 yards and scored five touchdowns over the last three weeks. He’s committed one turnover since Oct. 29 — a fumble he lost during the first quarter of the Hawkeyes’ 24-10 win over the Wisconsin Badgers on Nov. 12.

Petras threw for 989 yards and two touchdowns in the Hawkeyes’ first seven games of 2022. He threw five interceptions and fumbled three times.

Petras was benched in favor of backup quarterback Alex Padilla at halftime of Iowa’s 54-10 loss to Ohio State in Columbus on Oct. 22. Petras has played all of Iowa’s snaps since then.

Iowa’s  offense has scored 74 points and gained 920 yards in its last three outings. The Hawkeyes put up 83 points and 1,591 yards in Weeks 1-8.

“It’s more of a ‘Hawkissaince,’” Petras said of Iowa’s late-season run. “We’re playing good team football right now.”

Iowa’s offense hasn’t been the lone driver of this revival. The Hawkeyes put up 146 total yards and 17 offensive points against the Badgers, averaging 2.1 yards per play.

As it has throughout the season, Iowa’s defensive and special teams units helped push the Hawkeyes’ struggling offense to victory against Wisconsin. Defensive back Cooper DeJean scored six points on a pick six and gained 82 yards via kick return against Wisconsin. He also had 10 tackles as Iowa’s defense held Wisconsin to 227 yards — 51 rushing and 176 passing — and 10 points.

“It’s definitely a lot of fun to be able to see us progress in November,” junior defensive end Logan Lee said. “It really just shows how much we’re willing to fight, how much we’re willing to improve each week. You can really see the progress. That’s why November means so much to us as a team.”

Iowa started the season 3-4. Since then, the Hawkeyes have rallied to bowl eligibility at 6-4. The Hawkeyes lost three games in a row from Oct. 1 to Oct. 22, falling to Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio State. The Wolverines, Fighting Illini, and Buckeyes have all been ranked in the AP Top 25 this season.

The Hawkeyes didn’t make any wholesale changes at practice during their three-game losing skid. Sophomore wide receiver Diante Vines — who returned against Ohio State after missing the first six games with a wrist injury — said Iowa’s newfound winning ways are the result of superior execution in games.

“I think everything is kinda the same,” Vines said. “We’re just getting the results we were missing in the beginning of the year. We’re just playing a lot more clean football right now. We’re executing at a way higher level than we were in the beginning.”

These Hawkeyes aren’t the first Kirk Ferentz-coached team to get hot at the end of the season. Iowa has won 13 consecutive games in November dating back to the 2019 season.

“A big thing is just being consistent,” cornerback Riley Moss said. “Taking it week-by-week, one day at a time — that’s the biggest thing. With a lot of teams, you start to see how the [College Football Playoff] is working out and you’re looking toward what kind of bowl game you’re going to get. 

“In reality, it helps a lot more to take it day-by-day and week-by-week and just keep stacking those weeks. It’s all going to play itself out. I just think it’s not looking ahead, being able to compartmentalize what you need to do.”

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz smiles after a forced fumble during a football game between Iowa and Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. After recording the win, Iowa secured bowl eligibility. The Hawkeyes defeated the Badgers, 24-10. (Jerod Ringwald)

Iowa is currently one of four teams tied for first place in the Big Ten West Division. Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, and Purdue all have identical 4-3 conference records. Wisconsin isn’t far behind with a 3-4 mark in league play.

None of the four teams control their own destiny, but Illinois, Iowa, and Purdue have the most direct paths to the Big Ten Championship Game. 

The Fighting Illini can make it to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis with wins over Michigan and Northwestern on Nov. 19 and 26, respectively, and one Purdue loss.

If Iowa loses to Minnesota this weekend or Nebraska on Nov. 25, and Purdue beats Northwestern and Indiana in Weeks 12 and 13, the Boilermakers would appear in the league title game.

If Iowa wins its last two games and Illinois loses to either Michigan or Northwestern, the Hawkeyes will be heading to Indianapolis.

“Our head coach’s messages have been consistent,” Petras said. “It’s always usually consistent. It’s just that, if that’s meant to happen, it will happen. And our focus is on Minnesota because that’s all we can control right now.”

Ferentz said he’s been encouraging his players to keep pushing forward this season. Even when his the Hawkeyes were 3-4, Ferentz told his squad not to dwell on the past and to focus on one game at a time.

One thing I wanted the guys to understand — it’s a 12-game schedule,” Ferentz said. “… Again, it’s so simple. If you give up the fight, then it’s more than predictable what the outcome is going to be. So, at least you’ve got to give yourself a chance and give yourself a chance to see what you can do.

“And there’s not much you do in life that’s worth doing or feeling good about that you’re not going to have setbacks. It’s just the history of the world.”

While the Golden Gophers aren’t in direct contention for the division title, they aren’t completely eliminated. If both Illinois and Purdue lose one of their last two games, Minnesota could make it to Indianapolis with wins over Iowa and Wisconsin at the end of the season.

Iowa opened the week as a three-point underdog to Minnesota. The game’s total is set at 32.5 with high temperatures only expected to reach about 15 degrees at Huntington Stadium in Minneapolis.

To make it to Indianapolis, the Hawkeyes will likely have to keep The Spennaissance alive and extend their winning streak to five games — which is exactly what Petras plans to do.

“Yeah, it’s good,” Petras said. “It’s good. Let’s keep The Spennaissance going.”