Spencer Petras praised for poise against Purdue, but Iowa's new QB only looks ahead
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Upon further review, Spencer Petras didn’t really want to talk Tuesday about his debut as Iowa’s starting quarterback.
The sophomore spoke of the “need to be more consistent.”
“I did some good things,” Petras said of his performance in the Hawkeyes’ 24-20 loss at Purdue on Saturday. “I did some things that I wish I could do better, wish I could go back and change.”
And then Petras was on to Northwestern, saying his attention has shifted to Iowa’s opponent in its home opener at 2:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPN).
Petras had a bumpy beginning against Purdue, admitting later to having some nerves to work through. He completed only one of his first six pass attempts.
But when he got into a rhythm in the second quarter, Iowa put up 17 points, including a 1-yard touchdown run by Petras for the team’s first points of the season. Petras completed 13 of 15 passes in that stretch. He finished 22-for-39 for 265 yards, the most by a Hawkeye quarterback in his first start since Jon Beutjer racked up 380 yards in 2000.
That was also the last time Iowa has started a season with back-to-back losses. And that’s what Petras is trying to avoid this week against a Wildcats team that just whipped Maryland 43-3.
So, when speaking to the media Tuesday, Petras declined twice to delve into his own play in Iowa’s first game, instead pointing out Iowa’s need to “win the preparation battle” for the contest ahead.
“I was really impressed with his poise and his control out there,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said of Petras in his opening remarks to reporters later Tuesday.
Petras wasn’t always on target. His final four pass attempts fell incomplete to seal the Hawkeyes’ fate.
But he didn’t throw an interception. He took only one sack, and that was on a play where he had little chance to get rid of the football.
“I think there was a couple of plays where we didn’t keep him clean enough,” said Coy Cronk, a graduate transfer making his Iowa debut as the starting right tackle.
Cronk blamed himself for the nine-yard sack of Petras late in the first half. It was the only drive the Hawkeyes had in the second quarter that didn’t result in points.
“Obviously, he wanted to go out there and throw a million touchdowns and have a million yards. That’s always not realistic,” Cronk said of Petras. “Especially for someone’s first start, the poise and his ability to lead when it wasn’t going perfect, I was personally really impressed with. I think Spencer’s heading in the right direction.
“I like the way he’s approaching this week, just flushing it and moving on.”
Petras showed a good connection with sophomore tight end Sam LaPorta, who led Iowa with five receptions good for 71 yards. Nico Ragaini was the most productive of the Hawkeyes’ top four wideouts, with four catches for 61 yards.
But senior Ihmir Smith-Marsette, who led Iowa in receiving yards a year ago, was shut out against Purdue and the TV cameras caught him showing his displeasure on occasion. Petras was diplomatic when asked about the distribution of passes to four wide receivers who all experienced success last season with Nate Stanley at quarterback.
“We’ve been watching the tape on Northwestern, seeing what we can take advantage of,” Petras said. “We’ll get the ball to the receivers as much as we can. Just take what the defense gives.”
Kirk Ferentz also said he wasn’t concerned about Smith-Marsette’s body language. Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz did call for a pair of first-half handoffs to Smith-Marsette, who turned them into 18 yards.
“We want to get everybody involved. Skill players typically if they don’t get the ball enough, they’re going to be frustrated, and that’s fine. They want to help the team,” Kirk Ferentz said.
“If we’re operating the way we need to operate, probably everybody’s going to get their share of balls. It may not be on one Saturday, but over the course of time, hopefully.”
But this is a short season, and patience will be in short supply. The Hawkeyes cannot afford to start out with back-to-back losses against Big Ten West division rivals, with only six more games to try to make up that ground.
That’s why Petras has put the Purdue game in his rear-view mirror.
“All of my focus is on Northwestern. They’re a very disciplined team,” Petras said.
“The sense of urgency has been there from the beginning. Any Big Ten game is an important game. We need to play our best on Saturday.”
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at email@example.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.