Iowa postgame mailbag: Hawkeyes win big but questions about offense loom large

AMES, Ia. — For yet another year, the Hawkeyes reign supreme in Iowa. 

The hype leading up to No. 12 Iowa vs. No. 10 Iowa State was enormous, with it considered the biggest Cy-Hawk battle in the series' history. 

In the end, Iowa's 27-17 shellacking of its in-state rival continued a six-game Hawkeye winning streak in the Cy-Hawk. It's clear though, this one meant more to everyone involved from fans to players to head coach Kirk Ferentz. 

Iowa will enjoy another year of bragging rights and keeping the Cy-Hawk trophy in Iowa City but more than anything, Saturday's win confirmed that Iowa is a legit contender for the Big Ten West title … and perhaps more. 

With that, I'll get into your questions for the post-game mailbag: 

Can Spencer Petras figure things out?

The short answer is yes. First, he's been solid but there's work to be done. It will take self-improvement on his part as well as other pieces of the offense coming together to make a cohesive unit. 

Mostly, he needs to compose himself and slow the game down. Here's what I mean: 

Last season. Petras' biggest question mark was ball security; this season it's his pocket awareness. Three times against Iowa State, he took bad sacks on third down:

  • First quarter, third drive of the game: Bad sack forces plus-50 yard field goal situation. Shudak misses the kick and prevents Iowa from scoring first in the game. 
  • Early third quarter: Charlie Jones' 24-yard punt return sets Iowa up at ISU 43-yard line. On third-and-10 from the ISU 30-yard line (a 47-yard try from there), Petras takes an 11-yard sack that takes them out of range completely. Punt. 
  • Later third quarter: Iowa's defense gets an interception to set Iowa up at ISU 25-yard line. Nothing doing on the drive and Petras takes an eight-yard sack to force Shudak into another 50-yard try that he converted. 

The silver lining? Iowa's next two games — Kent State and Colorado State — serve as opportunities for Petras to slow the game down. However, it's not all on him. Iowa's receiving core hasn't been a big part of the offense yet— partially by game flow and partially an inability to get open. And the run game is too good to be as stagnant as it has been. 

Get the run game going, and you only help your quarterback. 

Postgame Podcast:Iowa 27, Iowa State 17

What is Iowa’s toughest remaining game?

At the beginning of the season I broke down Iowa's schedule into three tiers: Six teams they absolutely should beat: Colorado State, Illinois, Kent State, Maryland, Nebraska, Purdue. Two teams they should beat but a loss wouldn't be surprising: Northwestern and Minnesota and finally Four teams that are toss-ups: Indiana, Iowa State, Penn State Wisconsin. 

The Hawkeyes are 2-for-2 against the teams from the toss-up group. The toughest remaining game in that tier is Penn State for a variety of reasons. 

First, Penn State went into Madison, Wisconsin and claimed the head-to-head victory over the Badgers in Week 1. On Saturday, Penn State rolled over Ball State with quarterback Sean Clifford looking comfortable and confident as he did in the first game. On the other side, Wisconsin hasn't gotten good play out of quarterback Graham Mertz so far this season.  

More:After big Cy-Hawk game, Charlie Jones emerging as go-to target for Iowa offense

Iowa junior running back Tyler Goodson runs into the end zone for a touchdown against Indiana on Sept. 4.

What do you think of Iowa’s inability to run the ball? 

In my opinion, this is the most glaring concern within Iowa's offense right now. That's no shot to Tyler Goodson, who is among college football's best running backs. But this part of the Iowa offense has not been there yet.  

They have been positives. Namely, Goodson's long touchdown against Indiana and his tough-yardage rushing touchdown in the all-important second quarter Saturday against Iowa State. 

Still, through two games that part of the offense has only managed three yards per carry. 

Iowa is still without guard Kyler Schott, who's recovering from a foot injury. Outside of him and Linderbaum, this offensive line unit is young. Currently, three of five starters on the offensive line are new. Their seven-man rotation includes two freshmen in Connor Colby and Mason Richman and only tackle Jack Plumb (besides Ince and Linderbaum) have started a game. 

Also consider that Iowa has faced two very good defenses to start the season. That's just the reality. Schott is expected to practice this week, a welcomed sign. I would imagine it's a key for offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz to get the run game going before Iowa heads into the meat of the Big Ten slate. 

Leistikow:In latest Cy-Hawk win, Iowa shows it's got the defense required for a special season

How was your first Cy-Hawk game? 

As many of you know, I missed Iowa's season opener to attend a wedding back home in Atlanta. I've been anxiously waiting my first game since I took this job in the summer and to say having Cy-Hawk as my first ever was a baptism by fire is an understatement. 

I loved every second. 

Driving into Ames was an experience. Looking at the sea of red and yellow with Iowa black and yellow represented as well. I enjoyed that each clump of people had fans favoring each side; it just reinforced how this rivalry is embedded in the fabric of the state from friendships to families. 

Walking through parking lots of tailgates reminded me of my days the University of Georgia: corn hole and beer pong tournaments, TVs set up to watch the day's games and a lot of food.

The game itself was exciting to cover: a press box full of reporters trying to get information and insight out as quickly as possible, the side conversations during the game to the the work after the game trying to make sense of what we just saw on the fly. 

Now, I'm looking forward to my first home game experience at Kinnick coming up soon. 

Kennington Smith is the new Iowa Hawkeyes beat writer for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at