Iowa postgame mailbag: How close should the Hawkeyes be to a quarterback change?

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz had a simple message for his team following a lackluster 7-3 win over South Dakota State on Saturday: It's better to be 1-0 than 0-1. 

"The first thing I reminded the team is that we're 1-0," Ferentz said. "Good to get the win certainly. (It) certainly didn't come easy. But just happy to get the win. I saw a lot of good things out there. Clearly a lot of things we have to get better at and work on, and we'll turn our attention to that (Sunday)." 

Saturday's contest transpired the way many games did last fall: a lights-out defensive performance, strong special teams play, particularly in punting, and offense that left much to be desired — and lots to be questioned.

But to Ferentz's point, Iowa won the game. 

Despite an off-season of tinkering with the offense, it was a flat debut with zero points scored, a dismal 2.7 yards per play and a pair of turnovers from the unit. The player under the most scrutiny was senior quarterback Spencer Petras, who completed just 11-of-25 passes for 109 yards. 

More:Leistikow's 5 thoughts from Iowa football's 7-3 win over South Dakota State

"Obviously we need to grow offensively and I think we will," Petras said. "I don't think this representative of our offense at all, but that's the only performance we've had this year. As a unit, we're excited to move on and try to beat Iowa State next week." 

Iowa's win comes one week before their Cy-Hawk game against Iowa State at Kinnick Stadium. By then, the Hawkeyes will need to find a few answers. If not, it will spell trouble against an uptick in competition. 

Without further ado, here's answers to your questions in the first postgame mailbag of the 2022 season: 

If you're not seeing improvements from a third-year starter, isn't it time to move on? 

Next to offensive coordinator, quarterback is the most polarizing position in Iowa's program. Petras spent much of the off-season on self-improvement, losing 10 pounds, attending the Manning Passing Academy over the summer and training more with private coach Tony Racciopi.

That's great to see. But it falls on deaf ears once the games start.

And Saturday's game didn't go as planned. 

More:Grading Iowa football's 7-3 win over the South Dakota State Jackrabbits

There were several errant throws that stuck out: a missed screen pass to running back Leshon Williams late in the first quarter that would've gone for a big gain, missing tight end Sam LaPorta on a rollout in the second quarter that could've been a touchdown, the second quarter interception and more. 

What did Kirk Ferentz have to say afterward? Despite the shortcomings, there wasn't a thought to replace Petras with backup Alex Padilla. 

"I still have a lot of confidence in him," Kirk Ferentz said. "I think the noise on the outside is probably a lot louder than it is inside. I have total confidence. He practices well. He's a great young guy. We'll be better next week." 

Next week? Yes, Ferentz confirmed Petras will start next week, saying he doesn't "anticipate any changes at this point." But he's said previously that he has two quarterbacks who are capable of winning. Padilla won games for Iowa last season —he was up and down in those games — and looked sharp in August's open scrimmage. If next week is another repeat performance, Ferentz and company should consider a move.

Personally, I'd say give Spencer the first half of the Cy-Hawk game. If the first half possessions look like how they did Saturday, it'll be time for a change. 

What's the status of Jestin Jacobs? Other injured players? 

Let's take a break from the offense to dive into another major topic: the team's health.

We knew early in the week that senior receiver Nico Ragaini would miss time with a foot injury, but Saturday brought more news. Offensively, starters Keagan Johnson (WR) and Gavin Williams (RB) both missed Saturday's game with injuries. Additionally, true freshman receiver Jacob Bostick didn't play. 

More:Iowa football's offense was an eyesore against South Dakota State, but Hawkeyes scratch past FCS foe

Then the defense took a hit during the game. Junior linebacker Jestin Jacobs injured his leg during the first half and didn't return to the game. Afterward, Ferentz said he didn't think the injury was serious. 

"It wasn't a joint. It sure looked like it on the field," Ferentz said. "So it's soft tissue and those can drag out too as we know, but at least it wasn't a joint. That would have been bad." 

As far as Johnson and Williams, it'll remain a fluid situation. Ferentz said he thought Williams had a chance to play Saturday, but Johnson hasn't been practicing consistently. And Ragaini is still a few weeks out. The players who replaced them Saturday might be in starting positions for a little while longer. 

"Gavin had a realistic chance for this game," Ferentz said. "I'm not sure about Keagan at this point, but we'll evaluate again (Sunday) and Monday and just kind of see where they're going, but hopefully we'll get them back at some juncture." 

What did you make of the offensive line? 

I'm writing a separate analysis on the offensive line, so I'll save the majority of what I learned for that. But I will say that the interior of the line was concerning Saturday. It's to be expected with four players: Nick DeJong, Gennings Dunker, Logan Jones and Beau Stephens, who were playing center/guard for the first time in a live game. 

Ferentz and offensive line coach George Barnett are still searching for the right group of players but if interior problems continue, I wouldn't be surprised to see Connor Colby shift back inside to provide aid. 

Which group stuck out (in a good way)? 

Iowa defensive back Riley Moss (33) defends against South Dakota State on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.

If Iowa's defense had any question marks entering Saturday, it was how would the secondary fare after losing three multi-year starters. 

There were only two notable mistakes: a pair of miscommunications that led to South Dakota State's best offensive play, a 20-yard pass completion, and a potential wide open touchdown that resulted in an overthrown pass. But after that, the new group of Doughboyz played exceptionally. 

The biggest breakout performer was junior safety Quinn Schulte, who replaced Jack Koerner. He ended the day with four pass breakups, all of them with some physicality. He had back-to-back breakups in the second quarter that stifled a South Dakota State drive. 

"We're always trying to bring a physical brand," Schulte said. "Defensively we're trying to be tough, smart and physical. That's kind of our saying." 

Elsewhere, Terry Roberts and Cooper DeJean performed well alternating cornerback responsibilities and DeJean played 'Cash' exclusively when Iowa went to their 4-2-5 defense. Overall the unit held South Dakota State to just 87 total yards, allowed fewer completions (10) than the Jackrabbits had punts (11) and finished with eight pass breakups. 

Thank Phil Parker, Iowa's defensive backfield has elite potential yet again. 

Kennington Lloyd Smith III covers Iowa Hawkeyes football and men's basketball for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at ksmith@gannett.com.