Iowa football's Spencer Petras to miss Music City Bowl; Hawkeyes turn to Labas and May

Kennington Lloyd Smith III
Des Moines Register

IOWA CITY − The Iowa football program (7-5) is heading to the Music City Bowl, and the Hawkeyes will have a new starting quarterback in the Dec. 31 game.

Head coach Kirk Ferentz confirmed Sunday that starting quarterback Spencer Petras will be unavailable following a shoulder injury suffered in the regular-season finale against Nebraska. Third-string quarterback and redshirt freshman Joe Labas or true freshman Carson May will be the starting quarterback for Iowa’s TransPerfect Music City Bowl matchup against Kentucky (7-5) The New Year’s Eve matchup takes place at 11 a.m. CT at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium.

Two-year backup Alex Padilla announced his intent to enter the NCAA transfer portal this week and won't play against Kentucky.

"It will be Joe or Carson May, one of the two," Ferentz said Sunday. "We'll let those guys work the next four weeks and see how they do. We were on the field yesterday and both did some good things but obviously we've got got some work to do with both guys. The good news is we have four weeks to get that done."

Ferentz also gave other notable injury updates. Tight end Sam LaPorta, the Big Ten Tight End of the Year, and All-Big Ten defensive back Cooper DeJean have been banged up but are expected to play against Kentucky. Otherwise, the team appears fully healthy and Ferentz doesn't anticipate any player opt-outs.

"(LaPorta and DeJean) would not have played if we played (in Saturday's Big Ten championship game)," Ferentz said. "I'd expect Cooper to return here at the end of the week. I think Sam's very close. He's out on the field moving around pretty good, but he would not have been game-ready this weekend nor would have Cooper, but expect them both to be fully ready to go (for the Music City Bow). I know they're excited. I don't want to speak for guys on our team. But I can tell just by the way they're acting. They're excited to play another game."

Iowa will turn to either Joe Labas (5) or Carson May (3) for the Music City Bowl against Kentucky. Neither has played in a college game.

Quarterback will be a position of intrigue on both sides. Kentucky's Will Levis is a projected first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and hasn't decided on whether he will play in the team's bowl game. For Iowa, the bowl game would be Labas' first game action of his young career. The 6-foot-4, 207-pound, Brecksville, Ohio, native has spent the last two seasons leading Iowa's scout team offense. During last year's bowl preparation, he received praise for the pressure he put on Iowa's starting defense.

More:Leistikow: 'Dual-threat' Joe Labas remains Iowa's No. 3 quarterback, but for how long?

“The scout team is pretty much like playing football in the backyard. It’s a lot of fun,” Labas said during team media day in August. “They just give you a play and you go do it to the best of your ability. You try to give the defense a good look. I had a lot of fun with that.”

May, a 6-foot-5, 220=pounder from Jones, Oklahoma, was a three- or four-star recruit (depending on the recruiting service) in the Hawkeyes 2022 recruiting class. Like Labas, he's been a scout team quarterback this season. During Iowa's bye week this season, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz stated that Labas hadn't done enough to close the gap on Petras and Padilla on the depth chart, while May was still adjusting to his first year of college football.

Now, both quarterbacks will have the full brunt of Iowa's bowl practices with the first-team offense to get up to speed enough to execute a game plan against a Power 5 opponent. Ferentz noted the uniqueness of the challenge with two quarterbacks who have never played in a college game. But he also noted that he won't allow it to serve as an excuse as they prepare for Kentucky.

"One good thing about the month of December is you have time available," Ferentz said. "So we'll try to find out what they can do and do successfully. Part of the challenge is to the rest of the team, it's like when a good player gets injured, someone else has to step up and do a little bit more. That'll be our approach. Our intention is to win this game. That's our goal and intention and we'll try to figure out a plan that's going to give us an opportunity to do that."

Ferentz touches on the significance of Music City Bowl return

Iowa and Kentucky football met in the 2021 Citrus Bowl. The teams will meet again in 2022, this time in the Music City Bowl.

Iowa’s 6-2 record during the COVID-shortened 2020 season earned the Hawkeyes a bid to the Music City Bowl against Missouri; however, the game was never played as Missouri pulled out due to a team outbreak. Two years later, the Music City Bowl tabbed Iowa again and gives the Hawkeyes a chance to redeem a vacated opportunity.

"We thought we had that opportunity coming a couple of years ago (and it) didn't materialize," Ferentz said. "So this is really special ... And I know our players that were on the team in 2020 were excited about it and I think they're more excited now. So we're looking forward to that."

Iowa's team will balance transitioning a roster that will experience movement via the transfer portal while preparing for Kentucky. For the Hawkeyes who will return in 2023, the most important component of December is the additional practices that will help develop the younger part of the roster.

"In general terms, the way I've always looked at it is it's one more chance for our entire football team to compete together and work together for another couple of weeks," Ferentz said. "And then for the younger guys it's significant from that standpoint of an opportunity to continue to develop. These are important opportunities for all the players that haven't played a lot, or even guys that have played that are younger, to continue to move forward as players."