You Know What They Say About Insanity
Did you know that Spencer Petras participated in the Manning Passing Academy? Or that he lost eight pounds to improve his mobility? Or that Iowa’s hieroglyphics offense introduced a “matrix” concept to simplify its quarterback reads?
Confessional time: I am having trouble feigning excitement for the “happy talk” surrounding Iowa’s offense. Last season's parting image can be found at the three minute mark. But more than Petras’ ghastly interception, here’s my biggest rub coming out of last season: Following last season’s offensive stupor, I didn’t exactly see the critical self-examination that, you know, warrants optimism for the upcoming year. Running it back—with Petras at the helm and Brian Ferentz now leading the QB room—only prompts more questions.
As for Petras, we now have a two-year sample size to evaluate his play. His 2020 and 2021 stats are a mirror image—completion percentage hovering around 57%, average pass completion checking in at 6.5 yards, a QBR somewhere between middling and lackluster. During Iowa’s last half of the season (starting with the Purdue debacle), Petras tossed one touchdown pass and seven interceptions. And, sure, there were complicating factors: injuries, a hit or miss running game, an inexperienced offensive line, Brian Ferentz. But during the business end of Iowa’s season, Petras devolved into, err, Spencer Penis. Against high-level competition and Nebraska, we got the hyperventilating Spencer. There were head-shaking incompletions (scroll to 1:15), heat check fastballs (scroll to 0:45), and whatever this is.
Paraphrasing esteemed UI alum Denny Green, we know who Spencer is at this point. The HaydensDumplings’ scouting report: a game manager QB with shaky accuracy, an inability to extend plays, and questionable decision making, particularly when pressured. And while Spencer is a stand-up dude (witness his generosity, as well as his poised response to Twitter trolls), Iowa’s offensive performance doesn’t justify Spencer, the Trilogy.
But more than lamenting Spencer’s limitations, this is an indictment of Iowa’s aversion to change. Following last year's offensive slog, the elder Ferentz could have (dare I say, should have) re-conceptualized Iowa’s offensive concepts. Instead, KF seemed taken back, almost mystified, at the criticism surrounding Iowa’s offensive ineptitude. And, not surprisingly, the offseason was marked by a doubling down of the status quo. There was Brian adding the QB coordinator title, platitudes about offseason improvements (a slimmed down Spencer, the “matrix” scheme), and a half-hearted QB competition (based on Padilla’s decisiveness against Minnesota/jNW and general mobility, he would be my QB1). Despite Iowa's offense crying out for wholesale changes, expect the Hawkeyes to trot out the same uninspired scheme under the pretense of "complementary football."
With t-minus four days until "Back in Black" blares in Kinnick, my Hawkeye expectations, per usual, are tempered by our Tresselball M.O (minus, of course, OSU's overwhelming talent). My not exactly boiling water take: Phil's defense will shepherd Petras, Brian, and an underwhelming offense to the brink of national relevance, only for Iowa’s offense to flail against decent-to-good competition. With our punchless offense, Iowa isn't a legitimate playoff contender or B1G champion—last year's freefall from second in the county reinforced that.
When I am not cursing Iowa's offense in real time (or getting mocking texts from non-Hawkeye buddies), I begrudgingly accept that our Hawkeye floor and ceiling are pretty much one and the same—eight to ten wins, a brief flirtation with national relevance, and top 20-ish national ranking. And, yes, it could be much worse—I could be a Husker fan watching a kamikaze of dumb shit and Scott Frost’s Alford-like pressers. But Ferentz's stubborn resistance to modernizing (or even tweaking) our offense, particularly after last year's inferno, is its own self-inflicted error. “Running it back” isn’t the answer when Iowa’s offense, with Petras and BF leading the charge, has been run into the ground.