IOWA 17, NORTHWESTERN 12: FITZMAGIC DENIED

By Mike Jones on November 6, 2021 at 10:48 pm
© Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports
© Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports
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In the beginning, this felt like one of those games against Northwestern. In the end, it was one of those games against Northwestern. But in between, Iowa was a different football team for a few quarters and that’s how they ended up with a 17-12 win in Evanston.

So, to start, it was hot garbage, as seen here:

Bad game.

Spencer Petras was not great, one hopping two of the four passes he threw and it was evident that something wasn’t right. He looked broken. And the implication is that he was. He suffered a shoulder(?) injury late in the Wisconsin game, something most Iowa fans didn’t see as they turned the game off at halftime for mental health reasons.

Yet, Ferentz started him and he was apparently healthy enough to play three offensive series but come the fourth, Alex Padilla trotted onto the field and Hawkeye Nation rejoiced in seeing what the Most Popular Man in Iowa City could do. The result? A touchdown drive that included two deep passes to Keagan Johnson, capped off with a 13 yard run by Tyler Goodson.

The next possession? More of the same. A beautiful pass to Goodson across the middle for 19 yards, some tough running by TGood and Arland Bruce doing this:

Honestly, it looked like it could turn into a rout until…the very next offensive possession when Northwestern blocked a Tory Taylor punt and got the ball at Iowa’s own 8-yard line. But Phil Parker’s unit stood tall and held the Wildcats to a field goal, leaving the score at 14-3.

With over two minutes left in the half, Iowa got the ball back and had more than enough time to score points going into the intermission. Instead, they took their sweet time, dicked around and ended up running out of time. It was poor, overly conservative coaching and poor clock management.

That conservative coaching continued for the rest of the game. Early in the third, Iowa drove the ball to the Northwestern 10-yard line and had the wind at their backs. On 3rd and 9, they ran Gavin Williams up the middle. Why? He wasn’t going to pick up the first down/score. Why not throw? Even if Padilla gets sacked you’re easily in field goal range and have the wind.

There was a whole lot of nothing until late in the game when some serious 2005 Northwestern Game Vibes started to develop. With 4:20 (nice) remaining in the game, Northwestern got the ball down 17-6 and promptly did the most annoying thing Northwestern could do: dump off passes across the middle. It culminated in Evan Hull, a person I don’t think I’d ever seen before tonight, scampering into the endzone following some piss poor tackling by the Hawkeyes. Iowa snuffed out the two point conversion, leaving the score at 17-12, but the Wildcats had all three of their timeouts, prompting this thought:

AND SURE ENOUGH. THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED! Iowa gave the ball to Gavin Williams and Tyler Goodson three straight times for minimal/no gain, forcing the Wildcats to use all their timeouts, but taking little time off the clock. With 1:44 remaining, Northwestern would get the ball and have a chance to drive down the field to win the game. It was a familiar nightmare for Iowa fans.

Fortunately, Dane Belton had other ideas:

And that was the game. Iowa held on 17-12 to win. Some bullets:

  • Iowa’s defense tackled poorly all night. There were so many almost tackles for loss in this game. The Evan Hull touchdown had at least 3-4 missed tackles. Phil is going to be chewing some ass this week during film review.
  • Iowa’s young receivers are absolute playmakers. Johnson can go over defensive backs and Bruce is extremely tough to tackle. 
  • Tyler Goodson had himself a night to the tune of 21 carries for 141 yards and a touchdown. But there were times when we were confused in seeing Gavin Williams, who we’re ecstatic is getting more touches, when it seemed like a Goodson situation.
  • Matt Hankins has had a rough go of it since the Penn State game. Hopefully he figures it out.
  • Iowa’s defensive line was great tonight. Three sacks and a number of hurries forced Marty to make bad throws.
  • Jermari Harris is going to be very good.
  • This was some of the worst officiating I’ve ever seen and most of it benefitted Iowa. A bad fair catch “call” on Northwestern, a fake personal foul on Pat Fitzgerald, a phantom PI on Matt Hankins. We got the D squad tonight.

This game could’ve ended differently because Iowa went full turtle in the fourth quarter but it didn’t, so I guess it’s fine. It isn’t but I won’t belabor the point because Ferentz isn’t going to change. The story this week is going to be about Padilla and Petras. My interpretation was that Petras was playing hurt and when it looked like he couldn’t get the job done, Padilla had to take his place. To me, that means he didn’t get benched due to his play… which is routinely poor… but he got benched because he was hurt and couldn’t even complete short passes. Does that mean that if he’s healthy he’s still QB1?

Padilla showed us that he’s exactly the guy we think he is. He will throw the ball down the field. He is mobile in the pocket. He can scramble. Hell, he can throw BULLETS when he is on the run. I think Charlie Jones dropped a perfectly thrown pass because Charlie was surprised that it got to him over a Northwestern defender, or he was surprised that Padilla even threw it. With Padilla in the game, Iowa’s offense looked functional at times, something we haven’t seen in weeks. 

Was it perfect? No. There were overthrows. But was it the best you could get out of a guy who has never played significant minutes, on the road, in a conference game, at night? Yes. It was damn impressive. Padilla does things that a healthy Petras cannot. He isn’t afraid to scramble and he’ll actually throw it down the field, even if that isn’t the play design. Sam LaPorta only having 15 yards is telling. The tight end is usually a safety valve. Petras frequently looks to LaPorta first. Padilla looks to him last.

This is the fourth time we’ve done this with Ferentz. There was Banks and McCann. There was Christensen and Stanzi. There was Rudock and Beathard. Now there’s Petras and Padilla and there's always had to be an intervening event that required Ferentz to make the change. With Petras suffering this injury, this is the intervening event that could make the change. This isn’t a personal decision. It’s a business decision. The question should be what's best for the program, not what's best for a single player. So what's best for the program? It's been one whole game but c’mon…it looks like it’s Alex Padilla.

Time will tell.

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