The Good: Defensive Aggressiveness
Riley Moss is making all the headlines and winning all the awards for good reason: he caught the balls that Michael Penix was throwing. There were approximately three interceptions that were flat out dropped by other Hawkeyes and a total of five pass breakups. Moss made the interceptions. Moss scored the touchdowns. For that, he gets all the credit.
How did it happen? Well, part of it was that Michael Penix simply looked bad. Whatever player he was before his injury (there have been many) that player didn’t show up on Saturday. It didn’t help that Iowa’s defensive line, thought to be a question mark heading into the game, harassed Penix all day to the tune of five quarterback hurries and one sack. There were actually six hurries for the Hawkeyes but the last, by Ethan Hurkett, was on Indiana’s backup QB, Jack Tuttle.
Iowa’s defensive line was simply fantastic at getting to the quarterback. Pick a player:
John Waggoner: 4 total tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 hurry.
Noah Shannon: 4 total tackles, 1 hurry.
Zack VanValkenberg: 1 total tackle, 2 hurries.
Joe Evans: 1 tackle, 1 hurry.
Even if Penix was off, and he was, Iowa’s defensive line made his life a living hell and Riley Moss, Dane Belton, Jack Koerner and Kaevon Merriweather were the benefactors.
Honorable Mention: Seth Benson, Tyler Goodson, Sam LaPorta.
The Bad: Non-Existent Wide Receivers
If it felt like you heard Sam LaPorta’s name 20 times on Saturday it’s because he was targeted by Spencer Petras on almost every other play. LaPorta was Iowa’s leading receiver, catching 5 balls for 83 yards, with a long of 24 yards. That’s great! Of course, Sam LaPorta isn’t a wide receiver.
Iowa’s wide receivers were almost non-existent. By non-existent I mean that Tyrone Tracy, Jr., Charlie Jones and Nico Ragaini combined for five receptions and 38 yards. That’s not good! Was it route running? Were they just covered? Tough to tell when you can’t see down the field on TV. And hey, Indiana has three seniors in their defensive backfield. There could be a number of reasons. But that leads us to…
The Ugly: QB1
…what this is.
Like, what was this drop back? pic.twitter.com/hV43ELIciP— Go Iowa Awesome (@IowaAwesome) September 4, 2021
He tripped? I guess? Can...can he not roll back yet?
Petras went 13/27 for 145 yards and two sacks. His longest completion was 24 yards. That means he averaged 5.4 yards per completion and completed 48% of his passes. If you consider a 60 percent completion percentage to be the Mendoza Line for quarterbacks, Petras has only met or exceeded that number in three of his nine career starts. He has more career sacks (13) than he does touchdowns (9).
The silver lining playbook is that Petras handled the QB draw play perfectly and was decisive about getting rid of the ball. Early in his career Nate Stanley would go through hell or high water before taking a sack or throwing the ball away. Petras has no such issues. However, he does have issues…uh…throwing the ball down the field. And it could be first week jitters. Maybe his wide receivers weren’t getting open. There were some balls that should have been caught that weren’t. Whatever the list of reasons, the progress that Kirk Ferentz said Petras made over the offseason wasn't evident on Saturday.
The thing is that Petras hasn’t been very good but he also hasn’t cost Iowa a football game. That’s why so many people are willing to tolerate it. But there will come a time when Iowa will need Petras to do things to actually help them win a game, not just manage it. That time could be as soon as this weekend in Ames. Either he becomes a Big Ten quarterback or…well, you know the saying about the most popular guy in Iowa City, right?