After a disappointing loss against Purdue to begin the B1G season, Iowa will attempt to get on track in its home opener against Northwestern (2:30 p.m. CST/ESPN).

It figures to be quite the challenge against the Wildcats, who are coming off a 43-3 victory over Maryland.

Iowa showed some positive signs in Week 1, such as amassing 460 total yards, getting solid production in the running game, and snagging 2 interceptions. However, there are still some areas in need of improvement.

If Iowa can reach these 5 goals, they’ll pick up their first win of the season.

1. Spencer Petras puts together a complete performance

In his debut as Iowa’s starting quarterback, Petras was a mixed bag. He completed 22 of 39 passes for 265 yards and a touchdown, plus he had a rushing touchdown. Petras completed passes to 8 targets, led by Sam LaPorta (5 receptions, 71 yards) and Nico Ragaini (4 receptions, 61 yards).

It was an uneven performance for Petras, who admitted nerves got the best of him, as he began by completing only 2 of his first 8 passes. Petras settled down to then complete 12 of his final 13 the rest of the first half. Petras flashed his vaunted arm strength with a strike across the middle to Ragaini late in the second quarter.

Petras capped off a 5-play, 35-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to tie the score at 7 with 10:21 in the second quarter.

With Iowa down 4 and 2:08 remaining in the game, Petras found LaPorta for 16 yards along the sideline. But then 4 straight incompletions sealed the Hawkeyes’ fate.

If Iowa is going to get in the win column, Petras needs to be dynamic. The Northwestern defense stifled Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, who finished with 95 passing yards and 3 interceptions. Iowa can’t afford a subpar showing from its quarterback. Petras is going to need multiple passing touchdowns and over 300 passing yards to tilt the odds in Iowa’s favor.

2. Reduce penalties

An area that Iowa is definitely focusing on in practice this week is discipline. Iowa committed a whopping 10 penalties for 100 yards vs. Purdue.

A costly facemask penalty by Iowa defensive tackle Jack Heflin aided Purdue during its game-winning drive.

The first Hawkeyes offensive series foreshadowed their penalty struggles, as they committed a false start on third down and then had to punt. Overall, Iowa was penalized 4 times for false starts.

Iowa will need to trim the penalties at least in half in order to have a chance at defeating Northwestern.

3. Running backs must be more sure-handed 

The running back duo of Tyler Goodson (77 yards) and Mekhi Sargent (71 yards, 1 touchdown) was solid. Goodson added 5 receptions for 59 yards, including a 40-yarder. Ivory Kelly-Martin added 29 yards on 4 carries.

However, Goodson and Sargent both lost fumbles at inopportune moments. Goodson fumbled in the first half when Iowa had strong field position. Sargent coughed up the ball in the fourth quarter with Iowa driving, a costly mistake that dashed the Hawkeyes’ chance to extend their lead to either 6 or 10 points.

Northwestern held Maryland to 64 rushing yards. Iowa is going to need the same amount of run production as last week, but this time minus the turnovers, to have enough offensive balance.

4. Shoring up the secondary

The Iowa defense tallied 2 interceptions (by Barrington Wade and Matt Hankins). However, they were shredded once again by a familiar foil.

Purdue standout wide receiver Rondale Moore was out, but David Bell was a problem all game long for the Iowa secondary, as he ended up with 13 receptions for 121 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Northwestern has solid options but doesn’t have anyone in its receiving corps as dangerous as Bell. Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowden posted modest numbers in Northwestern’s blowout victory (5 receptions, 49 yards). Tight end John Raine, a transfer from Florida Atlantic, led Northwestern with 5 receptions and 53 yards.

If Iowa clamps down on the Northwestern passing game, there’s a strong likelihood a victory will follow.

5. Rushing defense tightens up

Purdue running back Zander Horvath gashed the Iowa defense for 129 yards on 21 carries. The absence of middle linebacker Jack Campbell (mononucleosis) was certainly felt.

Campbell and linebacker Seth Benson will be out on Saturday.

A variety of factors contributed to the porous Iowa run defense, such as a lack of physicality and shoddy tackling.

Iowa will have to contend with a potent Northwestern rushing attack that racked up 325 yards and scored 4 touchdowns vs. Maryland. Drake Anderson amassed 103 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Isaiah Bowser, Evan Hull and quarterback Peyton Ramsey each rushed for a touchdown.

Defensive lineman Dayvion Nixon had a career-high 7 tackles last week. With starter Austin Schulte out again, he’s going to have to impose his will and continue his ascent.

For Iowa to avoid their first 0-2 start since 2000, their run defense has to be stingy.