Spencer Petras stood on the sidelines during the 3rd quarter of an ensuing blowout at Ohio Stadium. This time, however, it wasn’t because the defense was taking reps against Ohio State’s potent offense.

Kirk Ferentz had seen enough for the afternoon. He needed 30 minutes to realize Petras’ play was insufficient. It was horrendous. A travesty. Most of all, it wasn’t going to be the reason why Iowa would fight its way back against the Buckeyes down by 16 at halftime.

Iowa fans got their wish with Alex Padilla taking snaps with the first-team offense. And his first throw? An interception leading to a 6-yard touchdown to OSU’s Marvin Harrison Jr. 4 plays later.

That was mid-October. Petras looked cooked as the Hawkeyes’ commander. Iowa looked dead in the water as a program.

It’s now mid-November, and Petras’ play might be one-third of the reason for Iowa’s progressive prowess on offense during a 4-game winning streak. And Iowa? It’s a game away from returning to the B1G title game for the 2nd straight season.

As Petras prepares for his final game at Kinnick Stadium, countless thoughts must be traveling at rapid speeds through his mind. At this point, the California kid has seen it all. A 10-win season. A top-5 ranking. Multiple upset wins. A starting nod. A benching. A comeback.

And now? A chance at redemption awaits. Who would have thought that following Petas’ performance against Ohio State?

“It would be easy for me to give up after that Ohio State game,” Petras told reporters Tuesday. “But that’s not what we do. It’s not what Iowa football is all about.”

Petras deserves some praise

While defense wins championships, Pertas’ promising play has helped stabilize an offense spinning out of control. Over the 4-game win streak, the senior quarterback has upped his completion rating and diminished his turnovers. Following a 56-10 loss to the Buckeyes, here were Pertas’ stats:

  • 989 passing yards
  • 53.6 completion percentage
  • 5.3 yards per completion
  • 2:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio
  • 95.4 passer rating

Now let’s look at Petras’ numbers during the winning streak:

  • 727 passing yards
  • 63.0 completion percentage
  • 6.9 yards per completion
  • 3:0 touchdown-to-interception ratio
  • 133.2 passer rating

The Hawkeyes have outscored opponents 94-36 over the last month. Petras’ priority on ball security and completion rate has been a factor in the win streak. So has the success of the offensive line. In the first 7 games, Iowa allowed 24 sacks. Since Week 9, the Hawkeyes have allowed just 11 — 6 of which came in 1 outing against Wisconsin.

Petras credited the defense this past week for its ability to restrain teams from crossing deep into Iowa territory. With the Hawkeyes’ No. 6 unit creating stops and stalling drives, the offense has benefitted with excellent field position.

Because of it, the offensive game plan has exceeded expectations. Since the start of the streak, Iowa has converted on 12 of its 13 red zone possessions in some form for points. And while Petras still has yet to throw for over 300 yards or completed more than 70% of his throws in a game, his conservative approach works.

A  few shots here, run the ball there and trust the defense. Boring? Sure. Conventional? Without question.

“He’s a great teammate and just keeps chipping away, and somehow, some way, we’ve won a lot of games when he’s in there,” Ferentz said of his quarterback.

One more shot

How players perform in big games often leaves an impact on their legacy. Since being named the starter in 2020, Petras has gone 3-3 against the B1G’s Big 4 (Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State). He’s 0-2 this season against the conference’s top 2 teams and has a touchdown pass against 2 interceptions in those games.

A win Saturday guarantees a spot in the B1G title game against the winner of ‘The Game’ that will be playing Saturday morning. Petras came to life in the 2nd half against the Wolverines, but a 20-point differential entering the 4th quarter is a near-impossible task against most B1G defenses, let alone a top 10 unit in the country.

Ohio State, Michigan, both. Petras doesn’t care. He wants his shot to prove the actions away from Iowa City won’t define him as a quarterback. As a player. As a Hawkeye.

Stats won’t push Petras’ resume to the front of the list for entry into the Iowa Hall of Fame. He’s 20-10 as a starter. His 5,190 passing yards, 24 touchdowns and 19 interceptions are nowhere near the top of the Hawkeyes’ statistic line. Neither is his 57% completion percentage or his 115.3 passer rating.

But Petras is part of Iowa’s story. He’s resilient, listening to the boos shower him after a woeful outing, and the cheers cocoon him after a monumental win. When fans turned their back on him, he earned back their respect.

Petras embodies the spirit of the Hawkeyes’ 2022 season. Down but not out, his fight, grit and determination have been a catalyst for a 2nd half turnaround in Iowa City. His leadership knows no bounds, but the army of black and gold uniforms that will follow him into battles grows stronger by the day.

Iowa’s offense has made it this far because of Petras’ growth. And it’s 1 win away from going a bit further.

“This has not been an easy year for anybody, and probably he’d be first on the list, I think, for that,” Ferentz said. “Really, it’s a credit to him just to keep pushing forward.”