A year ago, Hawkeyes quarterback Spencer Petras was asked to do too much in the home opener, throwing 50 times in a 1-point loss that Iowa once led 17-0. This year, given another early lead, Petras was unspectacular — and that’s just what the Hawkeyes wanted.

“I thought he did a good job protecting the football, and it starts there,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said.

Not exactly high praise that was top of mind on his starting quarterback, but when you compare it to last year’s first Kinnick start, it makes sense.

Against Northwestern in 2020, Petras completed 26 of those 50 passes for 216 yards, 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions. This time out, he was just 13-for-27 for 145 yards and had no touchdowns through the air.

Iowa had just 10 yards more than last year’s total of 293. And that’s enough.

A 34-6 win instead of a 21-20 loss helps, and the offense certainly wasn’t without its highlights.

Hawkeyes fans’ visions of Tyler Goodson running wild paid off on the fourth play, a 56-yard touchdown run down the right sideline.

“It makes it really fun, those big plays” Petras said. “The crowd’s into it and there’s not a better atmosphere in college football than Kinnick Stadium. So it was a ton of fun. If I had to bet, I’d say we blocked it really well up front. If you get Tyler Goodson to the second level, good plays are liable to happen. He’s an electric guy, a really great player.”

Goodson finished with 19 rushes for 99 yards and Petras had enough air time to find a favorite target, hitting tight end Sam LaPorta 5 times for 83 yards.

“We preached that all week — we need to start fast,” Petras said. “Those games usually end pretty well for us. You always want to come out firing like we did, and the beauty of it was it was all three phases. Starting with the opening kickoff, Charlie Jones with a 30-35-yard return, we score quickly and then a pick 6. You can’t write a better start than that, and I think we rode that momentum throughout the game. A great team win.”

Goodson agreed: “That gave us great momentum.”

Petras had his own highlight in the ground game — a 9-yard TD run that looked good until he took a hit at the goal line — and so did his All-America center Tyler Linderbaum.

“I knew as soon as I saw him walking that he’d be alright,” Petras said. “We liked that all the way. It was a really great call by [offensive coordinator] Brian [Ferentz].

Kirk Ferentz liked it, too.

“It’s one of those plays if you get the right coverage, then you have a chance to execute it,” Ferentz said. “Then you’ve got to execute it, too, and to his credit, he’s not renowned as being a runner, college football runner, a running quarterback, but he showed good poise. He didn’t rush it and let it develop and the guys did a good job blocking.”

During Iowa’s 7-game winning streak, Petras is 91-for-158 (59.5%) with 1,233 passing yards, 8 touchdown passes and 2 interceptions.

After that rough start last year, everything has been looking up — steadily.

“I think Spencer just has more confidence,” Ferentz said. “He’s played through the highs and lows and he will have more ahead. He has a tough job, and he plays a tough position. You see the growth and you can feel it. I think all of us have confidence in him.”