The Spencer Petras-Brian Ferentz charade cannot continue for Iowa
When watching an Iowa football game, Rodney Dangerfield is the first person who comes to mind.
Specifically, the following line from Caddyshack:
Unfortunately for Hawkeyes fans, Kirk Ferentz does not have the constitution for eating his young. Or merely demoting his young. But he is absolutely squandering what should be the golden age of Iowa football by continuing to employ his impossibly overmatched son Brian as the Hawks’ offensive coordinator.
A week after seemingly hitting rock bottom in a 7-3 win over FCS South Dakota State in which the offense didn’t score, Ferentz the Younger’s crew dug a little deeper and embarrassed themselves even more in a 10-7 loss to rival Iowa State.
After scoring the season’s first touchdown on the second play of the game — the offense took advantage of a 16-yard field created by a Lukas Van Ness blocked punt — Iowa never again crossed the goal line. The Hawkeyes finished with 150 yards of total offense.
That means Brian Ferentz’s offensive system is averaging 158 yards and 3.5 points per game. And even that number is deceiving, because the 6 points it scored came on a drive that started inside the red zone.
In a sport where UConn is 1 of the teams, there still might not be a worse individual unit in college football than Iowa’s offense. And the shame of it is that it’s wasting top-10 defensive and special teams units.
LeVar Woods’ special teams blocked not 1 but 2 punts against the Cyclones. Phil Parker’s defense forced not 1 but 2 Cyclone turnovers at the goal line. There’s probably no other team in the country capable of doing both of those things in the same game.
And there’s definitely no other team in the country capable of doing both of those things and still losing.
Spencer Petras: America’s most overmatched QB
Spencer Petras could only start at Iowa, because only at Iowa would the offensive situation be dire enough for him to be considered the best available option.
But could that really, truly be the case?
Last October, Petras and the Hawkeyes upset No. 5 Penn State to vault all the way to No. 2 in the country. In the 8 games he’s played in since, Petras has 1 touchdown and 9 interceptions.
No need to check for typos. Those numbers are real.
Other real stats: Through 2 games, Petras is averaging 100.5 yards per game and 3.9 yards per attempt while completing 49% of his passes.
Three. Point. Nine. Yards. Per. Attempt.
Since 2000, only 3 teams have averaged fewer than 4.5 yards per attempt — 2018 Central Michigan, 2008 Army and 2009 New Mexico State.
Petras and the Hawkeyes are on pace to make the worst kind of history. In one way, they already have, becoming the first team since McNeese State in 1979 to both score and allow fewer than 10 points in the first 2 games of the season.
But Kirk Ferentz is doing everything he can to avoid throwing his quarterback under the bus.
Kirk Ferentz on Spencer Petras: He isn’t getting enough help right now to do a fair assessment.
— David Eickholt (@DavidEickholt) September 11, 2022
The support may say more about Ferentz’s character in defending his guys than football reality. But as poorly as Petras has played, Ferentz the Elder raises a good point.
Petras has gotten no help. And it starts up front.
Offensive line is the traditional cornerstone of Iowa football, yet it appears that the Hawkeyes don’t have much of one to speak of right now. Iowa is averaging just 1.9 yards per carry, making the passing offense downright explosive in comparison.
But the line is far from Iowa’s only issue.
The receiverless offense
An Iowa wide receiver did not make a catch against the Cyclones until just under 7 minutes remained in the third quarter. It represented half of the balls caught by Hawkeyes receivers on Saturday.
Again, no statistic you’ve read thus far is fictitious.
The biggest issue facing Petras is that he’s attempting to run Iowa’s already limited offense without the benefit of either of his top receivers. Keagan Johnson and Nico Ragaini are easily his best weapons behind tight end Sam LaPorta, and they’ve missed Iowa’s first 2 games with injuries.
But you can point a finger at Brian Ferentz as to why the Hawks don’t have sufficient depth to make up for their absences. Lured by the promise of modern offense, receivers Charlie Jones and Tyrone Tracy both transferred from Iowa to Purdue in the offseason.
After 2 games as a Boilermaker, Jones has 21 receptions for 286 yards and 4 touchdowns. That gives him 209 more yards and 4 more touchdowns than any Hawkeye target. And it’s a perfect explanation for why Jones left Iowa City in the first place.
Why continue to bang your head against the wall in hopes the Brian Ferentz-Spencer Petras combo is going to provide you a path to an NFL career? It won’t.
And receivers around the country are going to keep that in mind when Iowa is attempting to recruit them.
All fingers point to Brian Ferentz
Off all the solutions Kirk Ferentz could have found to improve the nation’s No. 109 passing offense from a year ago, he went with “make Brian offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.”
Improbably, Petras has regressed. So what’s to say the same wouldn’t be true of backup Alex Padilla? Or redshirt freshman Joey Labas?
In the middle of the season, a quarterback change is the only possible solution for the Hawkeyes. But it seems unlikely to be a fruitful change.
The Iowa brand is turning toxic for offensive recruits. And nothing short of a change in play-caller is going to change that.