So that was... frustrating. It was one of the most interesting and peculiar seasons in recent memory for Iowa Hawkeye Football. This team won 10 games. Our thrilling victory against Penn State and number two ranking in the country caused us to become a little greedy. Before the season I pegged this team for 7-8 wins. This team for the most part played terrific defense and special teams. The offense for much of the year felt like it couldn’t fight its way out of a wet paper bag. At one point against Kentucky I felt like we needed two defensive scores to win the game. There were a number of positives that can be taken from the game. Unfortunately, the elephant in the room is our quarterback situation. On to the grades.
I went back and forth multiple times between a D- and an F. I settled on a D-. Maybe this was having two days to process the loss and I felt bad for our quarterback. Spencer Petras has always been a standup guy. Petras made a few excellent throws. He was 19-30 for 211 yards and a touchdown. That was the good. The bad was really, really bad. Petras threw three interceptions on the day. He also had one of the worst misses you will ever see. Iowa was trailing in the fourth quarter and Brian Ferentz had the running game rolling. (I honestly thought that Brian called a pretty good football game). That opened up our play-action pass game. Petras had a wide, wide, wide open Nico Ragaini and missed him by a quarter mile. It will be very interesting to see what happens with our quarterback room over the offseason. Alex Padilla didn’t see the field after Petras threw three picks. No one could blame him for looking elsewhere. The Hawks have Joey Labas on the roster and Carson May coming in. The Hawkeyes need to bring in a transfer to compete for the starting spot. Also, everyone knows that Kirk Ferentz values experience over almost all else. He is fiercely loyal. Bringing in a transfer at this position is about the most anti-Kirk thing ever. Hopefully coaches on his staff remind him that Brad Banks transferred in and he was a revelation to Iowa’s offense. We can’t expect different results next year if we do the same thing.
I somewhat facetiously remarked during the game where I questioned if Tyler Goodson was our 3rd best running back. I was kidding but I have commented all year that Gavin Williams
and Leshon Williams get north and south much more quickly than Goodson did. Goodson was a great Hawk, but I am very excited to see these two backs develop. Gavin rushed for 98 yards on 16 carries (6.1) Most importantly, he did not have any carries where he lost yards. Leshon carried the ball 10 times for 42 yards (4.2). Ivory Kelly-Martin carried the ball once for 12 yards.
The news that Keagan Johnson was not going to play was not great for this team. He has been one of our few threats on offense. The wideouts were uninspiring against the Wildcats. Much of that had to do with errant throws that weren’t directed towards Iowa’s tight ends. Arland Bruce IV should develop into a multi-dimension playmaker. Bruce IV ran the ball twice for 21 yards including this touchdown.
He also caught four passes on the day. Other than Bruce, there was not much.
Spencer Petras and Sam LaPorta need to let others in on the secret to what makes them click. LaPorta was a dude on the day. He caught seven passes for 122 yards and a touchdown.
Luke Lachey also had one catch for 15 yards. When Iowa football can run the ball and get tight ends involved, typically good things happen. LaPorta and Lachey have made nice strides this season.
Iowa’s offensive line appeared to make some strides from the Big Ten Championship game to the bowl game. Iowa did not allow a sack on the day. In addition to this, the Hawkeyes ran 30 times for 173 yards (5.8). There was some controversy on Iowa’s failed fourth down conversion when supposedly the ball was touched by a defensive lineman. That and the fact that Tyler Linderbaum was out with an injury resulted in Iowa not going for the 4th down and a foot play that would have iced the game. Sigh. It will be impossible to replace the Baumer, but Iowa’s young offensive line made significant strides as the season went along.
Iowa was able to get excellent pressure on Kentucky quarterback Will Levis. The Hawks sacked him six times. Zach VanValkenburg was a force collecting eight tackles, 2 sacks, and 2.5 TFL’s. The TFL that ZVV missed on might have won the games for the Hawks as VanValkenburg had Chris Rodriguez wrapped up at the eleven on the game-winning 6 yard touchdown run. Noah Shannon had five tackles and a sack. Lukas Van Ness collected four tackles and a sack. Logan Lee joined the sack parade with five tackles and a sack. Joe Evans collected Iowa’s final sack. Everyone except VanValkenburg returns for this group. Kelvin Bell done an excellent job with this group. Going into the season I thought this group would be a weakness for the Hawks.
Jack Campbell once again led Iowa in tackles with 14. This young man could be the next All-American for the Hawkeyes. Seth Benson had ten tackles and 1 QBH. Benson always does an excellent job of getting to the football. One overlooked area is that Benson always grabs or jumps on loose balls. Even if a play is decided he has the mentality that he is going to pick the ball up. There is no such thing as a little thing. Jestin Jacobs had four tackles on the day. I was surprised and happy that Kentucky didn’t run Chris Rodriguez more than they did. He rushed 20 times for 107 yards (5.3). This linebacker group could be one of the best units in the country next year.
Injuries took a toll on this group this season. Matt Hankins, Riley Moss, and Terry Roberts all missed significant time this year. The benefit of this is that it allowed Jermari Harris to see the field. He ran with that opportunity. Harris grabbed an interception in each of his last three games. Harris picked off Levis and also had two pass break ups. Jack Koerner missed a few tackles he normally makes; he more than likely was pretty banged up. Koerner will go on to play in The League. Kaevon Merriweather made a huge, legal hit on Wan’Dale Robinson but Robinson held onto the ball on the last drive. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to a kid. Robinson made two terrific plays on the final drive. Riley Moss did not have his typical game in what more than likely was his last game for the Hawkeyes. It will be exciting to see Cooper DeJean and Xavier Nwankpa
added to Coach Phil Parker’s toolbox.
Special Teams: A-
It was another good game for Iowa’s special teams unit. Tory Taylor punted 4 times for an average of 50 yards. Taylor’s goal should be to lead the nation in punting. He has that potential. Caleb Shudak capped off a fantastic season going 2 for 2 on extra points and he made his only field goal from 28 yards. It would have been nice for Shudak to get an opportunity to tie the game at the end. Charlie Jones had a quiet day. It would be a big recruiting win for Iowa to get Jones to come back for one more year.