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Matchup to watch: Kirk Ferentz vs. Reality

Kirk Ferentz continues to run out a football team without an offense. How long can this go on?

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Vrbo Citrus Bowl - Iowa v Kentucky Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

I thought it’d take at least a couple of weeks before I wrote some drivel about a matchup which really isn’t a matchup. But man, after a game where Iowa looked UTTERLY driftless on offense. I have to bust out a five-year-old trope.

(But if anyone wants a real matchup, it’s Will McDonald IV vs. Connor Colby(?). If Iowa State’s career sack leader works whomever Iowa puts at right tackle, it probably renders the below words moot. Iowa could probably put Josh Allen under center and he’d struggle behind the line.)

NCAA Football: Iowa State at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Back to Kirk Ferentz: Iowa’s offense was helpless in 2021. He went out and told his buddy Ken O’Keefe to mow grass and promoted Brian to QB coach. They added Jon Budmayr as an analyst who is catching strays weeks after high praise even though he’s not allowed to advise players on the field.

The best case going into Saturday’s game: Iowa looks like a team trying to put things together on the margins but doesn’t struggle overall against a stiff FCS squad. It serves as a solid jumping off point for things align throughout the season and Iowa progresses modestly in the national rankings offensively. Maybe a cool 80th (which would be the best under Brian Ferentz).

Worst case: Saturday.

Every time I find a stat about that game or Spencer Petras’ play, I’m increasingly perplexed. Earlier this week I wrote how 2009 is a comparison which falls flat considering Ricky Stanzi and how the offense, writ large, performed against UNI lapped Saturday’s output. Here are a couple others I found so you don’t have to seek them out!

Petras’ #1 game in passing yardage was the first game of his career: 265 yards against Purdue. Petras’ three worst games in completion percentage have come across the past four. Iowa has made public a 60% completion percentage goal (a goal which would rank 79th of 105 qualified passers in 2021)... he’s hit it just once in the last six games and a shade over 33% of games he’s had 10+ throws.

There are more.

If this seems overly harsh. Maybe it is. Spencer Petras is a great kid who constantly faces the music. Everyone in the black & gold has his back. But the stats are the stats. Kirk can wax poetic how Petras performs in practice and lean on the fact that Iowa is a blistering 6-1 in their last seven one-possession games.

But those are beliefs detached from reality. Iowa is playing football in an unsustainable fashion by totally shirking the only phase of the game which is supposed to score points. I say that because, yeah, there’s a stat for that, too:

The last time Kirk Ferentz faced quarterback discourse like what is currently going on, the incumbent (Jake Rudock) was a 61.7% passer and adequate runner of the football. Still, handing over the reigns to CJ Beathard was like pulling teeth and didn’t really occur until the season resulted in a bare trophy case and 7-6 record. Petras, unfortunately, possesses neither of those traits but he has been behind center in many games Iowa has won.

There is no guarantee that a quarterback change is the salve to the wounds currently facing the Iowa offense. Yet the season already feels helpless in spite of the hype (sellouts) entering the season. We all see an offense which hasn’t progressed one iota because it looks even more defendable than last season.

So Petras will get his shot to show he can make passes that are there for the taking, as Brian alluded yesterday afternoon. But if we continue to see performances like Saturdays (and many Saturdays before that), the likelihood of Iowa having a successful season only decreases.

Perhaps Kirk escapes it with another high-wire act of one-possession games but eventually, reality is going to catch up to him.