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COLLEGE FOOTBALL | IOWA

Petras, Hawkeyes ready to go

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Iowa's quarterback Spencer Petras (7) hands the ball off to Iowa's running back Tyler Goodson (15) against Penn State during their game at Kinnick Stadium in 2021. The Hawkeyes open the 2022 season Saturday at home against South Dakota State. 

IOWA CITY – Spencer Petras is like a lot of his teammates on the Iowa football team.

He’s ready to go.

“I’m excited to get back out there and compete with our guys,’’ Petras said Tuesday. “It’s been a long road to get here, for this team, and they’ve been working really hard. It’s time go out there and compete.’’

The senior will make the 20th start of his career at quarterback in the Hawkeyes’ 11 a.m. season opener Saturday against South Dakota State, something coach Kirk Ferentz said is “set in stone.’’

Ferentz said during his first weekly news conference that Petras earned that start with his performance during the offseason as he competed with returning back-up Alex Padilla for the starting role on this Iowa team.

“It’s a long evaluation, and we evaluate everything, starting in January,’’ Ferentz said. “… Spencer and Alex are both quality guys, but just the time on the field, I think Spencer has outperformed Alex a little bit at this point.’’

Ferentz said Petras earned the opportunity to become a three-year starter because of continued growth since the end of a 10-4 season in 2021 that proved to be a struggle for the Hawkeyes offensively.

“He’s further ahead and gives us a better chance to be successful and that’s not to diminish what Alex has done. Both have improved,’’ Ferentz said.

“The thing now is can we put this whole thing together and be a little more productive offensively. Both guys have done a good job. Spencer has continued to climb.’’

Petras expects that growth to continue.

“We’re working hard. We’re going to be better in November than we are this first game, that’s how it works,’’ Petras said “But, from what I’ve seen out of these guys from spring ball, camp, I’ve seen improvement every day, every week.’’

There is plenty of room for growth.

Iowa finished no higher than eighth in the Big Ten in any major offensive statistical category a year ago, filling that spot in passing while ranking 109th nationally with its average of 180.1 yards per game through the air.

The Hawkeyes finished 10th in the Big Ten in scoring offense, 11th in rushing offense and 13th in total offense in 2021.

Those are numbers that hit home for Petras.

He said he wants to run an offense that wins a Big Ten title because of its offensive work, not in spite of it.

Based on what he has seen in fall camp, despite injuries that have thinned Iowa’s depth at receiver and on the offensive line, Petras believes that things are headed in the right direction.

“In think in the pass game, we’ve been a lot more efficient this camp than we were last year. That’s all skill positions doing their job, starting with the quarterback,’’ Petras said.

“In the run game, I’ve been really happy with our offensive line, they’ve continued to improve and our backs, they’ve been running really hard. There will be times when somebody up front gets beat and the backs’ abilities to keep us out of negative yardage will be important, I’ve seen that ability in camp.’’

Ferentz said injuries have prevented impacted things a bit during camp.

He said about 10 days ago, the Hawkeyes had several offensive linemen dealing with issues.

Iowa will take the field Saturday with only two wide receivers who have ever caught a pass in a college game, Arland Bruce IV and Keagan Johnson, and while listed as a probable starter Johnson’s availability is listed as “touch and go’’ because of injuries he has dealt with in camp.

Bruce said the two receivers listed on the second team on the depth chart, walk-ons Alec Wick and Jack Johnson, are ready to play and Ferentz said redshirt freshman Brody Brecht and true freshman Jacob Bostick will be available as well.

Ferentz believes the Hawkeyes’ offense is ahead of where it was a year ago when it kicked off the season with a win over Indiana.

“If collectively we can get 11 guys out there that we want on Saturday, that’ll be good first of all, and then I feel like we’re further along,’’ Ferentz said. “… It’s a work in progress. It always is. But I just think we’re further along right now than we were a year ago.’’

Two seasons of experience and a 13-6 record as a starter under center position Petras to understand something else as well.

“The real test, it comes Saturday,’’ he said. “It’s time to play.’’

IOWA ITEMS

Injury issues: In addition to being without senior receiver Nico Ragaini “for at least a couple of weeks’’ because of an undisclosed medical situation, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said the Hawkeyes are dealing with several other injury issues as the season opens.

He announced Tuesday that David Davidkov, listed as a second-team offensive tackle on the preseason depth chart, will join offensive guard Justin Britt and receiver Jackson Ritter in missing the upcoming season with injuries.

Starting receiver Keegan Johnson’s availability for Saturday’s opener will also be “touch and go,’’ Ferentz said, as the sophomore works back from a camp injury.

Ongoing competition: Starting positions at several spots remain undetermined for Iowa.

Kickers Aaron Blom and Drew Stevens continue to compete for starting assignments, something Ferentz said “may play out for a week or two or a couple of weeks,’’ adding that both have shown growth since spring.

Iowa’s return game remains unsettled as well. Cooper DeJean, Arland Bruce and Riley Moss have emerged as the top three to replace Charlie Jones as Iowa’s punt and kick returners. Alec Wick is also getting a look as a punt returner and Gavin Williams and Leshon Williams are in the mix as kick returners.

Fresh faces: A number of true freshmen could see action in Saturday’s game.

Ferentz mentioned defensive lineman Aaron Graves, defensive backs Xavier Nwankpa and T.J. Hall and running backs Kaleb Johnson and Jaziun Patterson as first-year players who figure into Iowa’s plans.

Flip a coin: Iowa will continue to choose weekly captains.

Jack Campbell, Sam LaPorta, Kaevon Merriweather and Riley Moss will be the captains for the Hawkeyes’ season opener.

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