Bohnenkamp: Hawkeyes Have Fun in Rout – Sports Illustrated

  • October 30, 2022

Iowa’s Kaleb Johnson (2) runs during a game against Northwestern on Oct. 29, 2022 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. (Rob Howe/
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Kirk Ferentz understands the significance of November in college football.
Well, November is here, and Iowa is 4-4 and suddenly feeling good about itself after Saturday’s 33-13 win over Northwestern at Kinnick Stadium.
“The biggest thing is we're moving into November,” Ferentz said. “And November is about playing your best football. That's what it's all about. So that has to be our goal.”
No, the Hawkeyes still aren’t playing their best football, and yes, it was the seventh consecutive loss of the season for Northwestern, so the final determination of what this win means will come in this final stretch of games.
But a win to snap a three-game losing streak, and putting up the most points of the season, is something Iowa can at least enjoy.
“It was a lot of fun out there today,” tight end Sam LaPorta said. “I was running off the field with a smile on my face after a lot of drives. Just felt like being a kid again, running around and playing backyard football.”
LaPorta was still smiling.
“Obviously more on the line than backyard football. But a lot of fun.”
The Hawkeyes needed fun. They were 0-for-October — the loss at home to Michigan, the loss on the road to Illinois, last week’s 54-10 rout at Ohio State — and with the crucible of the final month of the season looming, their path to a bowl game and all that goes with it seemed quite narrow.
“One thing that never changes in football — losing stinks, and winning is a really good feeling,” Ferentz said. “So our guys needed to experience that.”
The key to success, LaPorta said, was knowing that what’s done is done.
“Looking ahead instead of looking backwards, instead of ‘Hey, we could have done this better,’ or ‘I wish we would have done that’ … those are sorry words,” LaPorta said. “Those are excuses.”
“We didn’t put pixie dust on ourselves,” linebacker Jack Campbell said. “We have just been doing the same thing we do week in and week out.”
This was Iowa’s best offensive performance of the season — 33 points, 393 yards of total offense, 173 rushing yards. The Hawkeyes scored on all four of their first-half possessions, and the way the Wildcats were stymied by Iowa’s defense, the halftime lead seemed larger than 20-0.
In fact, quarterback Spencer Petras said, it probably should have been larger. The Hawkeyes got inside the Northwestern 20-yard line on every drive in the half, and only got two touchdowns and two field goals.
The noise outside the Hawkeyes’ football building seemed crushing in its volume after last week’s loss to the Buckeyes. Change was demanded, but instead of earth-shaking moves, the Hawkeyes just made some tweaks here and there.
The new offensive line, which featured Connor Colby moving to left guard and Jack Plumb starting at right tackle, seemed to work. Petras was only sacked once, and finished the day 21-of-30 passing for 220 yards.
Ferentz has been insisting there was no scientific formula to cure Iowa’s offensive woes, but he knew the main ingredient had to be strong line play.
“No question, this was our best offensive performance,” Ferentz said. “When you can play balanced, it starts up front. We certainly blocked better today, more productively that way, both run and pass. It gave Spencer some protection where he could set his feet a little bit and work through his progression. So, a lot of good things there. And then if we can run and pass, we're a better football team doing that as well. It was good to see that. We've done some good things along the way, but this was by far the best collective effort we've had.”
“They kept me pretty clean,” Petras said.
Petras’ role as starter was one of the things not tweaked. There was a decision to be made this week — Petras and Alex Padilla were listed with an “OR” on the depth chart — but Ferentz stuck with the guy who has been his starter for three seasons.
Petras completed passes to eight different receivers, the steadiest he’s looked this season.
“We went through the week and made that evaluation,” Ferentz said of the decision to keep Petras as a starter. “We went through Wednesday and felt like he was the best option. It's not a knock on Alex. As I've been saying, it's probably more about the support that either guy has had. And last week was no different. It's hard to play quarterback if you don't get help from everybody.
“And I'm not trying to kick the can down the road a little bit. Not that they were perfect. But it really works better if you get a little bit more help.”
“You can’t get down for too long,” Petras said. “You have to keep working and push it through. We pushed it through. That doesn’t mean anything for next week, but today we played well enough to win and put some points on the board.”
There is going to be nothing easy in November. It’s a road trip to Purdue, a home game with Wisconsin, a road trip to Minnesota, a home game against Nebraska — all Big Ten West teams with flaws, all teams that can beat you if you haven’t corrected your issues.
“We played great in all three phases and played complementary football,” Campbell said. “So when we can do that, we are going to get outcomes like we got today.”
“I'm sure it's this way in any sport — as a coach, you just never know, you never know how every day is going,” Ferentz said. “You know what you see, but you really don't know. And I think the response today by our guys says a lot about them.”
November is here. How the Hawkeyes finish is still unknown.
For now…
“When you win, you feel better,” Ferentz said. “Things just feel better in general. And when you lose, there's no way to (feel better). And I guess if you get numb to it, then you might as well get used to losing because that's what's going to happen.”