It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Iowa in Big Ten play, as the Hawkeyes entered their bye week at just 1-2 in the league and 3-3 overall. With the Hawkeyes on their bye week this week and a highly probable loss to Ohio State coming up on Oct. 22, now seems like the time to ask: what’s the reason for Iowa’s poor offensive showing?
Depending on whom you ask in Iowa City, there are two likely culprits. Quarterback Spencer Petras has certainly taken his fair share of criticism for his poor play, but offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz has received the lion’s share of the vitriol.
And it’s for good reason, as the Hawkeyes rank dead last in yards per game in FBS and just got held to six points against Illinois.
The Illini boast a solid defense, but the fact remains that the under has cashed in every Iowa game but Rutgers — and Iowa scored two defensive touchdowns in that matchup.
So what’s the problem? Here’s why Brian Ferentz deserves most of the blame for Iowa’s struggles.
If you want to call it a state of the offense address, Iowa OC Brian Ferentz vowed little change on offense going forward … but took a swipe at his backup QB in the process. https://t.co/4ohrvFdcRW
— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) October 13, 2022
These Struggles Aren’t a New Thing
Struggling to this magnitude might be a new low for the Hawkeyes. Yet, Iowa has never had a good offense since the younger Ferentz joined his father’s staff in 2017 as offensive coordinator.
Since taking over the offense, Ferentz has done nothing but waste NFL talent. The Hawkeyes had the likes of C.J. Beathard and Nate Stanley at quarterback.
Both showed enough to entice the San Francisco 49ers and Minnesota Vikings respectively to take a chance on them.
They had elite tight ends because Iowa always has elite tight ends, and Ferentz had shown his penchant for coaching offensive linemen.
And yet it never worked. Iowa’s offense wasn’t the horror show of 2021 or 2022, but it still wasn’t good.
The best Iowa ever did was 88th in the nation during the COVID year, and the best non-COVID season had them rank 92nd. Other than 2020, Iowa has never managed to finish in the top half of offenses in the Big Ten under Brian Ferentz.
Ferentz Has Ruined Spencer Petras
After Beathard went to the NFL, Spencer Petras was supposed to be the next top Iowa quarterback. He came with the right background, as he threw for more than 4,000 yards and 50 touchdown passes in his senior season at Marin Catholic in California’s Bay Area.
It took him three years as Iowa’s starter to match the yardage numbers, and he doesn’t even have half as many touchdowns passes as a Hawkeye as he did at Marin.
Meanwhile, Oregon State, the school Petras de-committed from to come to Iowa, puts up decent offensive numbers week after week.
Some quarterbacks are great high school players but can’t make the jump to the next level, but Petras has never really gotten high-level coaching as a college quarterback.
Ferentz’s conservative, predictable offense routinely follows up an incomplete pass on first down with a run on second down, which leads to third-and-long for the Hawks.
Petras has only gotten worse as the starter, and part of that is because his quarterback coach for the past season has been the same man as his offensive coordinator: Brian Ferentz.
“It sucks putting up 6 points” Spencer Petras says after the game. Calls the issues offensively ‘self-inflicted’ pic.twitter.com/2mlLuywAqa
— Blake Hornstein (@BlakeHornTV) October 9, 2022
Ferentz Refuses to Make Changes
I don’t blame Ferentz for his defiance to step down as offensive coordinator. If he believes he’s the right man for the job and can turn around Iowa’s offense, he should keep doing so until Iowa decides to fire him. But when you refuse to do anything different when Plan A hasn’t worked, that deserves harsh and fair criticism.
Change for change’s sake isn’t a solution. Mike Leach never does anything different at Mississippi State because he doesn’t have to do anything different. Leach has not had a good-to-great offense at Texas Tech, Washington State, or Mississippi State, so for him, refusing to change makes total sense.
But Ferentz’s situation is completely different. He refuses to deviate from his conservative play-calling scheme. It’s one thing if Illinois’ coaches are able to pick up a few things in Iowa’s offense. Coaches are paid to think about football all the time.
Sportswriters are not, but the Cedar Rapids Gazette still figured out exactly what Ferentz was doing. If a columnist in the press box can figure it out, so can opposing Big Ten coaches.
Ferentz also won’t go to Alex Padilla while Petras posts ghastly offensive numbers. If Padilla can’t better what Petras is doing, he shouldn’t be on a Big Ten roster. There isn’t a Big Ten team that would swap quarterbacks with Iowa, yet Ferentz won’t switch from Petras. That is an indictment on Ferentz’s coaching and Iowa’s quarterback room.
— Keith Murphy (@MurphyKeith) October 12, 2022
What’s the Solution?
There are some good things about this Hawkeye team. Phil Parker coaches a championship defense, LeVar Woods does great work on special teams.
Kirk Ferentz remains a whiz in two of the game’s three phases. Still, having his son handle the offense just isn’t working and has never once worked in six years.
Enough is enough. Iowa needs a new solution before Marco Lainez gets to Iowa City so the Hawkeyes don’t ruin another solid quarterback.
If Brian Ferentz won’t make changes to his play-calling or his personnel, Kirk Ferentz needs to make one by telling his son that his services are no longer required at Kinnick Stadium.
— M̴O̴D̴E̴R̴N̴-̴D̴A̴Y̴-̴N̴O̴M̴A̴D̴ (@Wizzle023) October 9, 2022
Credits on Featured Image: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, IA/Alan Light