Iowa QB Spencer Petras fighting for job after offense underperforms

Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen/USA TODAY NETWORK
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — When a team is coming off a season in which it had one of the worst offenses in the nation, all options are open to fix it. For Iowa, that means opening the competition at quarterback.

The battle this spring is between veteran starter Spencer Petras and Alex Padilla.

Petras, who missed three games because of injury last season, has started 19 of the last 20 in which he’s appeared. Alex Padilla started three times last season.

“I think the good news is that we feel they’re both capable of playing really good football for us,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “And our goal is to try to get them to play a little bit better and everybody around them helping a little bit more. I think, really, that’s the story of our offense right now.”

The Hawkeyes, who were 10-4 and won the Big Ten West last season, were 121st out of 130 Bowl Subdivision teams in total offense, 101st in rushing and 109th in passing.

The struggles put focus on the quarterback position, and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz has been overseeing the competition.

“I’m focused on myself,” Petras said. “I’m focused on improving on the things that he wants me to, whether that be completion percentage, things like that. Any energy spent on anything else is a waste.”

Petras threw for 1,880 yards with 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions, completing 57.3% of his passes. Padilla threw for 636 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions, and completed 49.1%.

“I think the biggest thing, looking back, is that I’m too smart of a player to not take advantage of coverage better than I did,” Petras said. “For me, with how fast I can identify coverage, or how fast I can get the ball out of my hands, if I’m getting soft coverage where there are opportunities underneath, I need to take that more. I know how to attack coverage, so my completion percentage should be higher.”

Brian Ferentz, Kirk’s son, added quarterbacks coach to his duties in the offseason after Ken O'Keefe stepped away from his on-field role and former Wisconsin quarterbacks coach Jon Budmayr was added as an offensive analyst. The younger Ferentz took over as offensive coordinator in 2017, with O’Keefe working as the quarterbacks coach.

“Over the last five years, I can’t overstate how much I learned from Ken,” Brian Ferentz said, “and how much I appreciate that.”

“When Coach O’Keefe told us the move he wanted to make, my first thoughts were I wanted Brian to take over the quarterbacks, and so I’m really happy that’s what happened,” Petras said. “If there’s two people in the building who need to be on the same page, it’s the offensive coordinator and the quarterback. I think any time there’s a degree of separation there, there’s challenges that can be presented.”

Kirk Ferentz said the move made sense.

“The guy calling the plays is coaching the quarterback directly,” the head coach said. “Personally, I think if he can get that situation, it’s better. And Brian is more than capable of doing that job. And he knows our offense better than anybody, quite frankly.”

There are other questions on the offense.

Iowa must replace All-America center Tyler Linderbaum and guard Kyler Schott. Running back Tyler Goodson, who rushed for 1,151 yards last season, left for the NFL draft and will be replaced by a tandem of Gavin Williams and Leshon Williams.

The quarterback competition is something that will go on for a while. The Hawkeyes open against South Dakota State at home on Sept. 3.

“Everybody’s competing right now,” Kirk Ferentz said. “And on one hand, (Petras has) got an edge or things he does better than Alex. But I can flip it around saying there’s things that Alex can do a bit better, too. We’ll ride it out, see where it all goes. But we’ll get it figured out. And the good news is both guys are totally capable.”

Minnesota football players’ discrimination lawsuit dismissed

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by nine former University of Minnesota football players who were accused of sexual assault in 2016 in a case that roiled the school’s football program.

The lawsuit against the school claimed that the players faced emotional distress and financial damage after being falsely accused of being sex offenders. The players, who were identified in the lawsuit as John Does, sought unspecified damages for willful and malicious discrimination.

A woman alleged up to a dozen football players raped her or watched and cheered at an off-campus party in 2016. None of the players were ever charged.

The university found that 10 football players committed sexual misconduct. Five of them were expelled or suspended for violating student conduct codes, and the others were cleared on appeal.

In their lawsuit, the players alleged that the woman initiated the sexual encounters with players and an underage recruit.

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank dismissed the lawsuit last week, saying the former players did not prove any of their claims, including allegations of bias by university investigators or pressure from Athletic Director Mark Coyle and former President Eric Kaler, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

David Madgett, an attorney for the players, said Tuesday that they are considering an appeal but have to determine if it makes sense financially and in terms of letting the former players get on with their lives. He said it was disappointing that the outcome was determined by the judge’s version of events and not decided by a jury.

“It’s disappointing to see disputes decided in this way,” Madgett said. “That’s the way things are decided more and more these days. … It’s disappointing you don’t get your day in court.”

When the allegations became public in 2016, players threatened to boycott the team’s trip to the Holiday Bowl. But after a graphic report of the investigation was released, the players agreed to play in the game.

University of Minnesota spokesman Jake Ricker said the school appreciated the judge’s decision affirming the actions taken in the case. He said the university would continue its work focusing on sexual misconduct awareness, prevention and response.

Frank dismissed the lawsuit in 2019, but an appeals court reinstated part of it in 2021 and returned it to Frank.

The players, all of whom are Black, also initially claimed racial discrimination, but that claim was previously dismissed.

The only remaining claim alleged Title IX gender discrimination. The former players noted that they never faced criminal charges, but Frank’s ruling said that “is certainly not evidence of a judicial adjudication or that plaintiffs ‘were proven innocent.'”

The men also claimed that an investigator for the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action used “manipulative tactics” with them in interviews and that their accuser helped draft the report. The players also alleged that “prior failed investigations motivated” the the school to punish them.

Frank said all the claims were unsupported by the evidence and “no reasonable jury could find that the University disciplined plaintiffs on the basis of sex.”

Michigan State player who swung helmet gets probation

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A Michigan State football player who swung his helmet at a Michigan player in a stadium tunnel expressed regret Tuesday and said he’s “just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue” on the field.

Khary Crump, a defensive back, was sentenced to probation. He was one of seven Michigan State players charged in a skirmish that followed a loss at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 29.

Crump was the only Spartan facing a felony, but that charge was dismissed in an agreement to plead guilty to misdemeanors. His record will be scrubbed clean if he stays out of trouble while on probation.

“Unfortunately, an exchange of words (took place), I felt attacked and unfortunately I did what I did,” Crump said of the tunnel altercation involving Michigan’s Gemon Green. “I’m not proud of that. I’m looking forward to moving forward.”

Crump was suspended by coach Mel Tucker. In addition, the Big Ten has suspended him for eight games in 2023.

“I had difficulties trying to stomach my actions … on that fateful day, but it happened. I can’t take it back,” Crump told MLive.com after the court hearing. “Honestly, I’m just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue in the future — on the football field, of course.”

At least four other players charged with misdemeanors Will Likely have their cases dismissed in exchange for community service and other conditions. The cases against two others are pending.