Second-half safeties lead Iowa past South Dakota State 7-3

Bryon Houlgrave/The Register / USA TODAY NETWORK
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IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa’s defense came up with two second-half safeties, and the Hawkeyes opened the season with a 7-3 win over South Dakota State on Saturday.

Neither team could do much offensively. Iowa finished with 166 yards of offense, while South Dakota State had 120. The two teams combined for more punts (21) than first downs (16).

“Obviously a very unusual scoring line,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “You’ve got 3 (in the first quarter), 2 (in the third quarter), 2 in the fourth. I’ve never been around a game like that. But we’ll take it today.”

Iowa ranked seventh nationally with four defensive touchdowns last season, so the Hawkeyes are used to getting points from that side of the ball. And they needed them on a day when the offense struggled.

“The standard’s been set,” said linebacker Jack Campbell, who recorded one of the safeties and finished with 12 tackles.

The first safety came after Iowa’s Tory Taylor had his punt downed at the South Dakota State 1-yard line in the third quarter. One play later, Campbell grabbed running back Isaiah Davis after he took the handoff and brought him down one yard short of getting out of the end zone.

The second safety came in the fourth, when Iowa’s Joe Evans sacked quarterback Mark Gronowski in the end zone on a second-and-11 play.

“We’re trying to score as much as we can on the defensive side, however we can do it” said Iowa safety Quinn Schulte.

The Hawkeyes kept South Dakota State pinned in its own territory for most of the game. Ten of Taylor’s punts were downed inside the Jackrabbits’ 20-yard line, including one at the 2 and the one at the 1.

“Tory did a great job,” Ferentz said. “I don’t think if I’ve ever seen a punter so involved in a game either.”

Taylor averaged 47.9 yards per punt.

“Field position was really tough for us,” South Dakota State coach John Stiegelmeier said. “It’s tough to go out there and mentally think we’ve got to go 98 yards against this defense.”

Iowa took a 3-0 lead in the first quarter on Aaron Blom’s 46-yard field goal. The only points for South Dakota State came on Hunter Dustman’s 44-yard field goal with 20 seconds left before halftime.

Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras completed 11 of 25 passes for 109 yards. Leshon Williams had 72 rushing yards.

Gronowski was 10 of 26 passing for 87 yards. Davis had 18 carries for 50 yards.

INJURY REPORT

Iowa was without three offensive starters – wide receivers Keagan Johnson and Nico Ragaini, and running back Gavin Williams. All three missed time in preseason camp because of undisclosed injuries. Starting linebacker Jestin Jacobs left the game in the second quarter with an injury and did not return.

South Dakota State tight end Tucker Kraft, a second-team Associated Press FCS All-American last season, was injured after catching a pass in the first quarter and did not return.

THE TAKEAWAY

Iowa had one of the worst offenses in the nation last year despite a 10-win season, finishing 99th in scoring offense and 121st in total offense. Petras’ struggles led to plenty of boos from the sellout crowd at Kinnick Stadium, and with in-state rival Iowa State coming in next Saturday, there will be plenty of questions for Ferentz to answer. “I’ve still got a lot of confidence in him,” Ferentz said. “I think the noise on the outside is probably a lot louder than it is on the inside.”

South Dakota State, which fell to 2-10 all time against FBS teams, struggled to move the ball against Iowa’s defense, which was one of the best in the nation last season.

UP NEXT

South Dakota State: Hosts UC Davis next Saturday.

Iowa: Hosts Iowa State next Saturday.

LB coach Wallace now defendant in ex-Iowa players’ lawsuit

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DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa linebackers coach Seth Wallace has been added as a defendant in lawsuit filed against the university and coaches by former football players who allege they faced discrimination and harassment because they are Black.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette first reported the amended lawsuit filed this month in U.S. District Court in Des Moines. The filing includes additional accusations against coach Kirk Ferentz and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz.

The lawsuit originally was filed in November 2020. A trial is set for March 2023, with the players seeking monetary damages and cultural changes inside the athletic department. Former players Aaron Mends, Brandon Simon, Javon Foy, Akrum Wadley, Marcel Joly, Jonathan Parker and Darian Cooper are plaintiffs.

They allege they were demeaned with racial slurs, forced to abandon Black hairstyles, fashion and culture to fit the “Iowa Way” promoted by Kirk Ferentz, held to different standards than white players and retaliated against for speaking out.

The university agreed to pay strength coach Chris Doyle $1.1 million as part of a resignation agreement in June 2020, after dozens of former players said on social media that he had bullied and discriminated against them. Doyle has denied the allegations.

An investigation by an outside law firm later found that the program’s rules “perpetuated racial and culture biases and diminished the value of cultural diversity,” and allowed coaches to demean players without consequence. Kirk Ferentz made several changes in response that players have welcomed.

In the new filing, the former players allege Wallace harassed, bullied and belittled Black players because of their race, creating a racially hostile environment.

Parker also accuses Kirk Ferentz of retaliating against him after finding out Parker had complained to a university therapist about how he had “grown weary” from harassment he and other Black players faced. Ferentz acknowledged to Parker that the therapist had shared with him Parker’s concerns.

“The conversation affirmed for Jonathan that nothing in the program slipped past K. Ferentz, not even players’ `confidential’ therapy sessions,” the lawsuit said.

Parker also alleged Brian Ferentz used racist language during practice in 2013 while Kirk Ferentz was within earshot. The head coach told Parker he would not correct Brian Ferentz and that Parker should think about his future in the program. Parker transferred.

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.”