5 takeaways from the Iowa Hawkeyes’ abysmal opener against South Dakota State

·7 min read

I honestly don’t even feel like writing about this game, or giving this team any attention right now. All credit to South Dakota State. They are not a pushover despite their FCS status and they played hard on defense. They were overmatched on offense, which was always going to be a likelihood with the talent on Iowa’s defense, but they surely were right there to stop Iowa’s offense.

Was that South Dakota State playing out of their minds, or Iowa just being a complete disaster? You can make your own judgement, but I know what my choice is.

I don’t care that they are a good FCS opponent, this Iowa team went into the season with aspirations of making it back to the Big Ten Championship game! That’s how you start out the season at home?! It was an embarrassment, it was a disgrace, and a disservice to every fan that sat through that mess in Kinnick Stadium Saturday. Ferentz and his staff need to figure it out, or this is going to be a long, long season.

That said off the top, let’s look at five of the biggest takeaways for the Hawkeyes versus South Dakota State.

So much for an improved Spencer Petras

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

All offseason there was talk about the improvements senior quarterback Spencer Petras made. “He cleaned up all the simple things! He is playing with more confidence this year!” Spencer Petras looked the worst he’s ever played against the Jackrabbits! I get it, the offensive line was not good (we’ll get to them next,) and Iowa was missing a very good amount of weapons. However, Spencer Petras looked incapable of doing anything against South Dakota State! Missed throws, missed reads, bad decisions, he checked off every box on the quarterback ineptitude checklist.

It said a lot that Kirk Ferentz decided to punt the ball on fourth-and-3 on the South Dakota State 37-yard line. That was early in the game, too! He threw a horrendous pick over the middle in the second quarter, something we’ve seen before. He nearly threw another one, forcing a pass into double coverage to fullback Monte Pottebaum.

Year three and it’s the same exact bad quarterback play from Spencer Petras. I don’t care that it’s week one and the team’s trying to gel, nor do I care that there were a lot of injuries.  Teams do not fear Spencer Petras to make any throws, and I don’t know how the Iowa coaching staff has any faith in him to do so. How long does this have to keep happening for a change to be made?

The offensive line still stinks

Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

Speaking of another unit that was supposed to be so improved this offseason, the offensive line played horrible. Whether it was immediately letting pressure hit Petras or their complete inability to create any holes for running back Leshon Williams, this was probably the worst game played by an Iowa offensive line in years. The interior got absolutely no push in the run game, despite all the talk about how much bigger the line was this year.

Right away in week one it was clear to see that center Logan Jones is definitely not Tyler Linderbaum. They might have a similar story of transitioning from defensive tackle to center, but there was a big drop off in talent inside. He looked like, well, a defensive tackle playing center. He cannot have another performance like this and expect to maintain his role as a starter.

This was an extremely discouraging performance from the offensive line. They looked bad against an opponent they should have dominated. Iowa could not run the ball, which meant they couldn’t do anything on offense with Ferentz’s archaic offense. If they got bullied against the Jackrabbits, what are they going to do against teams from the Big Ten?

Tory Taylor for Heisman

Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

How horrible is it that Iowa’s punter put the team in a better position to score points than the offense did? While the offense couldn’t sniff the Jackrabbits’ end zone, Tory Taylor constantly had South Dakota State pinned near it. Taylor had to punt 10 times. Ten times! That is absolutely ridiculous. Taylor pinned South Dakota State near their own goal line multiple times, setting up the game-winning safety. Seven of his punts landed inside the 20-yard line. Give Taylor the game ball.

At Least the defense looked as good as advertised

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into the game with high expectations, there was a lot of disappointment on Saturday. The improvement promised from the offense, the offensive line, and the quarterback play was not found at all. However, the defense was exactly what they were advertised as.

What a good team should do is dominate the teams they should dominate. No disrespect to South Dakota State, they are a formidable FCS contender, but they are still an FCS school. They shouldn’t be a problem for one of the best defenses in the country, and they were totally eliminated.

The Jackrabbits only managed 120 yards of total offense. The only points they scored, a field goal to end the first half, was off of Petras’ interception. They couldn’t run the ball or get anything going in the air.

It’s hard to single out just one performance, but linebacker Jack Campbell certainly lived up to his preseason hype. He caused the first of two safeties for the Iowa defense. He rushes to the ball carrier like a missile and uses all of his 6-foot-5, 246 pound frame to level rushers.

Noah Shannon also had a standout game on the defensive line. Safety Quinn Schulte had a fantastic debut at safety with four pass breakups.

At least one half of the team showed up to play today.

This season just got a lot scarier

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

They say not to overreact to the first game, but how can you not after that performance? No disrespect to the Jackrabbits, but it’s South Dakota State! They are an FCS team, you are a Big Ten contender. You should not be escaping by the skin of your teeth with a win from your own stadium against an FCS opponent, especially when you just made the Big Ten Championship last year. On offense, the Hawkeyes looked uninspired, they were overmatched, and they looked like they would barely be able to score against the UMass’ of the world.

This is supposed to be the easy part of the schedule! Besides maybe Nevada, it only gets harder from here. You have a massive rivalry game against Iowa State, and imagine the fan reaction if Iowa puts in another performance like that. Rutgers just beat Boston College, a reputable ACC opponent. They are not the gimme opponent anymore. Then, you really get to brass tacks with the Big Ten schedule.

If you can’t move the ball against South Dakota State, how can we expect you to do anything against Illinois, Minnesota, or Wisconsin? This isn’t even mentioning the massive matchups against Michigan and Ohio State.

You will not be playing an FCS offense every week. No matter how great the defense is, they cannot hold every team to three points. If this is who Iowa is, then we are in massive trouble this year. Things need to be figured out immediately and some changes need to be made. This better not happen in the fight for the Cy-Hawk Trophy next week.

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Story originally appeared on Hawkeyes Wire