‘A Hawkissaince:’ How Iowa Football Became a Big Ten West Title Contender

Iowa Football’s three-game winning streak may have a new name.

Following the Hawkeyes’ 24-3 win over Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette on November 5, two fans – @adam_jacobi and @kalama_pat – took to Twitter to describe Iowa’s midseason revitalization as “The Spennaissance” and “The Petrolution.” ” to call. ”

The Spennaissance is named for Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras, who has thrown for 506 yards and had five touchdowns in the past three weeks. He has committed a turnover since Oct. 29 — a fumble he lost in the first quarter of the Hawkeyes’ 24-10 win over the Wisconsin Badgers on Nov. 12.

Petras threw for 989 yards and two touchdowns in the Hawkeyes’ first seven games of 2022. He threw five interceptions and fumbled three times.

Petras was benched in favor of backup quarterback Alex Padilla at halftime of Iowa’s 10-54 loss to Ohio State in Columbus on Oct. 22. Since then, Petras has played all of Iowa’s snaps.

Iowa’s offense has scored 74 points and gained 920 yards in the past three games. The Hawkeyes had 83 points and 1,591 yards in Weeks 1-8.

“It’s more of a ‘Hawkissaince,'” Petras said of the late-season run in Iowa. “We’re playing good team football right now.”

Iowa’s offense wasn’t the only driver of this revival. The Hawkeyes rushed for 146 total yards and 17 offensive points against the Badgers, averaging 2.1 yards per game.

As they had throughout the season, Iowa’s defensive and special teams units helped lead the Hawkeyes’ struggling offense to a win over Wisconsin. Defenseman Cooper DeJean scored six points with a pick six and gained 82 yards on kick returns against Wisconsin. He also had 10 tackles as Iowa’s defense held Wisconsin for 227 yards — 51 rushing and 176 passing — and 10 points.

“It’s definitely a lot of fun to see our progress in November,” said junior defensive end Logan Lee. “It really just shows how much we are willing to fight, how much we are willing to improve every week. You can really see the progress. That’s why November means so much to us as a team.”

Iowa started the season 3-4. Since then, the Hawkeyes have recovered to bowl eligibility 6-4. The Hawkeyes lost three straight games from October 1 to October 22, falling to Michigan, Illinois and Ohio State. The Wolverines, Fighting Illini and Buckeyes all made the AP Top 25 this season.

The Hawkeyes didn’t make any major changes in practice during their three-game sled. Sophomore wide receiver Diante Vines — who returned against Ohio State after missing the first six games with a wrist injury — said Iowa’s newfound winning ways are the result of superior execution in games.

“I think everything’s kind of the same,” Vines said. “We’re getting the results we were missing earlier in the year. We’re playing much cleaner football right now. We are working at a much higher level than when we started.”

These Hawkeyes aren’t the first Kirk Ferentz-coached team to heat up at the end of the season. Iowa won 13 straight games in November, dating back to the 2019 season.

“One big thing is just being consistent,” said cornerback Riley Moss. “Week after week, one day at a time – that’s the biggest thing. With a lot of teams, you start to see how the [College Football Playoff] works and you look at what kind of bowl game you’re going to get.

“In reality, it helps a lot more to just take it day by day and week by week and just keep stacking those weeks. It will all play itself out. I just think it’s not about looking ahead, it’s about being able to compartmentalize what you have to do.”

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz smiles after a forced fumble during a football game between Iowa and Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, November 12, 2022. After recording the win, Iowa secured bowl eligibility. The Hawkeyes defeated the Badgers 24-10. (Jerod Ringwald)

Iowa is currently one of four teams tied for first place in the Big Ten West Division. Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa and Purdue all have identical 4-3 conference records. Wisconsin isn’t far behind at a 3-4 mark in league play.

Neither team controls its own destiny, but Illinois, Iowa and Purdue have the most direct routes to the Big Ten Championship Game.

The Fighting Illini can make it to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis with wins over Michigan and Northwestern on November 19 and 26, respectively, and a loss to Purdue.

If Iowa loses to Minnesota or Nebraska on Nov. 25 this weekend and Purdue beats Northwestern and Indiana in Weeks 12 and 13, the Boilermakers would appear in the league title game.

If Iowa wins its last two games and Illinois loses to either Michigan or Northwestern, the Hawkeyes will travel to Indianapolis.

“The messages from our head coach were consistent,” said Petras. “It’s usually always the same. It’s just that if this is supposed to happen, it will happen. And our focus is Minnesota because that’s all we can control at the moment.”

Ferentz said he encouraged his players to keep progressing this season. Even with his Hawkeyes up 3-4, Ferentz urged his team not to dwell on the past and focus on one game at a time.

I wanted the guys to understand one thing – it’s a 12-game plan,” Ferentz said. “…Again, it’s that simple. When you give up the fight, the outcome is more than predictable. So you have to at least give yourself a chance and give yourself a chance to see what you can do.

“And there’s not a lot you do in life that’s worth doing or feeling good about without suffering setbacks. It’s just the story of the world.”

While the Golden Gophers aren’t directly fighting for the division title, they aren’t completely eliminated. If both Illinois and Purdue lose one of their last two games, Minnesota could make it to Indianapolis with season-ending victories over Iowa and Wisconsin.

Iowa opened the week as a three-point underdog to Minnesota. The game total is set at 32.5, with high temperatures expected to only reach about 15 degrees at Huntington Stadium in Minneapolis.

To make it to Indianapolis, the Hawkeyes will likely need to keep The Spennaissance alive and extend their winning streak to five games, which Petras plans to do.

“Yes, it’s good,” said Petras. “That’s good. Let’s keep The Spennaissance going.”