Spencer Petras Set to Become 11th 1st-Year Starting QB in Kirk Ferentz Era
For sophomore Spencer Petras, the probable pick to be Iowa’s starting quarterback, the job he’s entering is daunting. He’s set up to be a three-year starter, just the fourth under head coach Kirk Ferentz, and follows arguably one of the best to suit up in the past 20 years.
Since 2001 – 1999 and 2000 were two toss up years in the quarterback room – there have been 10 primary quarterbacks to put on the Black and Gold, each taking the torch from their predecessor in their own way.
Over the 10 seasons in which a new quarterback was at the helm, the playmakers averaged 194.4 completions on 331.8 attempts, good for a 58.8 percentage and 2429.8 yards. They threw an average 19.7 touchdowns to 8.6 interceptions, and four of those 10 seasons were for double-digit wins.
As the 2020 season draws closer, it’s worth taking a look at some of the best Iowa quarterbacks in their first season at the helm and what trajectory their career took in the years to follow.
2017 – Nate Stanley
Although Nate Stanley’s touchdown-to-interception ratio was the lowest of his career during his first year as a starter (6.5-to-1), his completion percentage and yards just went up as he led the Hawkeyes to a 10-3 record last season.
In 2017, he passed for only 2432 yards on a 55.8 completion percentage, and in two years’ time gained over 500 yards and almost four percentage points on his passing game.
2015 – C.J. Beathard
For a first-year starter following a season where the Hawkeyes went 7-6 (4-4 in the Big Ten) behind Jake Rudock, C.J. Beathard had arguably the best inaugural season out of anyone under Ferentz.
Leading a 12-0 team going into the Big Ten Championship and inevitably the Rose Bowl, Beathard had a 60.7 completion percentage on 303 attempts and 14 touchdowns to three interceptions.
It’s not a season to soon be forgotten, either, with his 85-yard touchdown pass to open the fourth quarter of the Big Ten Championship game vs. Michigan State highlighting an improbable run. He went 18-for-26 in the nail-biting loss to the Spartans, a completion rate of 69.2 percent good for 216 yards.
The Hawkeyes then lost to Stanford in the coveted Rose Bowl, and Beathard was onto his second and final season as the Hawkeye quarterback, one that saw significantly less sparks compared to his first.
Beathard threw 17 touchdowns throughout the 2016 regular season and beyond – mirroring that of his 2015 campaign – but also tossed 10 interceptions to the previous years’ five. His yards were down by almost 1,000, his completion percentage dropped from 61.6 percent to 56.5, and the Hawkeyes ended the season 8-5 with yet another bowl game loss.
2013 – Jake Rudock
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Both of Rudock’s seasons were fairly similar to each other, down to the records being within a one-game difference and both bowl games resulting in losses. The glaring difference comes in his touchdowns and interceptions. From 2013-14 he cut down his interceptions from 13 to five, and although he threw two less touchdowns in his second year of work, his eye downfield had improved.
2011 – James Vandenberg
After Stanzi threw for the first 3,000-yard season by a quarterback under Kirk Ferentz the prior season during his senior season, James Vandenberg one-upped him in his first season as the Hawkeyes’ starting quarterback.
Vandenberg completed 237-of-404 pass attempts (58.7 percent) and racked up 3022 yards for the most in a single season under Ferentz. Still competing with Stanzi’s 2010 campaign, he tied him with 25 touchdowns and threw one more interception (7).
2012 was the last season the Hawkeyes have finished with a losing record to date. Vandenberg, who had shined the year before, threw only seven touchdown passes to his eight interceptions, the only time a starting quarterback had more interceptions than passing touchdowns since Scott Mullen in 1999 (Iowa went 1-10 that year). He collected 2,249 passing yards with a 57.3 completion percentage.
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2008 – Ricky Stanzi
Stanzi, who went on to become an Iowa legend during later seasons, is the only quarterback under Ferentz to throw for less than 2,000 yards in his inaugural season.
In 2008 taking over for Jake Christensen, Stanzi completed 59.1 percent of 254 pass attempts good for 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His very next season, he led the team to an 11-2 record, and finished off his career with the first 3,000-plus-yard season under Ferentz.
2004 – Drew Tate
In 2004, Drew Tate entered as Iowa’s fourth starting quarterback in four years and changed the trajectory of the position. In his first of what would be a three-year stint at the head of the Hawkeye offense, Tate inherited a double-digit win team from the two years prior.
His 62.1 completion percentage was a stark contrast of Nathan Chandler’s 53.7 from 2003, and he threw for 2786 yards on 375 attempts. He leads the group of 10 quarterbacks with 14 interceptions in his first year to 20 touchdowns, but nevertheless went on to a 10-2 record, 7-1 in the Big Ten, and a bowl game win.
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The next year, he was better. He threw for 2828 yards on 352 attempts in 2005 and widened his touchdown-to-interceptions ratio after throwing 22 passes to the Hawkeyes and only seven to opponents. His 62.2 completion percentage trails only Kyle McCann (66.3, 2001) and Ricky Stanzi (64.1, 2010) since 2001.
In 2006, the middle ground between touchdowns and interceptions narrowed again, 18 to 13. On the same number of attempts as 2005, 353, he threw for a 58.8 percentage and 2623 yards. The Hawkeyes went 6-7, it’s worst record since going 3-9 in 2000, and lost their second straight bowl appearance.
One-year starters – Jake Christensen (2007), Nathan Chandler (2003), Brad Banks (2002), Kyle McCann (2001)
Out of the four starters that only led the team for one season, Brad Banks and Nathan Chandler led the team to double-digit wins. The highest completion percentage belonged to Kyle McCann at 66.3 percent, although he attempted only 252 passes and racked up just over 2,000 yards for the season.