It is no surprise that Spencer Petras’ first two touchdown completions as Iowa’s starting quarterback have gone to senior wide receiver Brandon Smith.
It’s not a surprise because in both situations — a 7-yard touchdown reception against Northwestern and 14-yard touchdown completion against Michigan State — Smith had one-on-one coverage.
That, he said on Tuesday, is a coverage that he will win.
Asked if anyone can defend him in single coverage, Smith said, “Honestly, no. I’ve been out there, it’s my fourth year out here, I’m honestly confident enough to say I’m a dangerous receiver, and in one-on-one matchups more times than not I’m going to come down with the ball.”
Petras has just three games as a starter, but he’s seen enough of Smith during his career with the Hawkeyes that he knows.
“You’ve seen it throughout Brandon’s career here,” Petras said. “He’s an outstanding player. Really good when the ball’s in the air. A 50-50 ball, I have confidence in him to come down and make a play. He proves himself week in and week out, in practice and on the game field.”
Petras has had a bumpy transition to the starting job this season, but it helps to have a talented and experienced group of receivers. Thirty-four of Petras’ 64 completions this season have gone to wide receivers Nico Ragaini (10), Smith (9), Tyrone Tracy (8) and Ihmir Smith-Marsette (7).
“It just took (Petras) a little while in the first two games to get into a rhythm,” Smith said.
Smith is back in his rhythm after a leg injury cost him much of the 2019 season. He missed four full games and played just one play in another after being hurt in the game against Purdue on a day in which he had career highs with nine catches for 106 yards.
“Just letting people know I haven’t missed a step,” Smith said. “I feel like I’ve come back faster and stronger, and able to make the plays I made last year.”
Smith has had 77 catches for 903 yards in his four seasons with the Hawkeyes after being recruited out of Lake Cormorant, Miss.
“He was an extremely raw prospect, in my opinion, when we recruited him, which is probably part of the reason he left Mississippi to come here,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “And so he was a guy that we thought had great potential. He’s a great young man, (comes from a) great family, and an athletic family. But, they’re good people. He’s a great young guy. And we thought he had a chance to really grow into a Big Ten, outstanding Big Ten player, and I think that’s what he’s done really. The biggest impediment in his career so far was that injury last year that set him back for a couple weeks, a couple games.
“With each phase of his career, each month of his career, he’s been showing improvement and we’re excited for the fact that he’s with us here for the next six games. We’re going to enjoy him while he’s here and just look forward to him continuing to play really good football for us and hopefully leading us to some good things.”
Petras knows what he has in Smith. Now, Smith said, it’s a matter of “trusting the mismatches.”
He went back to those two touchdowns.
“We both realized the type of play it was, how it was just me and the DB,” Smith said. “When we’re in that situation, we kind of click, we know this might be a big play because we’re going to take advantage of that matchup.”