IOWA CITY, Iowa – Alex Padilla got his first opportunity to play meaningful snaps for Iowa and did enough to impress coach Kirk Ferentz.
Now he's days away from what probably will be his first start in place of the injured Spencer Petras.
The sophomore is listed No. 1 on the depth chart for Saturday’s home game against Minnesota, and he’s been working with Iowa’s No. 1 offensive unit all week.
“Based on what I’ve seen the last two days, he’s handling it,” Ferentz said Tuesday. “I don’t want to call him low-key, but he’s a steady, even-keeled person, and that helps at that position.”
Padilla is in his second year as Petras' backup and saw limited action in four games this season before he took over on Iowa's fourth possession in a 17-12 win at Northwestern last week.
“I can’t say enough about how Alex went in and performed,” Ferentz said. "I’m not a quarterback guru or anything like that. You watched him and it was like, ‘OK, no big deal.’ ”
Padilla was called on after Petras, who injured his shoulder against Wisconsin on Oct. 30, was ineffective on Iowa’s first three drives.
Padilla led the Hawkeyes to back-to-back touchdowns, then managed the game the rest of the way. He completed 18 of 28 passes for 172 yards.
“You’ve got to prepare every week like you’re the starter,” Padilla said after Saturday’s game — he wasn't available Tuesday because of a class conflict. “You just have to be ready and waiting for your opportunity, and don’t waste that opportunity when it comes around."
Ferentz said he thought Petras would be good to go against Northwestern, but he completed just 2 of 4 passes for 4 yards and was struggling with the accuracy and velocity of his throws.
Padilla said he knew his time to play was coming from listening to the discussion among offensive coaches over the headset.
“It was kind of out of the blue, a surprise to me,” he said. “But there was no time to think about it. You just have to go in and execute the plays.”
Ferentz said he had no doubt Padilla was capable of leading the team.
“You just hope guys are going to step up and do the job,” Ferentz said. “There was no reason to think he wouldn’t, but you still have to do it. I thought he kept a real clear head, kept a really good demeanor about him, and really executed things pretty well for us.”
Padilla threw for 5,684 yards in his high school career in Greenwood Village, Colorado. He redshirted at Iowa in 2019, then played in two games last season in mop-up duty. He's 22 of 42 passes for 233 yards in five games this season.
Ferentz said Padilla's experience against Northwestern was the best preparation for what might lie ahead, depending on how Petras heals and how Padilla plays.
“It’s like driving a car in some ways,” Ferentz said. "At some point you have to get on the highway or drive in the city. It’s all positive. But there’s going to be ups and downs, like every player.”
Ferentz said Petras is medically cleared to play, but he hasn’t practiced so far this week to rest his shoulder.
“We’ll see what he can do tomorrow, see how he looks,” Ferentz said. “He’s feeling pretty well, it’s a matter of throwing the ball effectively.”
It’s unclear how the quarterback position will look for the Hawkeyes for the rest of the season. Petras has led Iowa to a 13-4 record in his 17 career starts.
“Alex is helping himself, or helped himself, Saturday,” Ferentz said. “So the good news as we stand here today, which is really premature, is we have two guys that have played pretty well. We know more now than we did a week ago, that’s for sure. And I’d love to have both guys healthy, ready to go. See where it all goes here.”
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