IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Spencer Petras threw for a touchdown and ran for another, and Drew Stevens kicked four field goals as Iowa defeated Northwestern, 33-13, on Saturday.
The Hawkeyes (4-4, 2-3 Big Ten) snapped a three-game losing streak with their highest point total of the season.
“No question this was our best offensive performance,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
“I was running off the field a lot of times today with a smile on my face,” tight end Sam LaPorta said.
Petras was 21-for-30 passing for 220 yards. He had a 1-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Luke Lachey late in the second quarter.
“For the most part, I thought it was a pretty good performance,” Petras said.
Petras, in his third season as Iowa’s starter, was replaced by Alex Padilla in the second half of last Saturday’s 54-10 loss at Ohio State. The two were listed as co-No. 1s on this week’s depth chart, but Petras got the start. He then led the Hawkeyes to points on all four of their first-half possessions for a 20-0 halftime lead.
“It's just like life,” Petras said. “You don't reset everything, and abandon everything, that got you to the point where you're at. You just go back to work. So yeah, it felt good to be back out there.”
“I’m really happy for him,” Ferentz said. “When we’re not winning, that’s rough for everybody. He’s been a little bit of a magnet for criticism. That’s part of playing the position, that’s part of the game. I think we all believed in him.”
Petras said he and Padilla had taken an equal number of snaps during practices on Monday and Tuesday.
“By Wednesday, I had a pretty good idea (about starting),” Petras said. “By Friday I knew.”
Petras completed passes to eight receivers, and was sacked once.
“The offensive line kept me pretty clean the whole day,” Petras said.
“Spence was doing his job today, getting the ball to the guys who were open,” said LaPorta, who led the Hawkeyes with five catches for 53 yards.
Stevens had field goals of 29 and 24 yards in the first half, then added a 54-yarder in the third quarter. His 25-yarder in the fourth quarter made it 26-7.
Iowa’s Arland Bruce IV added a 23-yard touchdown run with 5:13 left for the Hawkeyes' final points.
“Obviously they played one of their cleanest games of the season,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “Quarterback-wise, that was probably his best game of the year.”
“You can't get down for too long,” Petras said. “You've got to push through, and today we pushed through.”
Northwestern (1-7, 1-4), which has lost seven straight, was held to 177 total yards, with only 18 rushing yards on 37 attempts. The Wildcats got a 1-yard touchdown pass from Brendan Sullivan to Duke Olges in the third quarter, and a 7-yard touchdown pass from Sullivan to Raymond Niro III on the final play of the game.
Sullivan, a sophomore, threw for 159 yards and was sacked seven times in his second career start.
“He'll learn from this, grow and get better,” Fitzgerald said.
Northwestern continued to stumble, making that 31-28 win over Nebraska to open the season seem like a long time ago. The Wildcats’ offense was mostly ineffective against the Hawkeyes, who came into the game ranked sixth nationally in total defense. “We've got to keep developing guys,” Fitzgerald said. “We've got a lot of guys out there. ... At the end of the day, we have to find a way to win a a game.”
The Hawkeyes, who broke a three-game home losing streak to the Wildcats, had 393 yards to shake off some of the offensive woes that have plagued them all season. It was the best game of the season for Petras, who seemed on the verge of losing his starting job after turning the ball over three times in the first half last week. “We've set the standard now to how we're capable of playing,” Petras said. “So there's no excuse for anything less than that going forward.”
Northwestern: Hosts Ohio State next Saturday.
Iowa: At Purdue next Saturday.
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25. Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://apnews.com/cfbtop25