Petras ready to captain the Hawkeye’s ship

Spencer Petras will walk into Purdue’s Ross-Ade Stadium on Saturday and be greeted by … mostly silence.
Petras will make his first start as Iowa’s quarterback with few fans in the grandstands.It’s already going to be a nerve-wracking weekend for the third-year sophomore, taking over for three-year starter Nate Stanley, so you would think he would be happy to not be facing hostile fans.
Nope. He would rather have a raucous crowd.
“There are advantages and disadvantages,” Petras said.
“It will be nice because communication will not be as difficult. At the same time, it is kind of fun for a road game where you feel like a gladiator going into a hostile environment. That is a fun part of going on the road.”
Petras takes over without having that transition that most quarterbacks get. He could have used 15 spring practices, but those were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Summer workouts were different because of the same reason. And just when the Hawkeyes were getting into normal August camp mode, the Big Ten decided to shut down the season.
Petras has had some time to prepare since the conference decided to play football in the fall with a nine-game sprint to December.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said he has appreciated how Petras has adjusted.
“He’s just done a really nice job,” Ferentz said Tuesday.
“We obviously liked him when we recruited him, and everything he’s done since he’s been here, he’s grown, he’s developed, improved with each opportunity, and he’s practicing well right now.
“So we have every confidence he’ll play well this year. He’ll have some ups and downs. He is a first-year player. Everybody does. He’ll be anxious and nervous on Saturday just like all of us will. That’s competition. But I think he’ll do an outstanding job, and he’s worked hard. He acts like you’d want a quarterback to act. But it’s all genuine. It’s not for show or any of that kind of stuff. It’s just who he is, and we’re just thrilled he’s on our football team.”
“Spencer is a natural born leader,” wide receiver Tyrone Tracy said. “If you go out there and you watch practice, he’s a leader all the way around. He talks the talk and walks the walk.”
“I think the most impressive thing about Spencer is his knowledge of the offense,” right tackle Coy Cronk said. “Nothing really overwhelms him. And he loves pressure.”
There will be pressure in replacing Stanley, a three-year starter who went 27-12 in his career. Stanley, like Petras, started as a sophomore and had a bumpy first season before growing into the job.
Now it’s Petras’ position, and he’ll have to do his growing in an uneasy season.
“I am sure I will have nerves,” Petras said. “As Coach Ferentz says, anyone who has a heartbeat will have some nerves in the first game. Something we talk about here is sleeping through the storm. The captain of the ship ties his knots correctly and when the storm comes and waters get choppy he can sleep through it because he has prepared to the best of his ability. I take pride in that and I have prepared to the best of my ability heading into the season.
“When my head hits the pillow on Friday night I will be able to sleep and I have faith that I prepared as much as I could and now I just have to go out and play.”
John Bohnenkamp is an award-winning sports writer and contributes to the Pen City Current.

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