No. 23 Iowa could use a boost after agonizing back-to-back losses to Michigan and Penn State.
For once, Purdue might be exactly the kind of team the Hawkeyes are looking to play.
Yes, the Boilermakers (2-4, 1-2 Big Ten) have won two straight over the Hawkeyes (4-2, 1-2) and are coming off a blowout win over Maryland. But injuries have decimated Purdue, which has lost quarterback Elijah Sindelar and star wide receiver Rondale Moore, and has been forced to play 30 true or redshirt freshmen through six games.
Iowa, on the other hand, is looking for somebody to pound on after dropping two straight to the Wolverines and Nittany Lions despite allowing just 27 combined points.
The Hawkeyes entered play as an 18-point favorite despite scoring just 15 points in their last two games.
“Iowa has played some very good football,” Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said. “Like always, they are well-coached and sound in what they do, and do a great job on defense and don’t give up points. They don’t give up big plays. They make you earn it.”
The Hawkeyes followed up a 48-point outing against Middle Tennessee State with just 3 points against Michigan and 12 against Penn State. The running game, hampered by injuries to Iowa’s interior line, has gone south in recent weeks. The Hawkeyes have just 71 yards rushing over their past two games.
“The film has beared it out, two really good football teams playing extremely hard out there,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said of Iowa’s losing skid. “Bottom line is, they made some critical plays that we weren’t able to make. Credit to our opponent. After watching the tape on Sunday, I feel the same way. I believe we have a good football team.”
Iowa’s last two opponents rank second (Penn State, 8.2 points per game) and 15th (Michigan, 17.5 per game) in scoring defense. The Boilermakers are 87th at 29.8 points allowed.
But Purdue found something in the passing game in last week’s 40-14 win over Maryland. Freshman Jack Plummer was 33-for-41 passing for 420 yards and three touchdowns, with fellow rookie David Bell catching nine passes for 138 yards and two scores.
Brohm is 2-0 against Ferentz. The Boilermakers won a 38-36 shootout at home in 2018, and beat Iowa in Iowa City 24-15 2 years ago in a pair of upsets.
“We hit a couple big plays over the top, our defense played well, and we found a way to win,” Brohm of that 2017 game. “This past year at home, we found a way to score early, which is important against them because they want to control the football and they want to run the clock.”
Brohm’s passing attack has flummoxed Iowa’s defensive coordinator Phil Parker, torching the Hawkeyes for 563 yards and seven TDs in those two meetings. But losing Moore will likely be a huge blow to the Boilers’ passing game when playing a defense as talented as Iowa’s.
Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley is spreading the ball around this season. Wide receivers Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Brandon Smith and Nico Ragaini share the team lead for receptions with 24. ... Plummer’s 80.5 completion rate last week was the best for a Purdue quarterback with at least 40 passes in a game. ... Stanley is 21-11 as the starter, and his next TD pass will put him second on Iowa’s all-time list. ... Purdue is 129th out of 130 teams with just 63.5 rushing yards per game, 129th in yards per carry (2.24), and tied for 125th with four rushing TDs. Iowa is tied for fifth nationally with just two rushing TDs allowed.
HE SAID IT
“We’re not playing well enough on the line, not cohesively enough. We’re working to get our best combination in there.” – Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz