IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa and Purdue first met on the football field in 1910 and they’re set to play for the 87th time on Saturday.
They have engaged in a handful of interesting encounters over the years and one inexplicable streak when the Boilermakers beat the Hawkeyes 20 consecutive games from 1961 through 1980.
Additionally, they were named as permanent cross-divisional opponents when the Big Ten split into the Legends (Iowa) and Leaders (Purdue) divisions in 2011. Now they play annually as part of the Big Ten West Division.
But there was one meeting that was unique. Here’s that moment as part of five key things entering their matchup this Saturday (11 a.m. CT/noon ET, ESPN2).
1. Purdue did Iowa a solid
Late in 1929 and early 1930, Iowa was under a Big Ten investigation for using a slush fund to pay athletes, which was not unlike many other league squads. The Hawkeyes were caught and booted from the Big Ten. After making administrative changes and ruling several athletes ineligible, the Hawkeyes were allowed back in the Big Ten.
The problem was the 1930 football schedules were already set. So border rivals Minnesota and Wisconsin didn’t appear on Iowa’s schedule. Neither did any other Big Ten school. But Purdue jumped in and gave the Hawkeyes a game, the only Big Ten team to do so. The Boilermakers pounded the depleted Hawkeyes 20-0 on Oct. 18, 1930. Coincidentally, the Hawkeyes did play Nebraska and Penn State in nonconference games that year.
2. Ground offensive
Iowa’s ground attack produced one of its best outings this fall at Minnesota with 179 yards on 41 carries. Statistically it wasn’t the Hawkeyes’ best performance, but the line’s cohesiveness against a stout opponent has given the players confidence.
“Things aren’t always going to go the way that we want to but just keep pushing and good things will eventually happen,” guard Ike Boettger said.
The Hawkeyes juggled their offensive line against Minnesota with Boettger moving from right tackle to left guard, left guard Boone Myers shifting to left tackle and left tackle Cole Croston heading to right tackle. For Boettger that meant a few awkward moments finding his place in the huddle but everything else seemed to click.
“It’s all really the same once you do a week of it,” Boettger said. “Your left-hand, right-hand stance … that’s really the only difference.”
Croston recorded his best game this season by Pro Football Focus. He graded as Iowa’s best offensive player and didn’t allow even a hurry on quarterback C.J. Beathard. Tight end George Kittle was graded as PFF’s top tight end nationally overall and as a run blocker.
3. Full Nelson
Statistics don’t fully capture the impact Iowa defensive end Anthony Nelson continues to make in pass-rushing situations.
Nelson, a 6-foot-7, 253-pound freshman, has 4 sacks this year and 2.5 were recorded in the opener against Miami of Ohio. While the official numbers show Nelson with just 1 quarterback hurry, Pro Football Focus has Nelson with 19, fourth-best nationally.
Against Minnesota, Nelson was active and forceful. He shared a sack with Nathan Bazata but recorded 6 quarterback pressures, according to PFF. Nelson shrugged off any notion that he was a dominant player last Saturday.
“I didn’t really feel that at all,” Nelson said. “I was really just focusing on doing my job and then containing and also on putting pressure on them.”
4. Road warriors
Iowa has won eight consecutive true road games dating to the 2014 season. That streak ties for the nation’s third longest with Oklahoma and Clemson. Only Ohio State (19) and Alabama (9) are ahead of Iowa.
“We’re going to play a football game and it’s no different than if we’re going over to Kinnick,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “And once the game gets going, you have to be focused on that game and not the environment.”
5. In the red
Iowa ranks first in Big Ten red-zone success with scores on 19 of 20 trips this year. The Hawkeyes have produced 15 touchdowns and four field goals inside the 20-yard line.
Among Big Ten teams, Purdue ranks last in the same category. The Boilermakers have scored on only 13 of 21 opportunities and just nine touchdowns.