WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Mackey Arena sits within a hundred yards of Ross-Ade Stadium, and the fourth quarter of Saturday’s football game turned into one of those frantic late-half basketball situations we often see throughout the winter.
Iowa led Purdue by four touchdowns in the fourth quarter, yet the Boilermakers cut their deficit to 14 three different times. The 49-35 Iowa victory was nearly the same as a basketball team letting its 23-point lead fall to eight points before winning by 14. It’s aggravating but it shouldn’t take away from the overall performance.
Iowa now is 5-2 and 3-1 in Big Ten play and it faces Wisconsin this week in its most important game this season. As for the Hawkeyes’ report card from its game with Purdue, here’s a look:
Offense (5 stars)
Yeah, this is when Iowa is Iowa. A physical ground game with running backs breaking through for explosive plays at a powerful pace. The Hawkeyes rushed for 365 yards, their highest total since the 2002 regular-season finale at Minnesota. Akrum Wadley (170) and LeShun Daniels (156) became the first tandem to surpass 100 yards in the same game since 2008. The passing game was efficient, with C.J. Beathard completing 10 of 17 passes for 140 yards and a pair of scores.
Defense (3 stars)
This was at least a 4-star performance for the game’s first three quarters. Then Purdue ripped apart Iowa’s secondary in a frenzied fourth period. The Boilermakers threw for 458 yards and five touchdowns, almost nauseating for the defensive coaches. Purdue’s three fourth-quarter touchdowns nearly ruined Iowa’s tenacious performance against the run. Purdue finished with 46 rushing yards on 22 carries. One other bright spot was Iowa cornerback Desmond King intercepting a pass and bringing it back for a touchdown.
Special teams (3 stars)
It’s easy to overlook special teams in a game like this. All seven extra-point attempts were good, six of the eight kickoffs went for touchbacks and none of the punts were blocked or brought back. Three of Ron Coluzzi’s punts were dropped inside the 20 but a pair skipped into the end zone.
Coaching (4 stars)
Iowa’s run-game efficiency doesn’t happen by osmosis. It takes time and coaching to build that cohesiveness. Same deal with the run defense. Iowa outrushed Purdue 365-46. But there is some question in the fourth quarter about pulling your starters when your opponent continues to fight. Purdue kept its starters in through the end and really ramped up the pressure. By the time Iowa gave up a pair of scores and re-inserted its starters, it struggled to match the pace. I’m not sure what they can do better next time. Had Iowa left in Beathard and he got hurt, the howls would come in from all directions.
Overall (4 stars)
Iowa set a school record with its ninth straight road win. That’s impressive, no matter who you play. Likewise, the overall performance was solid. The fourth quarter gave the Hawkeyes some heartburn, but it probably becomes a teachable moment, which isn’t all that bad.