Defending Big Ten West champion Iowa looked the part Saturday while dismantling Purdue. Now comes the hard part — repeating it.
Treating the Boilermakers like a punching bag in a 49-35 win is one thing. Doing it against No. 8 Wisconsin next week is something else. But it will take a similar performance next week to be thinking titles once again.
Iowa’s production was an infomercial on how to win a road game. The final score doesn’t do this one justice because high school contests with running clocks were more competitive than what went down at Ross-Ade Stadium.
“It was efficient,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said on his postgame radio show. “It was business-like.”
The Hawkeyes rushed for 365 yards. It could have been 500 if they wanted it to be. That’s how dominant they were up front. Running back Akrum Wadley averaged 12.1 yards per rush, a first down every time he touched the football. Both LeShun Daniels and Wadley topped 150 yards.
Purdue was defenseless. It was death by a thousand handoffs, a Ferentz dream come true.
“Any time it happens, you are certainly happy,” said Ferentz on the rushing success. “It’s certainly the case here.”
It wasn’t just the ground game. The offense did whatever it wanted. Quarterback C.J. Beathard found wide receiver Riley McCarron on a 42-yard touchdown pass. Wide receiver Jerminic Smith went for 45 yards on a reverse. A scout defense could have put up a better fight than the Purdue.
“The whole team came to play right from the start,” Ferentz said.
The defense matched the offense play for play, especially early. The Boilermakers failed to get a first down on three straight first-half drives as Iowa went about building a four-touchdown lead. It was as if the Boilermakers were slowly getting sucked into the sinkhole that took over its field last week.
The first half was the best Iowa looked all season. Everything worked in harmony, and it’s what the Hawkeyes needed. The last month has been disjointed. Nothing came easy as Iowa fell from West division favorite to almost an afterthought.
The Hawkeyes were a work in progress. If Saturday was a sneak peek at the final result, it came at an ideal time. No one will confuse Purdue with a Top 25 team, but several are coming up.
First it’s No. 8 Wisconsin on Oct 22. Then it’s No. No. 4 Michigan on Nov. 12 and No. 10 Nebraska on Nov. 25.
The Iowa from late September wasn’t winning those games. The Iowa from mid-October, the one that showed improvement on the offensive line, made strides with its run defense and started connecting on pass plays, could make things interesting.
The fourth quarter wasn’t pretty with the second stringers playing, but Iowa looked sharp putting the game out of reach. The Hawkeyes validated Ferentz’s statement that the offense was close.
Feel free to proclaim Iowa is back if you want, but the real answer will come against Wisconsin, which will bring one of the stingiest defenses in the country to Kinnick Stadium next week.
“The guys handled the trip well,” Ferentz said. “When kickoff came, they were ready to go and got off to a fast start.”
This was impressive, but not nearly as impressive as if Iowa does it again.