This one is pretty obvious. This game turned on its head -- and turned firmly in Purdue's favor -- when Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm identified a weakness in Iowa's defense and decided to exploit it ruthlessly. That weakness? Iowa's non-Josh Jackson cornerback.
Purdue's first play out of halftime? An 11-yard completion to Anthony Mahoungou, being covered by Manny Rugamba.
Purdue's second play? An incomplete pass to Mahoungou, but a pass interference penalty on Rugamba gave Purdue a first down anyway.
Purdue's third play? A 14-yard completion Mahoungou, again being covered -- well, nominally -- by Rugamba.
Purdue's fourth play? A 42-yard touchdown pass to -- who else? -- Mahoungou, who had blown past Rugamba.
After a quick Iowa three-and-out (which was also a common sight on Saturday), Purdue's offense went back to work. Their fifth play after halftime? A 35-yard pass to Mahoungou, this time being covered by Michael Ojemudia, who had replaced Rugamba. It didn't matter.
Purdue's sixth play? A 16-yard touchdown pass to -- there's that man again -- Mahoungou, who this time beat Matt Hankins, who had replaced Ojemudia.
In six plays, covering just three minutes of game time and about 20 minutes of real time, the game went from a 9-7 Iowa lead to a 21-9 Purdue lead. Given the ongoing futility of the Iowa offense, those 21 points were more than enough to secure the victory for Purdue, even with 37 minutes to play. And the damage was done on one single match-up. Rugamba put together a great day -- five catches, 118 yards, two touchdowns -- before some fans had even gotten back to their seats from halftime.
Even Brohm was surprised at how easy -- and effective -- it was. Per Mark Emmert for Hawk Central:
“It really wasn’t magical coaching,” said Brohm, in his first year at Purdue after going 30-10 at Western Kentucky.
Brohm said he could never recall targeting a cornerback on six consecutive passes.
“I think that it was really simple play-calling. We just wanted to isolate one-on-one matchups and not read anything else. Take a shot at it. Sometimes, that’s better than trying to create a fancy play. We found a matchup that worked. We were aggressive with it, and we hit it.”
There was nothing fancy or special about what Purdue did -- they found a weakness and they just attacked it over and over and over, until they had taken command of the game. Iowa finally managed to stop the bleeding by moving Josh Jackson over to cover Mahoungou, but far too much damage had been done by that point.
On a day when Iowa once again made offense look like the hardest thing in the world to do on a football field, Purdue won the game with some of the easiest offensive calls you'll ever see. Credit to them for correctly identifying a weakness, for Sindelar hitting Mahoungou in stride again and again (including on a few passes that required immense precision), and for Mahoungou for hauling in pass after pass.