Iowa 24, Purdue 3: Blown Away

By RossWB on November 5, 2022 at 2:45 pm
GO HAWKS GO
© Alex Martin/Journal and Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK
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Well... we all saw that coming, right? 

Right?

Hands down, liars. 

I mean, when the day started like this for Purdue, it just wasn't going to be their day. 

Did they even need to play out the game after that humiliating debacle? Probably not! But we're grateful that they did because we got to see the best three hours of Iowa football that we've seen all season. 

The two big questions we had before this game were whether Iowa's offensive improvement from last week's game against Northwestern would carry over to this game, and whether Iowa's defense could slow down Purdue's offense. The answers to those questions? Two resounding yeses, which made all the difference in enabling Iowa to turn around their recent poor track record in this game (1-4 since Jeff Brohm took over), beating Purdue around a windy, trash-strewn field on their way to a 24-3 victory on Saturday. 

I think we have to start with Spencer Petras, who followed up his best game of the season last week (21/30, 220 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT) with another very strong performance (13/22, 192 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT). After missing a few throws in the first quarter (which earned him some angry yelling from Brian Ferentz on the sideline), Petras was really locked in in the second quarter, going 6/7 for 119 yards and two touchdowns in that frame -- despite Iowa playing into the wind. The good times started with this absolute dart to Sam LaPorta: 

He followed that up a few plays later with a beautifully-executed play that featured Petras connecting with LaPorta again, this time for a touchdown: 

That was LaPorta's first touchdown of the season, a stat which is both incredible because of how talented LaPorta is and how important he is to Iowa's passing game and which is not at all incredible when you remember how inept Iowa's passing game has been for much of the season. But not today! 

Not long after that, the high-powered, fun-and-gun Iowa offense struck again, this time with Petras linking up with Nico Ragaini for a 29-yard catch-and-run touchdown reception. 

Those scores put Iowa up 14-0 in the second quarter, which left Purdue -- and the fans at Ross-Ade Stadium -- shell-shocked. Another very good Iowa drive ended with a field goal (despite Iowa having a series start at first-and-goal from the 2-yard line) to give Iowa a 17-0 lead. The dagger came early in the third quarter, as Kaleb Johnson turned a career-best day running the ball into a really memorable performance with this 75-yard scoot: 

What a gorgeous run. The best word to describe Johnson's running style is "gliding." The second best is probably "smooth." (Shouts to Carlos Santana and Rob Thomas and their chart-topping 1999 hit song.) Johnson's stride is poetry in motion, especially in the open field. His emergence this season has been one of the best developments for the Iowa program, hands down. A 75-yard run gets you 75% of the way to 100 yards on the ground, but Johnson went way beyond that -- he finished with 22 carries for 200 yards, Iowa's first 200-yard rusher since Akrum Wadley topped the double century mark against Northwestern back in 2015. A very memorable game by a kid who looks like he's going to be a very, very special running back for Iowa. His combination of vision, power, speed, and shiftiness is impressive to watch. 

Of course, the thing underpinning the success of both Petras and Johnson? A breakout day by the Iowa offensive line. Iowa finished with 376 yards of offense and a very crisp 6.5 yards per play average -- and that was despite essentially taking the air out of the ball on offense after going up 24-3 in the third quarter. Iowa's offensive line showed a lot of improvement last week, but that was just Northwestern -- could they do it on the road, against a Purdue team that's taken Iowa's lunch money for most of the past five years? Damn right they could. The line did a very good job of protecting Petras (he was sacked three times, but had a lot of time in the pocket on most plays) and an even better job of moving the line of scrimmage after the snap and opening holes for Johnson. Everything works better on offense when the line is able to get the kind of push they were consistently able to get for long stretches of this game. Purdue doesn't have a world-beater defense, but they were a step up from Northwestern, so another week of strong play from Iowa's trench warriors is a very good sign indeed. 

As it turned out, though, Iowa probably didn't even need the offense to play as well as it did -- not when the defense was ready to air out a half-decade's worth of grievances against Jeff Brohm and the Boilermaker offense. Those grievances -- and the trash whipping through the wind -- were about the only thing getting aired out when the Purdue offense was on the field, because Aidan O'Connell had a game to forget:  20/43, 168 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT. He was also on the receiving end of several bruising hits, including three sacks (one apiece from Deontae Craig, Joe Evans, and Lukas Van Ness).

A major subplot before this game was how Charlie Jones would do, given how Purdue WRs had torched Iowa in years past and how Jones had been torching everyone in the Big Ten so far this year. Jones had a productive day -- 11 receptions for 104 yards -- but it was not particularly efficient (his 11 catches came on a whopping 19 targets) or explosive (outside of a 41-yard catch, he had no other big plays). Purdue was determined to force-feed Jones on offense, but that plan didn't work nearly as well as it did in seasons past. Parker adjusted Iowa's coverage to give the corners matched up with Jones a bit more safety help. He also switched up blitzes effectively -- in addition to those three sacks, there were several other big hits that the defense delivered to O'Connell that left him looking a bit gunshy in the pocket in the second half. Brohm had schooled Parker's defenses in recent years, but Phil definitely got his revenge this year, holding Purdue without a touchdown at home in a game for the first time since 2013. 

"Revenge" was definitely on the menu for this Iowa team today -- their comments during the week may have been vanilla, but there's no doubt that they had some added emphasis for this game, between their recent struggles against the Boilermakers and the transfers of Jones and Tyrone Tracy, Jr. from Iowa to Purdue in the off-season. Today at least vengeance was a dish best served... windy. 

Go Hawks. Go Iowa Awesome. 

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