5 Things: Iowa vs Purdue

Hawkeyes travel to West Lafayette, Ind., to hopefully not fall in a sinkhole

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Two road games for the Iowa football team, two 14-7 wins. Maybe it’s not been the most comfortable of rides the last few weeks for the Hawkeyes (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten), but there’s been more up than down, and that’s not nothing. Purdue (3-2, 1-1), fresh off an embarrassment against Maryland, got to say something similar last Saturday, winning in overtime against Illinois.

Neither team is in a great place, and one will leave Ross-Ade Stadium on Saturday feeling like whatever it gained a week ago was reversed — even if only a little. So headed into the matchup in West Lafayette, Ind., here are 5 Things on Iowa vs Purdue.

1. Blame it on the (d)rain

The Purdue University turf management program had itself a bad week last week, and a whole lot of websites had some fun at the Boilermakers’ expense thanks to a sinkhole inside Ross-Ade Stadium.

After heavy rains last week, the turf management Twitter account reported a water main pipe broke, flooding the south end zone and creating a sinkhole that did quite a bit of damage to the playing surface.

Is that an omen? Is it a cruel metaphor for Darrell Hazell’s tenure as head coach of the Boilermakers? More than a few people thought at least one of those two things is true. Purdue has just one Big Ten win at home under Hazell — last October against Nebraska — and is 9-32 under Hazell’s guidance. The Boilermakers don’t have back-to-back wins under Hazell, and their best record was 3-9 in 2014. With three wins already, they’re poised to better that this season.

Yeah, maybe a sinkhole is the correct metaphor. Or it’s just bad luck. Players will probably want to test out the right corner of that end zone before running any fade routes in the red zone.

In any case, Purdue (and its Sports Turf program) had a long week.

2. Are we having fun yet?

OK, not to belabor the point, but Purdue hasn’t won a ton of games in the last 3 1/2 years. So when just the third Big Ten victory comes — in overtime in a rivalry game, no less — you’d think Hazell and the guys would let their hair down (another metaphor, given Hazell has a clean shaven dome) a bit, right?

Not in the middle of the season, you sap.

“(It’s) business as usual. Doesn’t change for us inside our walls,” Hazell said. “We have a set routine of what we do from the time the game is over until the time we play the next game. We can’t be like this is as a staff. We have to fare the same way regardless of the outcome of the game and make sure we give our guys the best chance we can to be successful. That’s our plan.”

Sound like anyone you might know? Hazell did express — as so many coaches have — much respect for Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, and Hazell’s way forward seems an awful lot like how Ferentz and his staff handle things.

Seriously, it’s easy to joke about a guy celebrating a big win, but if he feels like developing a sense of expectation to win, not putting an extra emphasis on one win over another is fair. It’s just also OK to enjoy it publicly.

3. All aboard

One version of the Purdue logo features the word “Purdue” stretched across the front of a locomotive train steaming down its tracks. So it should come as little surprise that Hazell has train-themed names for some of the Boilermakers’ special formations.

What the rest of us have come to know as the Wildcat — where a running back or wide receiver lines up in pistol or shotgun while the quarterback is split out wide — Purdue calls “Amtrak.” Hazell was even quick to correct a few media (jokingly — hey, maybe he was having SOME fun Monday) in attendance who slipped up and called it the wrong name.

“Ours is called the Amtrak, not the Wildcat, but (it) always (will) be in the package each week,” Hazell said when asked if Purdue was going to make it a regular thing.

Senior wide receiver Bilal Marshall lined up in the formation a few times against Illinois. He rushed twice for nine yards and was 1 for 1 passing on an eight-yard completion. Hazell likes the package for a few reasons, Marshall being one.

“I think it gives a couple things: One, he’s a good player with the ball in his hands. We know that. I think it also makes defenses prepare for something else,” Hazell said. “If they can take 10, 15 extra minutes preparing for the Amtrak, that means they’re not preparing for other parts of our offense. I think that’s part of the element of having that in our package.”

Purdue also lined up once with two offensive linemen split out wide. It was a unique play that, while not ending up in a score or huge gain, added another wrinkle.

The name for that formation? Polar Express. Trains, remember? A reporter tried to get as much as possible from Hazell about how or why that play was formed, but Hazell wasn’t having any of it, shooting the reporter down with a smile (see, he’s having fun).

“No idea why we call it Polar Express. It’s another train, right?” Hazell said. “We have a lot of options off that formation. … (But) I’m not going to give you the whole package. Come on.”

4. Injuries piling up and piling on

Purdue’s injury report is not short, which is never a good thing for any team, much less one that has struggled to find consistency like the Boilermakers have.

They were dealt another blow on Saturday, losing leading wide receiver Domonique Young to an apparently serious leg injury in the third quarter. Young, to that point, was tied for second in the Big Ten in receptions with 29 catches for 338 yards and one touchdown.

Hazell said Monday Young would for sure be out against Iowa, with his full status still up in the air pending an MRI.

“Domo, we still haven’t been able to get an MRI on him,” Hazell said. “He’s still in a little bit of pain, but his spirits are good. Soon as we get an MRI we’ll know for sure where he is injury-wise.”

Other Boilermakers that were dinged up should have a chance to play Saturday. Leading rusher Markell Jones, second-leading rusher Brian Lankford-Johnson, and safety Navon Mosley were all looked at by trainers during last week’s game, but Hazell said all should be good to go this week.

5. Handling some hardware

Winning brings the kind of positive attention Purdue desperately needs, and a pair of Boilermakers brought some in this week.

Kicker J.D. Dellinger won Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week and aforementioned running back Brian Lankford-Johnson was named Freshman of the Week.

Dellinger recorded the first game-winning overtime field goal in school history on a 28-yarder at Illinois. He was 2 for 2 (28, 37) on field goals and was 4 for 4 in extra points. His 10 points were the most for a Purdue kicker since Aug. 30, 2014. Lankford-Johnson had a game-high 182 all-purpose yards. He carried the ball 18 times for 127 yards, and added 43 yards on kickoff returns and 12 receiving yards.

The two weekly awards match Iowa’s output so far this season. Defensive end Anthony Nelson won Freshman of the Week after his performance against Miami (Ohio) and punter Ron Coluzzi won Special Teams Player of the Week for the Rutgers game.

l Comments: (319) 368-8884; jeremiah.davis@thegazette.com

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