IOWA CITY — Earlier this week, Purdue Coach Jeff Brohm said he has tried to make this year fun for his football team. Despite six losses — four of which were one-score games — and remnants of the last few years of struggles, the Boilermakers have remained competitive.
On Saturday against Iowa, Purdue was more than just competitive. Brohm’s had plenty of fun en route to a 24-15 victory — Brohm’s first on the road in the Big Ten — especially at the start of the third quarter.
Brohm’s group was all smiles, jumping around and soaking in every moment of letting the air out of Kinnick Stadium, in its final host of the season. Six sacks, a pair of third-quarter touchdowns and an emptying stadium later, Brohm’s message from this week rang true.
“You compete, put a smile on your face and try to block out the noise,” Brohm said. “Don’t worry about all the consequences of what could happen if you do something wrong. Just go out there, believe in yourself, have some fun and play the game. I think our guys for sure did that. Making some plays on offense helped us to relax a little bit and start believing we can get it done. In order to be a good football team, not only do you need great players, but you need all three units to work together. Some other units were able to step up and help the defense.”
Putting a smile on their faces hasn’t been very easy. Comparing Iowa vs. Purdue from 2016 to 2017 is an easy enough way to prove that as true, let alone so many other examples.
Brohm talked at length Saturday afternoon about his senior class, which had a 12-34 record over nearly four years headed into the game against Iowa. That a senior in Anthony Mahoungou had the breakout performance was one reason the victory was special for the first-year head coach.
Mahoungou, a native of Paris, France, was all smiles after the game. He gave the Hawkeyes respect in saying what a win like this meant to the team, but also expressed his gratitude for the fun the Boilermakers are having right now. The most fun of all, he said, is finally closing out a close game.
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“Honestly, it’s hard to describe,” Mahoungou said. “Since I got here, I remember my sophomore year, we played Michigan State. We were down 21-0 at halftime, and we came back and almost won that game. Every time, it’s been that close. I’m just happy we’re able to give Coach Brohm his first Big Ten win on the road.”
The third quarter is the straw — well, six straws, all to Mahoungou — that broke the Hawkeyes’ back. While Brohm was plenty willing to discuss what went into the pair of touchdowns to Mahoungou that essentially sealed the game for the Boilermakers, he wasn’t about to let the rest of the game just take a back seat.
Iowa averaged 3.6 yards per play and 2.2 yards per rush on offense. Purdue sacked Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley six times, hurried him twice more, intercepted him once and tallied 10 tackles for loss. Iowa had a pair of chunk runs — a 25-yarder from James Butler and a 15-yarder from Akrum Wadley — but nothing else went for more than nine, and only three other runs went for more than seven.
Brohm lauded that effort and was thankful for it. They had some fun, and the Boilermakers are giving their seniors a chance to play in a bowl game with a win against Indiana in the final week.
“Our seniors are our best players,” Brohm said. “We talk about it all the time that these seniors have worked their tails off; let's do our part to give back to them to create opportunities they’ve worked for their entire career and maybe haven’t had yet. Our guys have invested a lot. I wanted them to play loose today and wanted them to go play the game the way it’s supposed to — try to make a play and be aggressive with it, and if it doesn’t work, move on to the next one. I thought our guys did that.”
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