Purdue went for it with the wind at Iowa

So few games turn on one matchup, this one certainly did

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IOWA CITY — It’s the time of year you look at a player and you kind of just say, “Go for it, dude.”

Really, that’s what Purdue wide receiver Anthony Mahoungou was going into Saturday. He was just kind of a guy. Yes, the senior from Paris, France, was Purdue’s No. 2 receiver, but drops plagued him and snaps started to leak away.

Then in the third quarter Saturday against Iowa, Purdue coach Jeff Brohm turned Mahoungou loose. Two TDs later, Mahoungou was even surprised.

“Last few games of the season, it’s about time for a senior to do something,” Mahoungou said, laughing. “I don’t even remember (all the plays). I just remember two times being in the end zone.”

That’s all it took for the Boilermakers. They trailed Iowa 9-7 at halftime. Iowa decided to go into the 20 mph wind in the fourth quarter and Purdue decided to go for it in the third.

Less than three minutes into the third, Purdue quarterback Elijah Sindelar found Mahoungou twice and it was 21-9 Purdue in a flash.

Sindelar, who missed some practice this week with a leg injury, threw six straight passes to Mahoungou over the first two drives of the third quarter. Five were completed and one was a pass interference from Manny Rugamba.

So few games turn so drastically on a one-on-one matchup. This one did.

“When we saw they were one-on-one with no safety help, we gave him the ball and he made plays for us,” Sindelar said.

But it wasn’t just a one-on-one matchup. After Mahoungou chewed up Rugamba, sophomore Michael Ojemudia gave it a shot. On the first play of the next drive, Mahoungou scorched him for a 35-yard gain.

Out with Ojemudia and in with true freshman Matt Hankins. Two plays later, 16 yards to Mahoungou over Hankins and it was 21-9. Iowa didn’t slide safety help over to the right.

“The real issue is we gave up some deep balls,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “And you can’t win doing that either, giving up big plays. At least if you make people drive the ball and sustain drives then you have a chance to get them off track a little bit. And when you give up the big play you can’t do that.”

Finally, a coaching staff was smart enough to explore the side of the field that Iowa junior cornerback Josh Jackson wasn’t on. He’s had five interceptions the last two weeks. This is what’s called a sound coaching decision.

“We knew one of (the cornerbacks) was really good and we knew where he was at, so without question we wanted to work the other way,” Brohm said. “We were able to take advantage of that at times and it paid off.”

Finally, Iowa moved Jackson over to the right to cover Mahoungou who came into the game with 25 catches for 347 yards and three TDs. Saturday, he finished with seven catches for 135 yards and a pair of TDs.

More: Iowa struggles to find efficiency against Purdue

The Jackson move was too little, too late.

“I imagine it was very frustrating,” Jackson said. “As a defensive back, you don’t want to give up a catch and you don’t want to give up a touchdown. If you do, you need to have short-term memory and you need to come back and make a play.”

Hankins ended up finishing the game. Let’s assume everyone’s memory has been erased.

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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