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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Things were a little cartoonish late in the afternoon at Ross-Ade Stadium. The Hawkeyes had just vanquished Purdue and got in their “swarm” and were all ready to shower, grab a meal and hit the charter
Then, someone reminded them to turn around and trot to the opposite corner of the field and high-five all of the Hawkeye fans and do the school fight song.
So, after having disposed of Purdue with a massive attack in the first half and then having to redispose Purdue after allowing the Boilermakers to make it kind of a game in the bleech of fourth-quarter garbage time and then having to re-re-dispose of Purdue with Desmond King’s 41-yard interception return for a TD late in the game, the Hawkeyes were finally able to swarm up and out of Ross-Ade with a 49-35 victory before 40,239 fans.
Garbage time made this kind of gross for the Hawkeyes (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten). It made their school-record ninth straight road victory kind of drag out to the point where everyone was sort of looking at their watch. Everyone except Purdue (3-3, 1-2), which did pull within 42-28 with 5:36 left.
“It was,” defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson said when asked if Saturday felt like a long day (the game was nearly four hours). “The defense, I’d say we played close to ...”
It was 82 plays, the defense played 82 plays.
“It was something like that, it felt like it,” Johnson said. “I think overall our defense played extremely well today.”
When it mattered, before the listlessness of garbage time sucked the life out of this game — what little life Ross-Ade was able to provide with a coaching staff that is hanging by a thread — the Iowa defense did play well. The Iowa offense was superb, rushing for 365 yards, tying for second most in the Kirk Ferentz 18-year era.
Running back Akrum Wadley’s 75-yard TD run with 1:18 left before halftime gave the Hawkeyes a 35-7 lead. And then, Ferentz and the Hawkeyes were kind of like a cat that didn’t quite know what to do with the mouse in its jaw. Was Purdue a meal or a play thing?
It was 42-14 after freshman tight end Noah Fant caught a 5-yard TD pass. The second-team defense went in. The Boilermakers put together back-to-back scoring drives — with QB David Blough’s 54-yard TD pass to DeAngelo Yancey capping a 54-second screamer of a drive — and pulled within two TDs.
Iowa’s second-team defense went back to the bench.
“It seemed like a land-speed record for a touchdown drive,” Ferentz said of the 54-second deal. “You couldn’t do it much quicker. ... The good thing for some of our backup guys is learning the tempo of the game. You can’t do that until you get out on the field. They all got educated today, it was education day for a lot of our guys.”
Iowa is really bad at garbage time, allowing TD drives of 80, 80 and 75 yards. Blough had 133 passing yards in the first half and finished with 458 and five TDs. Purdue’s 504 yards is the most against the Hawkeyes since Michigan piled on 513 yards in 2012.
“You’re never happy about it,” Ferentz said. “I’d be more unhappy if they were running the ball. That would make me really unhappy.”
With yet another version of the offensive line — changes driven this week by the fact that tackle Cole Croston (ankle) missed the game — Wadley rushed for 170 yards on 14 carries, including the 75-yarder that was his career-long, and senior running back LeShun Daniels went for 156 yards, with two TDs and a career-long rush of 67 yards in the third quarter.
Purdue defensive tackle Jake Replogle and middle linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley didn’t play and Iowa’s offensive line went to work, generating a season-high 520 yards of offense.
“We did what Iowa’s known for, which is bully football,” said Wadley, who’s given Iowa its longest plays of the season in back-to-back weeks. “They went out there and pushed a few jokers around and definitely lightened the load up for me and LeShun Daniels.”
Forget the garbage numbers, the worst thing that happened to the Hawkeyes was senior tight end George Kittle going to the sideline in the first half. He sprained something on his right leg and returned to the sidelines in the second half with a boot on his right foot. Your No. 2 concern, along with Croston being out, is junior O-lineman Boone Myers suffering a lower leg injury in the second half and not returning.
If empty calorie yards and points against a team with a coach who was asked after the game about his confidence in continuing to lead the program — to which, Purdue coach Darrell Hazell answered, “Well, I’m doing everything right to help these guys become better” — has you building a fort in your living room, that is Wisconsin on the horizon this week.
Take heart in the fact that Iowa probably won’t see any garbage time this week. Check that off the list.
“We’ll make the corrections tomorrow and move on,” guard Sean Welsh said. “I’m sure you’ve already heard it from teammates, but we’ve got a big game coming up."