116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Ask not for whom David Bell tolls, he tolls for the Iowa football team.
Iowa defensive coaches and defenders, starting with cornerback and Jim Thorpe Award Player of the Week/Bronko Nagurski National Player of the Week/Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week Matt Hankins, probably would have visions of Bell dancing in their heads late Saturday night.
The junior wide receiver gets open and piles up yards against the Hawkeyes. He did as a freshman, as a sophomore, and really did in his last game against Iowa, his Purdue team’s 24-7 win Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. See you in the NFL, David.
Bell had 11 catches, 240 yards. That was 45 more receiving yards than Iowa’s team.
“Iowa coaches, they believe their guys can win one-on-one matchups,” Bell said. “Coach (Jeff) Brohm preaches every day that we have to win our one-on-one matchup.
“There were definitely a lot of opportunities for me and Hankins to go one-on-one. I just got the better of him today.”
They play the slow tolling of a bronze bell from the start of AC/DC’s “Hells Bells,” in Kinnick Stadium before big third downs for Iowa’s opponents. They played it Saturday when Purdue led 17-7 and faced a third-and-16 at the Iowa 42 early in the fourth quarter.
Bell then caught a 20-yard pass. Two plays later, he caught a 21-yard touchdown pass. It was 24-7 with 12:29 left and stayed 24-7, fitting since Bell and his fellow receivers were open all day.
Meanwhile, Iowa’s unbeaten record was going, going … gong!
Few losses will be harder to digest around here than this one, when so much had been built over six weeks only to have chunks of it stripped away. Iowa didn’t just lose a game, it lost a lot of credibility by getting so thoroughly outplayed by a team that had been held to 13 points in each of his previous three games, against Notre Dame, Illinois and Minnesota.
But, “Every week is different,” said Purdue Coach Jeff Brohm. “That’s why they call it a one-game season.”
It takes just one bad loss to throw you out of the College Football Playoff discussion. Iowa had that bad loss, and will have to clip its last five scheduled foes and Ohio State or someone else really good in the Big Ten title game to make that Kilimanjaro-like climb back into the top four.
“We knew that, you know what, all the pressure’s on them,” Brohm said. “It’s not really on us. They have to win this game if they want to go to the playoffs.”
The playoffs. After beating Penn State and ascending to No. 2 in the rankings, the playoffs seemed like a reachable star before this game, not an impossible dream. Iowa was 6-0 with nothing resembling an unbeatable foe remaining on its schedule.
Of course, “unbeatable” didn’t describe the Hawkeyes, either.
Every game is hard, Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz has kept telling us this fall through all the Hawkeyes’ winning. We believed you, Kirk. We knew you didn’t have a turbo offense to roar away with wins on the rare days your defense wasn’t tight.
Every game is hard, or it is if you’re Iowa and the opponent is Purdue. Brohm is now 4-1 against the Hawkeyes, 12-19 against the rest of the Big Ten.
Games are really hard when you don’t block well, don’t cover receivers well, can’t pick up more than a yard on two quarterback sneaks when you have a third-and-2 at the opponent’s 11, don’t get a truckload of the takeaways you have lived off this fall, don’t get good enough field position to give your punter a chance to kill his kicks inside the 2-yard line.
Iowa’s defense gets equal billing for this loss, sure. You surrender 463 yards, you weren’t good at all. But it was still just a “24” on Purdue’s side of the scoreboard, not a “42.”
This was Iowa’s first single-digit scoring game in its last 22. Its offense was overmatched and wasn’t getting any bailouts from its defense for a change.
Even with the best center (and perhaps best offensive lineman) in the country in Tyler Linderbaum, this offensive line isn’t a standard Iowa O-line and quarterback Spencer Petras can’t compensate for it by himself. There were four Purdue sacks, and the opposition has 18.
Look, it was a 12-game win streak that just ended. You can’t turn your nose up at 12 straight wins. It’s still a good team, still has no one left on its schedule that’s terrifying, and perhaps still should be favored to win the Big Ten West.
But that doesn’t change the fact few losses will have been harder to digest around here than this one, when so much had been built over six weeks. Iowa had gone national. One week later, it’s back to regional thanks to this clunker against a Purdue team and coaching staff that Iowa can’t wrap its arms around. And, by Bell who has used the Hawkeyes as his foot wipe for three years.
Indianapolis’ Bell made an official visit to Iowa on Dec. 15, 2018. He got offered by Ohio State and Penn State, too.
“The main reason I stayed home is for my grandmother,” Bell said after the game. “She’s handicapped, so she wouldn’t be able to travel for Iowa, Ohio State, Penn State.
“Also, Coach Brohm’s offense. It’s very explosive. Not only was I getting the ball, but a lot of people were getting the ball, and that’s the type of offense that I wanted to be playing in.”
Since his recruiting visit to Iowa, Bell has 37 receptions and 558 yards against the Hawkeyes over three games. He had 11 for 240 Saturday. Iowa went from a defensive masterpiece against Penn State to being Bell’s launchpad to all sorts of national and conference Player of the Week honors.
This game gave the rest of the nation the opportunity, if it chose to accept it, to say “See, Iowa wasn’t for real.” It was tough to argue against it Saturday.
That fourth-quarter Big Noise that was heard here as Iowa rallied to beat Penn State? The Hawkeyes took the beating this time, not the fans’ eardrums. They were gone well before game’s end, anyhow. Nothing to see here, move along.
The yardage was in Purdue’s favor by almost 200 yards. The team that had been last in the nation in takeaways had four. The national leader had one.
Being ranked No. 2, being called a playoff contender? That stuff is gone. Consider the enthusiasm over the Hawkeyes curbed.
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