116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Penn State’s over.
Iowa’s football team — and its fans — need to move on to the next game, the next opponent, realizing it is one that has been the proverbial tough nut to crack.
Purdue rides into Kinnick Stadium with a 3-2 record that might not inspire, but it’s a capable team coming off its bye week. A capable team coming off its bye week that should have confidence it can beat Iowa since it done just that in recent seasons.
Head coach Jeff Brohm is 3-1 against the Hawkeyes in his five years leading the program. He was asked at his weekly press conference why Purdue seems to have a “knack” of beating the Hawkeyes.
“Well, Iowa is a very disciplined, good football team, so you can’t beat yourselves when you play them,” Brohm said. “We have at times had the ability to throw the football, maybe more so than some other Big Ten teams, so that probably has helped us to a certain degree.”
To Brohm’s point, let’s look at the last four games between these Big Ten conference West Division foes.
2020: Purdue rallied in the fourth quarter for a 24-20 win at Ross-Ade Stadium that began the delayed and truncated 2020 season. Wide receiver David Bell’s 6-yard touchdown catch with 2:14 left was the difference. Bell had a stunning 13 catches for 121 yards and three TDs in the game. Quarterback Aidan O’Connell threw for 282 yards, with running back Zander Horvath rushing 21 times for 130 yards.
2019: Iowa escaped with a 26-20 win at Kinnick. Bell, again, couldn’t be stopped, catching 13 passes for 197 and a touchdown. QB Jack Plummer threw for 327 and two scores.
2018: A wild affair in West Lafayette went Purdue’s way, 38-36. Kicker Spencer Evans kicked a field goal with eight seconds left to win it. Quarterback David Blough threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns.
2017: A fourth different quarterback starred for Purdue in a 24-15 win at Iowa City. Elijah Sindelar completed 22 of 37 throws for 229 yards and three TDs.
“I think every game's been a different story, but the common denominator is they play hard and they play well,” said Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz. “As I alluded, the first thing you think about, and if you follow Jeff's career, is that they have always been really good offensively, so it starts there. They challenge you in a lot of different ways, they make you defend a lot of different things.
“They have gadgets and trick plays on special teams and offense, so they make it a tough preparation. And they have good players and they have had good players. They have hurt us with deep balls. And it sounds pretty basic, but a lot of people won't try it that way, and they have done a good job of that. So you really have to defend everything and that's keeps pressure on you defensively. So we’ve got a lot of respect for them, and for obvious reasons.”
Iowa’s defense, of course, has been otherworldly this season, with a nation-leading 16 interceptions and 20 takeaways. The Hawks have 80 picks since 2017, another stat that leads the country.
But Purdue has been its kryptonite in many ways. Bell has been its kryptonite in even more.
The junior wide receiver has 27 catches this season, missing one game with a concussion. Plummer and O’Connell have split quarterbacking duties, and Purdue has not named a starter for Saturday.
Ferentz said he anticipates seeing both. He knows he’ll see a lot of Bell.
“We haven’t done a good job in two years (against him),” Ferentz said. “I don’t know, I haven’t gone back, don’t want to depress myself and look at how many catches he’s had in two years, but it’s significant.”
If you didn’t add them up from the game nuggets earlier in this story, that’d be 26 catches for 318 yards.
“Iowa is a team we studied greatly in the offseason on both sides of the ball, just to get a feel for exactly what we’re doing defensively,” said Brohm, whose team changed defensive coordinators this season. The Boilermakers are allowing just 15 points per game.
“They’ve been at the top for the last few years and really pride themselves on eyes on the quarterback, a lot of zone coverage,” Brohm said. “They’ve adapted and adjusted to a certain degree where they’re not giving up big plays over their head. The first couple of years, we were able to hit a couple of those on them, and they do not give up those anymore.
“They do a really good job playing tight enough, yet far enough off that you’re not going to throw it over their head. They don’t allow you down the middle of the field very much, do a really good job with their safeties of cheating that to a certain degree, to make sure that you’re not going to get a cheap pass down the middle, which is extremely smart. They’re veteran coaches, very players.”
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