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Iowa offense now complements its defense instead of insulting it
Iowa thoroughly outgains, outscores Purdue in dominant 24-3 decision
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Every one of the 24 points Iowa scored Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium was into a wind that topped 20 mph all game.
It has seemed the Hawkeyes were going against the wind all season. Never had the program been criticized as much for offensive futility, and never had there been such good reason for it.
Things were pretty grim overall after Iowa stood 3-4 after a 54-10 loss at Ohio State in which it was again an offensive mess.
Answers? Solutions? Nothing said from the Iowa camp was going to satisfy us on the outside. Keep pushing? Keep working? We rolled our eyes.
So the Hawkeyes kept — ta da! — pushing and working. Their maligned offensive line seemed to click overnight in Iowa’s 33-13 win at Northwestern last weekend, though there wasn’t a thing overnight about it.
“That’s really all I know, in sports or in life,” said Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz. “You go back to the drawing board. Make sure you’ve got the right people working and hopefully give them a good plan, and we worked.
“There was no way to predict these last two weeks would have come out the way they did. That’s a result of our guys staying focused and working on the right things. And believing in each other, too.”
Quarterback Spencer Petras, with time to feel like something other than a sitting duck in the pocket, has been making his best throws of the season. A running game in name only has become a running game for real.
Saturday, against the wind, the Hawkeyes blew away Purdue, 24-3. The Boilermakers team that had averaged 32.8 points was held to a field goal. An Iowa offense that had averaged 248.6 yards per game had 249 at halftime, and 376 overall to Purdue’s 255.
Fifth-year senior Petras completed 6 of 7 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns into the wind in the second quarter. First-year freshman Kaleb Johnson rushed for 200 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown blast in the third quarter that screamed “Game over.”
The wind of change has been a good one for Iowa’s offense.
“No offense to anyone in here,” Petras said in a postgame interview tent that also was wind-battered but endured. “You guys had us dead two weeks ago, as did the whole outside world, it felt like.
“But that’s not what football is. It’s a week-to-week game. You keep working, and if you do things, right, work hard, good results happen."
Suddenly, it seems, Iowa is a team that is 5-4 and can get to 8-4 without a stretch of the imagination. That’s because the Hawkeyes didn’t go all fetal position when they were 3-4.
“You’re a coward if you want to just pack it in and give up,” Petras said, “and I don’t think we have any cowards on our team. As hard as it gets, sometimes you just keep pushing through. I think that really speaks to our program, our culture.”
Recruiting doesn’t hurt. In March 2021, a high school running back with a grown man’s body from Hamilton, Ohio, was offered a scholarship to play at Iowa. Many other Power Five programs offered him the same thing, but that teenager decided three months later to play at California.
Iowa didn’t take that as Johnson’s final word, and invited him to the memorable Penn State-Iowa contest last October. A couple days after he got back to Ohio, Johnson flipped to the Hawkeyes.
His 93 rushing yards against Northwestern was just a taste. Johnson is a combination of speedster, athlete and bruiser, and he buried the Boilermakers Saturday.
“I just saw green grass,” Johnson said about his touchdown run, through a hole his line created. He made a defender miss, and no other Boiler got near him after that.
Asked why he left California for Iowa the way he ditched Purdue’s defense, he said “I really loved it and I thought I could play here. So I took it and I ran with it.”
"It’s the best feeling I’ve had in my life,“ Johnson described the day.
He calls himself “Superman” in his social media user name. Within an hour of the end of Saturday’s game, he retweeted a video of his touchdown run.
Johnson likes himself, and why not? This guy can run like, well, the wind.
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