College Football

2-Minute Drill: Purdue Boilermakers at Iowa Hawkeyes

Boilermakers out for a bowl; Hawkeyes look for maximum effort

Iowa football hosts Purdue Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
Iowa football hosts Purdue Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.

IOWA CITY — The faint Big Ten West Division title chase officially ended for the Hawkeyes last week at Camp Randall.

Now what?

Keep Purdue (4-6, 2-5 Big Ten) down. Most improved team in the Big Ten? It’s going to be tough to beat Michigan State on that, but head coach Jeff Brohm has gotten everyone’s attention in his first year in West Lafayette, Ind.

The toughest elements to turn when rebuilding a program are offensive line and defense. Co-defensive coordinator Nick Holt came to Purdue along with Brohm from Western Kentucky. Before that, Holt worked for Pete Carroll at USC, led Washington’s defense under Steve Sarkisian and was hired at Western Kentucky by Bobby Petrino.

He’s plugged some veteran pieces into the right place and his experience pairing with super-speed offenses has the Boilers’ defense keeping up their end of the bargain.

What else for Iowa (6-4, 3-4)?

There’s the matter of the bowl. Right now, the range is probably second-tier in the Big Ten, meaning Pinstripe (New York), Foster Farms (San Francisco) and Music City (Nashville). You probably won’t know officially until Dec. 3 because the Big Ten will have a few schools in play for, maybe, the College Football Playoff and the New Year’s 6 bowls.

Kickoff is 2:30 p.m. at Kinnick Stadium. The game is on the Big Ten Network.

Purdue rush defense vs. Iowa rush offense

Brohm poured some knowledge on Purdue’s defensive gap. His defensive staff has three coaches who have been coordinators at other schools, including co-defensive coordinators Holt and Anthony Poindexter. Purdue mostly plays a four-man front, but one change that has seemed to help the run defense is going from a two-high safety look to one, pushing a safety into the box. Against the Hawkeyes, that safety also could be an outside linebacker.

There have been tangible results. In the last six years, Purdue has ranked no better than ninth in the Big Ten in rush defense, including 13th last season and last in 2015. This year, the Boilers are sitting at No. 7 (139.4 yards a game).


Purdue is going to run a lot of games at Iowa’s OL. Yes, Iowa has seen that. It hasn’t dealt with it cleanly this season (Ohio State was remarkably passive up front). The Boilers have size (tackle Lorenzo Neal is 6-2, 325) and speed (end Danny Ezechukwu has 4.0 sacks) on the D-line.

Advantage: Purdue

Purdue pass defense vs. Iowa pass offense

The Boilers rely on zone coverage. They haven’t gotten to the QB enough (16.0 sacks is 10th in the league). Their seven interceptions are 13th in the conference. Opposing QBs have completed 57.5 percent of their passes with a 126.4 efficiency (bottom third of the league).

The bottom line is points. What gets your attention is the 19.3 points per game the Boilers have allowed. Last year, that number was 38.3 points a game.

Linebackers Ja’Whaun Bentley (6-2, 260, leads team with 9.5 tackles for loss), T.J. McCollum (6-3, 235) and Markus Bailey (6-1, 235, team-high 5.0 sacks) make the Boilers go.

Job 1 for Iowa’s passing game this week is to drop fewer passes. The rebuild of the receiving corps has left Iowa with a three-man rotation at wide receiver — Nick Easley, Matt VandeBerg and Ihmir Smith-Marsette. You can’t get benched for drops if there’s no one you trust on the bench.

If one more ball inexplicably slips out of QB Nate Stanley’s hands (twice now, both in B1G road losses), it’s time for gloves.

These aren’t “teachable moments” anymore. They’re contributing factors to losing football.

Advantage: Push


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Purdue rush offense vs. Iowa rush defense

The Boilermakers had something in sophomore running back Tario Fuller. He was on his way to a second consecutive 100-yard performance, but suffered a foot injury at Missouri that ended up being season-ending. Junior D.J. Knox has taken over and leads Purdue with 409 yards. He’s yet to record a 100-yard game (Fuller’s 142 yards against Ohio is the Boilers’ only 100-yard performance this season). Giant RB Richie Worship (6-0, 260) also will see carries.

Purdue averages 147 yards a game. If it hits that mark and keeps Iowa’s running game in check, this game is going to be close.

Outside of cornerback Josh Jackson and a pair of pick-sixes, there were no good Hawkeye numbers coming out of Madison last weekend. The Badgers rolled up 247 yards on 49 carries. The Badgers did about the same to Purdue (53 for 295). For the first time since 2014, the Hawkeyes have allowed three 200-yard performances. This year, Iowa is 1-2 in those games and 3-9 since 2014. There’s slippage on the standard here, but compared to the problems Iowa’s offense has had running the ball, this is minor.

Advantage: Iowa

Purdue pass offense vs. Iowa pass defense

Purdue lost quarterback David Blough when he suffered a dislocated ankle Nov. 4 against Illinois. Sophomore Elijah Sindelar (6-4, 230) already was rotating in and started four games before he fully took over.

All Brohm asked out of Sindelar last week was 60 passes. The Boilers fell to Northwestern, 23-13, but Sindelar’s numbers were terrific if you’re into that sort of thing, completing 37 of 60 for 376 yards, two TDs and an interception. For the season, Sindelar has nine TD passes and six interceptions.

Purdue has had trouble challenging teams vertically. Redshirt freshman Jackson Anthrop leads Purdue with 37 catches, but he averages just 9.9 yards per catch. Tight ends Brycen Hopkins (15.2 yards per catch) and Cole Herdman (17.7 yards per catch) have made impact plays.


With tight ends in the passing game, Iowa probably stays in base 4-3. Iowa has steered away from the nickel the last few weeks. Safety Amani Hooker (leg) and corner Manny Rugamba (ankle) are on health watch, along with defensive tackle Matt Nelson (leg).

Iowa has Josh Jackson. He leads the nation in interceptions and passes defended. That’s pretty good.

Purdue’s offense will use a lot of motion and trick plays to move defender’s eyes. Buried in the motion and the jet sweeps and perimeter attacks will be a trick play.

Advantage: Iowa

Special teams

Punter Joe Schopper’s average of 41.4 yards isn’t mind blowing, but he does have 13 punts of 50-plus and has dropped 20 inside the opponent’s 20. Purdue has two kickers, Spencer Evans and J.D. Dellinger. Dellinger does the short stuff and is 7 of 10. Evans does the long ones and he’s 7 of 10, including a long of 49.

Purdue has allowed just eight punt returns this season, but the 12.88 average is last in the B1G. At 22.3 per kick return, the Boilermakers are 11th in the league.

Jackson lost his job as punt returner after misjudging a few in a loss at Michigan State. Senior wide receiver Matt VandeBerg did the same at UW and it cost Iowa in field position.

What’s Iowa going to do there this week? It’s up in the air (figuratively).

“Matt missed a little practice time a week ago, so that doesn’t make the challenge any easier for him,” Ferentz said. “There’s a real art to that, too, but it helps to be out there every day and get the practice and all that kind of stuff. We’ll play it by ear right now.”

Advantage: Iowa


1. It’s senior dayThe whole senior day thing is cool. You make it to the finish line in college football, you get that one moment with your parents, the people who were there the whole way, at midfield. Check the pictures, they’ll be great. OK, but yeah, you have to go fight and win.


2. Season maker — As it stands right now, Missouri or Minnesota are the best wins for Brohm in his first season. A win over the Hawkeyes would go to the top of the resume and keep alive bowl hopes for the Boilermakers. Yes, there are a lot of bowls (don’t look at them as “championships,” but more like postseason exhibitions — maybe the lost non-conference game — and they are easier to wrap your brain around), but it’s better to be going than not.

3. Bored with 8-4? — I’ve had a few of those discussions this week. I’m sorry, but an 8-4 Iowa this season with all of the newness and a much more difficult schedule is a quality season. If Iowa is stuck here next season, you might have a complaint. Now? Yeah, the close games left you feeling empty and frustrated, but this became a much different season with injuries to senior offensive tackles Ike Boettger and Boone Myers.

Purdue-Iowa prediction

Purdue will win if ... it rushes for 150 yards and pulls off one trick play for a TD.

Iowa will win if ... it summons an effort that will match their opponent. If nothing else was learned from last week, it’s got to be that.

Prediction: Iowa 17, Purdue 13

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