IOWA CITY — Two weeks ago, Iowa succeeded as well as it ever has and the Hawkeyes were about as efficient as they’ve ever been through the air and on the ground against a team of such a high caliber in Ohio State. Two games later, and the opposite has been true both times.
Iowa struggled to find any consistency through the air, was shut down on all but a pair of runs and had a woeful day flipping field position.
The Hawkeyes’ rushing attack was held to just 2.2 yards per carry on Saturday, which was significantly impacted by six sacks on quarterback Nate Stanley that left him with minus-38 yards rushing by the end of the game. But even outside those six sacks, the Iowa rushing attack never found a lot of consistency against a Purdue defense that came into Saturday holding opponents to 3.7 yards per carry.
The Hawkeyes went heavy on the run on first down against the Boilermakers. They ran 29 first down plays, and 17 of those were runs at 2.5 yards per carry (43 yards). Coach Kirk Ferentz has long talked about success on first down getting his team ahead of the chains and making later downs easier, but that wasn’t achieved Saturday.
Iowa wasn’t much better on second or third down. The Hawkeyes had 13 second-down carries for 36 yards (2.8 ypc) and eight third-down carries for one total yard.
The Akrum Wadley and James Butler tandem — with one Ihmir Smith-Marsette and a couple Stanley designed runs thrown in — also were heavy to one side on Saturday. Of the Hawkeyes’ 32 designed runs (six sacks got them to 38 carries), 14 were to the right. Iowa had 55 yards on those carries (3.9 ypc), and was aided by a 15-yard run to the right from Wadley. Iowa ran nine times to the left for 48 yards (5.3 ypc), one of which was a 25-yarder from Butler, and nine times up the middle for 21 yards (2.3 ypc).
Overall, the two lone big plays offset a few of the sacks, but ultimately no one from Iowa was happy with the run game.
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Iowa’s special teams have not had a great 2017, and Saturday was another example of that — especially in the punt game.
Punter Colten Rastetter’s rugby-style punts are predicated on getting the ball to roll, rather than fly far through the air. While Rastetter had to fight a heavily-gusting wind, he had multiple punts of less than 30 yards. Rastetter punted six times with a 29.7-yard average — which was aided by a long of 42 with the wind. He had punts of 19, 21 and 24 yards within his first four attempts.
The poor punt-yard-average put Iowa’s defense in less-than-ideal starting field position. For the game, Purdue’s average starting field position was at the Iowa 39, and the only quarter in which the Boilermakers averaged starting in their own territory was the fourth quarter — and it was their own 39.
Nate Stanley was pressured, rushed and sacked throughout the game on Saturday, and when he did have time to throw, wasn’t in-sync with his receivers.
Stanley finished the game 16 of 33 for 176 yards, one touchdown and one interception. It was an up-and-down kind of game for him through the air, as he connected on four chunk passing plays (gains of 15 yards or more) to four different receivers. His best play was a slant to Nick Easley for 21 yards over the middle — his only completion in that area of the field.
As has been the case for most of the season, Stanley was unable to connect on a pair of long passes, though one of his two attempts beyond 20 yards (both to the left) was dropped on a raindrop-type throw to Smith-Marsette. He was solid in the middle of the field (10-20 yard throws), going 2 of 4 for 23 yards to the left, 3 of 3 for 45 yards to the right, plus the aforementioned Easley connection over the middle.
Where Stanley struggled the most was short to the right and left. He was 3 of 9 for 22 yards to his left inside 10 yards and 2 of 5 for 22 yards to the right. His lone interception came on a circus catch from Purdue’s Navon Mosley. Stanley threw into traffic to T.J. Hockenson, Mosley hit Hockenson as the ball got there and was able to snag the throw.
Stanley was hurried twice, sacked six times for 44 yards and had three of his passes broken up by Purdue defenders.
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Stanley’s quarterback rating of 97.2 was his second-worst of the season behind last week’s 39.4.
DEALING WITH THE WIND
The wind played a pretty significant factor in Saturday’s game. The official reading was a northwest wind of 20 mph, but it gusted higher than that at several points and had the flags on the east grandstand straight out for most of the game.
Here’s a breakdown of throwing and punting numbers with and against the wind during Saturday’s game.
Purdue QB Elijah Sindelar by quarter:
1Q (with wind) – 9 of 15 for 54 yards and a TD
2Q – 5 of 6 for 33
3Q – (with wind) 6 of 11 for 125 yards and 2 TDs
4Q – 2 of 5 for 17 yards
Iowa QB Nate Stanley by quarter:
1Q (into wind) – 1 of 4 for 16 yards and a sack
2Q – 4 of 6 for 61 yards and two sacks
3Q – (into wind) 2 of 6 for 17 yards and two sacks
4Q – 9 of 17 for 82 yards, TD, INT and a sack
Purdue’s Joe Schopper
1Q (with wind) – 1 punt for 21 yards (one inside the 20)
2Q – 1 punt for 40 yards (one downed inside the 20)
3Q (with wind) – 2 punts for 93 yards (46.5 avg.) including a 68-yarder and one more downed inside Iowa’s 20
4Q – 2 punts for 37 yards (one inside the 20)
Iowa’s Colten Rastetter
1Q (into the wind) – 2 punts for 62 yards (long 38)
2Q – Nate Stanley punted on a quick kick for 31 yards downed inside Purdue’s 5
3Q (into the wind, Rastetter punts) – 4 punts for 116 yards (29 avg.), one inside Purdue’s 20
4Q – 0 punts
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Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Colten Rastetter had multiple punts of less than 30 yards in both directions. He only punted into the wind Saturday.