Iowa Football

Play Action: No. 16 Iowa Hawkeyes at Purdue Boilermakers

Hawkeyes riding the thumb this week: You probably don't want to find out Stanley's value, at least not the hard way

Purdue hosts No. 16 Iowa this Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind. (The Gazette)
Purdue hosts No. 16 Iowa this Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind. (The Gazette)

No. 16 Iowa (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) travels to West Lafayette, Ind., for a matchup with the Purdue Boilermakers (4-4, 3-2) on Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium. Kickoff is 2:35 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPN2.

The Boilermakers’ Vibe

1. You already know him by his first name — Purdue’s Rondale Moore has been the Big Ten’s biggest revelation. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound wide receiver from New Albany, Ind., leads the conference in all-purpose yards at 181.3 per game. Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor is second at 147.1.

The true freshman is second in receiving at 100.3 yards per game. He’s second in the league with 33 plays of 10-plus yards (second in 20-plus with 12, first in 30-plus with nine and first in 40-plus with seven). He’s third in the conference in yards from scrimmage (120.6 per game).

With 313 all-purpose yards against Northwestern, Moore owns the career record. He’s a true freshman who can run and can squat 600 pounds.

2. How did Michigan State keep “already know him by his first name” in check? — Michigan State kept Moore in front of it. MSU safety Khari Willis is all-Big Ten caliber. He was assigned to Moore and a team approach made it hold up.

It also didn’t hurt that the Spartans shut down Purdue’s running game, holding the Boilers to 62 yards. It’s tougher to get passing yards when everyone knows you have to pass. Also, Iowa does have a pass rush that could have a say in how that goes.

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Now, the Spartans didn’t stop Moore. This offense is built to get him the ball. MSU kept leverage and got hats to Moore, who finished with 11 catches for 74 yards.

Iowa preached leverage on Moore this week. Don’t look for Iowa to run any sort of “spy” thing. It’s just not the Hawkeyes’ style to leave something open to cover something else. But who knows? Moore is this kind of player.

3. Did anyone see David Blough coming? — Against Illinois last year, Purdue QB David Blough suffered a dislocated ankle. Those are not for the faint of heart. It usually means a foot is pointing the wrong direction. And it was for Blough.

Well, he’s not done yet.

The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder is second in the Big Ten with 293.8 yards per game. He has 13 TD passes to just five interceptions and has a 65.2 completion percentage.

4. Defense? — It’s not as good as last season. The Boilers allowed 375.5 yards per game last year. This season, they’re up to 432.3. The Boilers have allowed more than 400 yards in six of their eight games, holding only Boston College and Illinois to less than 400.

Purdue’s 5.57 yards per play is seventh in the league. Purdue’s rush defense allows just 3.70 yards a carry (seventh in the Big Ten), but the secondary is last in the league at 299.1 yards per game (126.2 in passer rating, which is eighth in the league).

5. Relevant numbers — In his last three games, Blough is completing 62 percent of his passes.

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Running back D.J. Knox, who's fifth in the conference in rushing, led the Big Ten in yards from scrimmage (rushing and receiving) for the month of October with 402 yards (8.2 yards per play).

In the three October games, Purdue’s defense held opponents to 253 yards, leading the Big Ten for the month.

What’s Happening With The Hawkeyes?

1. Stanley isn’t going anywhere, so stop with that — The pass/fail, grade A/grade F stuff gets really old. Yes, Kirk Ferentz is going to bench a two-year (almost two-year) starter for a redshirt freshman in a game at Penn State, in a game in which the Iowa QB was hurried 19 times.

Kirk Ferentz isn’t going to do that. There’s no argument for “should,” but only because the moment has passed. It’s not a “should,” you know that. It’s a “not gonna happen” and you know that, too.

But there is this: Stanley is the fifth best QB in the Big Ten and that’s if he plays well. There are more consistent QBs in the league. Stanley needs to keep climbing that ladder. He has to pay attention to mechanics/footwork under pressure. And after last week’s killing interception on a first down from Penn State’s 3, his decision making is on notice.

But he isn’t getting benched. Save your energy on that.

2. Is Stanley even playing? — I turn to you, sports gambling, to drag college football coaches and secrecy on health of athletes into the light. (I know there are laws, and I know there are ways of saying things without saying everything.)

Apparently, that’s what it’s going to take. Remember this summer, when at Big Ten media days all of the coaches were like, “Oh yeah, injury report, we can do that.” Well, they won’t until they absolutely have to. So, let’s get the honest and forthright world of sports gambling to help college football coaches see the light on this.

I didn’t want to write anything about Stanley keeping his hands hidden from media this week. Juvenile antics. Or I mean “gamesmanship.”

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The X-rays were negative. We’ll see when we see. Isn’t this fun? (Yes, clearly this bugs me, sorry.)

3. Downfield blocking on RPOs — It’s not football, but it never gets called, so maybe it is football?

It really is fun talking football rules with Kirk Ferentz. He values the blocking and tackling game, but the spread coaches have apparently overrun the rules committees (but really, there probably are more spread than prostyle offenses now, right?).

We went over cut blocks. Ferentz feels like linebackers shouldn’t have the freedom to chill in the middle, so he cut blocks them. That’s been a flag more often than not this year. At Penn State, there were a few plays were PSU receivers started blocking downfield before the ball was in the air. There’s a 3-yard line where it’s supposedly illegal for blockers to pass until the ball has crossed the line of scrimmage.

That 3-yard rule is ignored like a yellow traffic light.

“You know, if you’re in the right camp you get responded to; if you’re in the wrong camp you don’t,” Ferentz said. “That’s really about the most plain way I can say it. We’re in the wrong camp on that one, and we’re in the wrong camp on cut blocks. Nobody really cares.

“Being downhill is in vogue, cut blocking isn’t. Case closed. That’s an opinion, not a — just an opinion.”

If no one calls it, why not go with the flow? (Sounds like Ferentz might actually do that.)

“Yeah, it’s a little bit like the punting thing, that I so detested and now we’re doing it because at some point you just realize you might as well, and that is legal, though. That’s the difference,” Ferentz said. “But yeah, you can kind of the push the envelope, you might as well because you can get away with it.”

That’s not New Kirk. That’s like Angry and Maybe Vengeful Kirk, like a mythic figure wanting to settle a score. I’m with him on this. Spread football just isn’t enough of a struggle for me (says the Cubs fan).

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4. Running back o’ Rama — Looks like it’s Mehki Sargent’s turn. He put up 106 total yards from scrimmage at Penn State (91 rushing, 15 receiving). That was his second 100-plus effort in yards from scrimmage this season. Iowa running backs have produced just three of those (Toren Young has the other).

Why did Iowa try a pass on first-and-goal from the 3 in the fourth quarter at Penn State? How much does offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz trust it? Iowa hasn’t scored a rushing TD in three weeks. It also has this guy Noah Fant, who catches TDs in his sleep.

The running game has been just enough most weeks. That’s not really an endorsement.

5. Relevant numbers — In four October games, Stanley has completed 51.4 percent of his passes, eighth in the Big Ten.

Also in October, Iowa put up 61 plays of 10-plus yards, that’s tied for third in the league (Nebraska led).

Iowa had 12.0 sacks in October. That ties with Penn State for the Big Ten high.

Prediction

Iowa 34, Purdue 24

This is if Stanley is healthy. It’s “one for the thumb” this week. If he’s not healthy, Purdue probably wins.

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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