Apologies in advance for the brevity and/or incoherence contained herein. It was a very exhausting (albeit incredibly enjoyable) weekend and I'm still trying to get caught up on everything. Actually getting eight hours of sleep last night was quite exciting, though.
A winner is... us? Just call us the Legion of Doom 'cause we are road warriors, amirite? Well, maybe not, but for the first time in over a year (no, we're not counting the Insight Bowl because a neutral site game in front of 25K Iowa fans is not exactly a "hostile environment"*) Iowa was victorious in a road football game. Which was nice. It certainly wasn't the cleanest win Iowa's ever recorded and it could -- and probably should -- have been much more lopsided than it was, but let's not take this gift horse to the glue factory already. It got the road losing streak monkey off our back and compared to previous road meltdowns this season (and last year), Iowa didn't exactly play particularly poorly -- just not as well as they could/should have. Iowa seemed to be clearly the better team on Saturday and only a few self-inflicted wounds (dropping a wide-open touchdown catch in the end zone, fumbling a hand-off inside the Purdue 5-yard line, etc.) kept it from being a more decisive Iowa win.
* Granted, RossWB Stadium was not exactly the most hostile environment, either, unless you happen to be easily terrified by huge swaths of empty seats and/or random train noises, but hey.
Defend, ye Hawkeyes, defend. It seems weird to praise the defense after a performance in which Iowa fans were (again!) watching a fourth quarter collapse, but on the whole they played one of their best games of the season. They held Purdue to 282 yards, the lowest total yardage any team has recorded against the Iowa defense this season. They forced five punts and three turnovers (the game-clinching touchback was caused at least in part by Micah Hyde ripping at the ball) and had nine tackles for loss, which I'm almost positive is a season-best for Iowa. Hell, for perhaps the first time all year the Iowa defensive actually looked disruptive and dangerous: Mike Daniels (8 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks) and Broderick Binns (7 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack) had their way out there for much of the game. The secondary also had a decent day after last week's torch job against Michigan State, with Shaun Prater and B.J. Lowery each recording a sack and Tanner Miller snaring two interceptions. It was disappointing that they gave up a fairly easy touchdown in the fourth quarter and then couldn't get a crucial stop when Purdue was driving to cut the lead to 3 points, but for the most part this was a very fine day at the office for the Iowa defense.
About the offense. In terms of road performances, it was also an above-average outing for the Iowa offense, which racked up over 400 yards of offense and 31 points* and looked far more in command than they had in prior away games. Granted, they certianly weren't perfect -- Vandenberg missed a few open receivers, McNutt had a few inexplicable drops, and Coker missed a few good running lanes, to name a few miscues -- but overall this was definitely a stronger performance from the Iowa offense than we'd seen in most recent road games. Coker and McNutt were as reliably studly as we've come to expect from them in most games this season, but the most pleasant surprise was Vandenberg, who looked far more composed and confident this week than he had in some prior road trips. The offense's red zone efficiency was again concerning -- after scoring on 26/27 red zone trips in the first seven games, they've hit on just 12/18 trips in their last four games. Red zone mistakes were a direct cause for their ghastly loss to Minnesota three weeks ago and on another day, their mistakes yesterday -- McNutt's dropped touchdown catch, Meyer's shanked field goal, McCall's** fumble -- could have proved just as costly.
* FUN FACT: Iowa improved to 56-5 under Ferentz when the offense scores at least 30 points.
** As far as burning his redshirt goes, I still can't work up that much angst over it (for now). Fifth-year senior running backs at Iowa happen about as often as Halley's comet, so worrying about whether or not he might be available for the 2015 season seems slightly absurd. I do hope his (very ill-timed) fumble doesn't relegate him to the bench for the two remaining games this year, though, because that really would be a waste.
The wrong kind of special. Special teams were very strange on Saturday and mostly bad, but they were bailed out by the fact that Purdue's special teams were also pretty bad. Mike Meyer missed a 34-yard field goal and had a few painfully short kickoffs, but Purdue responded by fumbling a kickoff and engaging in one of the weirdest fake punt/rugby-style punts I've ever seen... which wound up getting blocked. Let's just call it a wash and be thankful that the game wasn't decided by special teams.
We came, we saw, we conquered OMHR. Finally, I'd be remiss in not mentioning that the BHGP roadtrip to the game was an absolute blast. Kyle did a fantastic job in organizing it and hanging out with so many of you miscreants and ne'er-do-wells was great fun, particularly since we essentially had the run of a good chunk of one end zone. I can't remember everyone I met (between exhaustion and inebriation this weekend is an absolute blur), but it was great to put faces to names for folks like Give Eddie a Beer, three and out the kok story, sailorjerry, IPeeBlackAndGold, The Final Gun, BoilerHawk, recovering frat guy, OhioHawk, Lukateake and many others. (Again, if I forgot to mention you, it's nothing personal whatsoever -- my brain is just fried.) "Boiler Up!" to you all -- we'll definitely have to do it again sometime.