Really, what is there to say following an absolutely, positively confounding loss to a lesser team two short weeks after pounding a team like Ohio State into submission?
There’s the usual football buzzwords. Iowa wasn’t the better team Saturday. Give Purdue credit for forcing Iowa mistakes. Iowa didn’t execute.
I’m afraid, however, that doesn’t paint the full picture here. Or wait. Maybe it does.
Iowa’s Nathan Stanley was sacked six times. The most this offensive line allowed all season. Against a team that had just 16 sacks going into this game. Stanley threw his first touchdown in two weeks after lighting up Ohio State, and also had a fourth quarter interception that all but sealed the deal for Purdue. This isn’t the Nate Stanley we saw two weeks ago, and this isn’t the Iowa offensive line we’ve come to rely on as a strength in years past.
The much-lauded Iowa defense allowed Purdue to score 24 points. The Boilermakers, led by backup quarterback Elijah Sindelar, put up 294 yards of total offense. Sindelar threw three scores and no interceptions. Though he was sacked 4 times himself, this Iowa pass rush seemed wholly absent much of the game. Iowa tied a season-high for 8 passes broken up, but it didn’t really seem to matter. Josey Jewell had 13 tackles, 2 sacks and 3 pass breakups. He’s just the third player in Iowa history to have three seasons of over 115 tackles in a season. He deserves better than this.
Sindelar and the Boilers took advantage of whoever Josh Jackson wasn’t covering. First it was Manny Rugamba. Four straight plays went at him in the second quarter, which resulted in 3 completions and a pass interference penalty. Inserting Michael Ojemudia for Rugamba shortly thereafter didn’t help either.
In terms of execution, this offensive line didn’t really show up at all. There was the aforementioned sacks. Honestly, only maybe one could have be blamed on Stanley. The rest were just complete and total breakdowns of coverage. Akrum Wadley and James Butler combined for just 116 yards on 29 rushes. That’s not going to cut it for Iowa football. The holes weren’t there when they needed to be, and when Purdue knew Iowa needed to pass, they locked it down. When Iowa decided to run, it was telegraphed for the whole world to see.
And even when Iowa tried to mix it up on third and long it was useless. A draw play to Stanley on third and nine was conceding the game in the third quarter. Another run call to Wadley on third and 12 in the fourth quarter went for nothing. The play calling we saw against Ohio State has been locked in a drawer and someone swallowed the key.
Running against eight men in the box. Audibles to a run. Mind-numbing drops at the most inopportune times. Oh God, the drops. Stanley miscues after flashing moments of brilliance. A punting situation that can only be described as disastrous. A punt-returning situation that makes me want to pull out my own hair. These are the things that will come to define this 2017 Iowa football season.
Make no mistake. Iowa’s players did themselves little favors between the drops, fumbles and total indecision to effectively run and pass block. But this is what getting out-coached looks like. The first year coaching staff for Purdue watched the Wisconsin film fastidiously and had the wherewithal to realize that Iowa would not change a goddam thing after that game.
And then there was the total cluster of mismanagement at the end of the game. Iowa scored a touchdown to make it 24-15 with a little over a minute left. Rather than go for one there and attempt an onside kick immediately after, the Iowa coaches elected to go for two at that juncture. Nathan Stanley overthrew his man on what was really a horrible route, and that was that.
I realize you have to go for two eventually if and when that time comes, but the decision to do so there makes absolutely, positively, no sense to me. The math might add up, but the psychology doesn’t. You play to be in the game as long as possible. Iowa’s failed conversion put the game totally out of reach with under a minute to go. It made an attempted onside kick completely meaningless. For a program that was arguably built on psychology with Hayden Fry, this was one of the largest coaching errors I’ve seen in awhile. And there’s been a lot lately.
This is all to say, we’re talking about a 5-6 Purdue team that just earned it first road win of the season here. I shouldn’t have had to write anything you just read. A Purdue team that has losses to Nebraska and Rutgers, mind you. The Boilers deserve credit, sure, but this is an Iowa blog, and I’m laying this loss at the feet of the Ferentzi and everyone else on this staff save for maybe Phil Parker, who’s unit had an unspectacular day, but still did enough to give Iowa a chance to win.
So was that 900 words of just straight bitching? Maybe. If you want better analysis, go read Jerry Scherwin. We’ll have more for you tomorrow. But for now, there’s anger and unanswered questions. I can’t help but feel bad for Josey Jewell and Akrum Wadley. Their senior seasons didn’t deserve to end up like this. The Ohio State game feels like months ago. 12-0 is ancient history now.