Each week we’ll slog our way through the week’s game and try to come up with explanations for the unexplainable. Catch all our previous rewatches right here.
It’s hard to know where exactly to point fingers on this one.
The sacks? The inability to execute the offense? The bad punting and relatively bad field position? The play calling? That the defense looks kinda tired? Purdue simply out-coaching Iowa?
Credit to the Boilermakers. Not everything they tried worked, but their first two drives of the third quarter won them the game.
On those drives, Purdue didn’t get a touchdown or a first down on exactly one play of the six they ran. It turned a two-point Iowa lead into a 12-point deficit in a little over three minutes. The Boilermakers made halftime adjustments that worked immediately. Kirk Ferentz and his staff weren’t able to do that.
In fact, I think that’s where we’ll start the breakdown today.
After deferring to the second half, the Boilermakers found themselves down two points entering the final 30 minutes of play.
But let’s go back a second. Despite having three timeouts and over a minute to work with, the Hawkeyes weren’t able to add another score before the second quarter ended.
That’s big. It’s a very Belichick-ian thing to try and score right before halftime. Granted Iowa doesn’t always do this, but it did make an attempt in this game. Purdue stopping the Hawkeye drive with a sack (we’ll get to those later) just might have cost the Black and Gold some points.
Anyways. Purdue came into the third quarter firing on all cylinders. Elijah Sindelar completed three passes on the Boilermakers’ first drive and then was able to bait Manny Rugamba into a pass interference call.
Sindelar — a second-string quarterback — found receiver Anthony Mahoungou for a 42-yard touchdown, giving the Boilermakers a 14-9 lead. Iowa would never get any closer.
Rugamba had an awful game and he simply gets beat here. Mahoungou puts a bit of a move on Rugamba at the beginning of the route and the sophomore corner isn’t able to recover.
More than anything, this was a momentum-shifter. After the safety and the ensuing touchdown in the second quarter, it kind of felt like Iowa might have a bit of something going for them. The Hawkeye offense was actually moving a bit in the first half.
It ran 29 plays for 131 yards and had to punt three times. Not world-beating, but not really that terrible either. The Hawkeye defense was able to do its job and held Purdue to 96 yards on 37 plays in the first half.
But, as has happened many times this year, the Iowa offense disappeared. Not to pick on Ihmir Smith-Marsette here, but his drop on the drive following the Purdue drive we just talked about was huge.
He’s open and has a good chance at the ball. ISM just can’t hang on.
Iowa followed it with a truly awful 21-yard punt, which gave Purdue tremendous field position. The Hawkeyes put Michael Ojemudia into the game for Rugamba.
It didn’t work.
Two plays later, Iowa switches corners again. This time Matt Hankins has a chance.
It doesn’t work either.
And that, folks, was pretty much the game.
Iowa wasn’t able to muster much of anything after that. They looked dead. By the time they got an adrenaline shot, it was far too late and the Hawkeyes fell to 6-5 on the season.
There are plenty of things to pick at with the offense, but first let’s do snaps.
OFFENSIVE SNAP COUNTS
Wide receiver: Matt VandeBerg (52), Nick Easley (50), Ihmir Smith-Marsette (41), Max Cooper (2), Brandon Smith (2).
Tight end: T.J. Hockenson (56), Noah Fant (47), Peter Pekar (10), Nate Wieting (1).
Running back: Akrum Wadley (54), James Butler (19), Ivory Kelly-Martin (2).
Fullback: Brady Ross (11), Drake Kulick (8).
This was a very tight end-heavy game. The Hawkeyes used lots of 13 (three TE, one RB, one WR) and 22 (two RB/FB, two TE, one WR) in this game, especially in the second and early third quarters.
It worked pretty well in the first half and I think that’s why Iowa really tried to make it happen in the third.
For example, Wadley’s longest run of the day (15 yards) came out of the 13 formation:
It’s a pretty basic zone run to the right and both Fant and Hockenson get great blocks to open up a hole. Sean Welsh (79) also has a great block here, keeping the defensive end out of the way. Tristan Wirfs (74) recognizes it and heads downfield to find a linebacker.
It’s a good play.
What’s so frustrating is that the running game was able to find a bit of success in the first half and then went MIA in the second. James Butler’s best run of the day also came in the first 30 minutes, but out of a different formation.
This play is from a 21 — two WR, two RB/FB, and one TE.
This was great vision on Butler’s part. He sees that the cutback lane is wide open and senior Boilermaker LB Danny Ezechukwu (36) overpursues a bit. Boom, 25-yard gain.
There were some aspects of the passing game that were working too — again, mostly in the first half. After a pretty bad call on Fant for an illegal block, the Hawkeyes were facing a 1st and 25.
Stanley delivered an absolute strike.
Iowa doesn’t get any points of this drive, but it does lead to a Stanley pooch punt that is downed at the Purdue three-yard line. Two plays later, the Hawkeyes get a safety and then gets the ball right back.
Which, behind five straight runs from Akrum Wadley and this gorgeous pass, they end the drive with a touchdown and a 9-7 lead.
A pretty gutsy call and a nice catch from Matt VandeBerg.
Things were really going pretty well for Iowa in the first half. Again, they probably should have won this game. The problem was, they kept shooting themselves in the foot.
Sacks are drive killers. And Iowa had six of them:
Wirfs, I’d assume, thought Wadley was supposed to pick up the edge rusher. He does not.
4th down. Iowa punts. Drive killer.
Butler does a pretty bad job picking up the blitzing sophomore LB Markus Bailey (21). Keegan Render (69) gets manhandled and a spin move put on him by defensive tackle Eddy Wilson (7).
Wirfs messes up again too.
4th down. Iowa punts. Drive killer.
Wirfs and Wadley both block SR LB Ja'Whaun Bentley (4). Meanwhile, DE Antoine Miles (11) gets a free shot at Stanley.
This was the second-to-last play of the first half. Despite having three timeouts, Iowa decides to just run the clock out.
Third quarter. Iowa’s driven all the way from its own 14-yard line. Things are actually starting to look up.
Then, whatever the hell this play is. Iowa all steps to the left, in zone blocking form. Perhaps this is supposed to be a run-pass option? This sort of felt like a play that was maybe designed for Hockenson? I don’t know.
Remember how earlier we were talking about the 13 formation? Well that’s what this is. It didn’t work.
Oh, I should add, James Daniels fumbled the ball on the next snap. Stanley was able to race about 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage and grab it, throwing it out of bounds and saving field position but...
This sack? Yeah, it was still a drive killer. Iowa punted.
Daniels gets his ass kicked into tomorrow. That’s really all that happened here.
On 3rd and 21, down by 12, Iowa would run a draw play with James Butler on the next play. It gained nine yards. The Hawkeyes punted on fourth down.
Sean Welsh and James Daniels are both at fault here. Daniels isn’t even looking that direction, while Welsh was just late to the party.
This one didn’t actually kill a drive, somehow. Iowa probably wouldn’t have punted regardless considering they were down 12 points with under four minutes to go against the Purdue Boilermakers in Kinnick Stadium on Senior Day.
As we saw earlier, there were definitely some serious lapses in pass coverage. Overall, though, I felt the defense played pretty well.
DEFENSIVE SNAP COUNTS
Defensive end: Anthony Nelson (43), Parker Hesse (39), A.J. Epenesa (29), Sam Brincks (25).
Defensive tackle: Nathan Bazata (43), Matt Nelson (41), Brady Reiff (22), Cedrick Lattimore (22), Parker Hesse (4), Garret Jensen (4).
Nothing really out of the ordinary here. It was nice to see AJE approach 30 snaps. Sam Brincks continues to be a solid presence. Reiff continues to see more time, which means Lattimore is losing some.
Iowa had four sacks on the day, two from Josey Jewell and one each from AJE and Bazata. Jewell finished with 13 total tackles and three pass breakups and we really aren’t worthy of his brilliance.
Sindelar never had a chance.
Epenesa’s sack brings his total to 4.5 this season. That’s tied with Jewell for second-most on the team despite a drastically smaller number of snaps. Here it is in all its glory:
That said, despite the barrage of sacks, Purdue didn’t turn the ball over. Sindelar finished a pretty efficient 22-of-37 for 229 yards and three touchdowns. As the game wore on, the Hawkeyes really weren’t able to get to him all that much.
Even when Iowa was able to force him out of the pocket, he still found time to make throws:
Just a nice play by the QB on third down. Didn’t panic and delivered a strike to the end zone. Bo Bower did not have a good day and this was a play he was in decent position to make.
Iowa did get a safety, it’s first since Michigan last year. It’s pretty bad, however, that the defense is outscoring the offense 16-13 over the past two games.
Not really a whole lot more to say about this game.
Failing the two-point conversion sucked. Stanley also had a pretty weird interception. He has a knack for some reaaaal unlucky plays and I’m starting to wonder if he sold his soul at the beginning of the season to beat Ohio State.
Maybe he got the Iowa State game for it too. Who knows.
Big picture, this probably takes a couple of the more fun bowls out of the picture. I’ll let Max or someone smarter than I figure out bowl predictions later in the week, but overall what a meh season.
I guess I always figured out we’d end up around 7-5 or 6-6 this year. It’s just another thing to actually live it. Again.
More than anything this game just had a whole lot of dumb in it. I didn’t really realize it until I started to dive deep into this rewatch, but those sacks were probably the difference in this game.
I mean, Iowa’s struggled pretty heavily on third down over the past two weeks — they’re 7-29 — but I have a feeling they’d have been able to convert at least a couple more. Who knows, Iowa might even have won.
Then again, “who knows, Iowa might even have won” has pretty much been the battle cry after every loss all season.
On to the atomic wasteland that is Nebraska.