A 46-yard field goal as time expired by Purdue placekicker Paul Griggs gave the Boilermakers a 27-24 win over Iowa at Kinnick Stadium Saturday. The loss is the fourth consecutive defeat for the Hawkeyes, who are now 4-6 on the season, 2-4 in the Big Ten, and virtually assured of falling short of bowl eligibility for the first time in twelve years. The win was Purdue's first Big Ten victory of the season, but will likely not be enough to save head coach Danny Hope from losing his job at the end of the year. Kirk Ferentz will remain employed indefinitely.
After the teams traded three-and-out series on the game's first possessions, Purdue took Iowa's second punt -- the second of seven on the day -- and drove 68 yards in nine plays, capping the drive with a three-yard touchdown run by halfback Akeem Shavers. Both Shavers and senior running back Ralph Bolden carved up the Iowa defense, totaling 168 yards between them and frequently leaving Iowa defenders grasping for air. In total, Purdue totaled 211 yards of rushing offense on the afternoon, marking the third time in the Hawkeyes' current four-game losing skid that an opponent has rushed for more than 200 yards. Nothing will be changed as a result.
Iowa turned it over on downs in their next series, after driving 40 yards in seven plays, when a James Vandenberg pass to Keenan Davis was broken up. Purdue fumbled the ball to the Hawkeyes at their own 48, though. Iowa promptly completed a nine-yard pass, then ran the most predictable running play in the history of football for a loss of three. A James Vandenberg incompletion brought the inevitable punt from the Purdue 38, which was kicked into the end zone.
Purdue fumbled the next play back to Iowa, and a miraculous Damon Bullock run tied the score at seven, capping a drive in which three successful pass plays resulted in seven total yards. Purdue responded by taking the ball 75 yards on eleven plays, going ahead 14-7 on a Robert Marve touchdown pass to tight end Gabe Holmes, who was left completely uncovered in the end zone. Purdue got another opportunity to score after an Iowa three-and-out, but Boilermaker kicker Sam McCartney missed a 20-yard field goal attempt as time expired on the first half.
Purdue took the opening kick of the second half on a nine-play, 56-yard drive for a field goal, extending their advantage to 17-7. Iowa responded with a drive of its own, covering 69 yards in 12 plays and culminating in senior quarterback James Vandenberg's fifth touchdown pass of the season to much-hyped tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz. Vandenberg, who threw 25 touchdown passes as a junior, remains the only quarterback in FBS to take all of his team's snaps despite recording a 107.2 passer rating, good for 114th in the country. Fiedorowicz, who caught four passes on the day for 17 yards, recorded his first touchdown of the season. No word yet on whether all of the NFL scouts watching him will care.
After the teams exchanged punts, the aforementioned Bolden broke a 56-yard run through the middle of the Iowa defense. He was pushed out by Micah Hyde at the 10. Marve, who was playing without an ACL and yet was not pressured in the least by the Iowa front four throughout the day, hit junior wide receiver Gary Bush for a touchdown on the next play to give the Boilermakers a 24-14 lead.
Purdue's efforts to quite literally give the game to Iowa continued, though. After yet another Iowa three-and-out resulted in a punt, Marve fumbled the ball at his own 9 yard line. The fumble was recovered by Hyde, who strolled in for a touchdown to reduce the Purdue lead to three points. The teams continued to trade punts into the fourth quarter, until a James Vandenberg 35-yard pass to Kevonte Martin-Manley spurred an Iowa drive that stalled at the Purdue 6 yard line. Mike Meyer hit a field goal, tying the score at 24.
Purdue's next drive went nowhere, giving Iowa the ball at its own 14 with 1:08 left to play. A Vandenberg 20-yard scramble and an 11-yard completion to Martin-Manley brought Iowa to midfield, and a second completion to Keenan Davis took the Hawkeyes to the Purdue 42. Iowa threw two incompletions, then a seven-yard strike to Davis on third down. Facing a 52-yard field goal into the wind with a kicker whose career long is 50, Kirk Ferentz correctly decided to attempt a conversion on 4th and 3 from the Purdue 35. Former walk-on tight end Zach Derby, who would later tell reporters he was, in fact, the primary target in the pattern, ran a one-yard out route, caught the pass, and was immediately tackled. Ferentz would later tell reporters that it was an issue of execution, despite the fact that his players executed what is arguably the worst playcall in the history of football flawlessly. Purdue took over on downs. Marve -- who, again, is missing an entire anterior cruciate ligament -- scrambled past a clearly stunned Iowa defense for 17 yards on first down, then completed a pass for 20. Griggs buried the kick as time expired. It was the second time this season that Iowa was beaten on a last-second field goal at Kinnick Stadium, though Central Michigan (now 4-6 on the season and 2-4 in the MAC) had the audacity to throw in an onside kick before their three-play game-winning scoring drive.
After the game, Kirk Ferentz tried to refocus the attention on the fact that his team beat Michigan State over a month ago:
Q. We knew this was a young team at the beginning of the year and some execution fundamental issues that you expected, but did you expect that that would still be a problem 10 weeks in?
KIRK FERENTZ: I would counter that and just tell you that I thought we played pretty good in our opening game of the Big Ten. I thought we played pretty well the next week, too, against a very good football team. It's not like this has just been a dog crap team. You don't want to paint that picture, I'm not buying that. We played good football against Minnesota, we played very good football at Michigan State in very tough circumstances.
When reminded that his team has lost four consecutive games, including back-to-back losses against teams that are a combined 10-12, Ferentz took umbrage:
Q. After those first two, Minnesota and Michigan State...
KIRK FERENTZ: You were paying attention, right? You're not serious, are you?
Q. Well, you're pointing back to the first two games, but you've lost four in a row. It seems like this team is going backwards.
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, it is, because we have not moved the ball the way we had, so I'll let you connect the dots on that one.
Q. Is the offense getting worse?
KIRK FERENTZ: Well, we've lost how many in a row, so what would that suggest? What I'm suggesting is we played pretty well against Minnesota and Michigan State, and we haven't played as well. We've had our chances to win the last couple weeks, but we weren't there. But today the first half we didn't give ourselves a chance. I'll sign on that one. I'll sign on that one.
At least Ferentz admitted to being outcoached by a guy who has a 20-27 overall record in four seasons at Purdue and is a near-certainty to get the axe at the end of the year. That's a first.
Iowa was outgained 490-264 on the afternoon. Marve finished with 266 yards on 25/33 passing; only Eastern Kentucky allowed the eighth-year senior more yards or a higher completion percentage, and nobody has allowed him more rushing yards. Iowa halfback Damon Bullock ran 23 times for 43 yards, many of those coming after the running game had been completely and totally nullified by Purdue's interior line. Bolden's 102 yards nearly doubled his season total; before coming up against the Iowa defense, Bolden had not run for more than 38 yards in any game this season. Despite Bolden's outburst, erstwhile starting halfback Akeem Shavers surpassed his season average. Purdue's 27 points was one point short of its highest Big Ten output of the year; the Boilermakers scored 28 in a 16-point loss to Minnesota. And all of this was despite the fact that the Boilermakers turned the ball over three times and missed a glorified extra point.
After Saturday's action, Iowa ranks 106th nationally (and 11th in the Big Ten) in total offense. The Hawkeyes are 98th nationally (11th in the conference) in rushing offense, 94th (6th) in passing offense, 113th (last) in pass efficiency, and 102nd (10th) in scoring offense. The Hawkeye defense is marginally better, ranking 51st nationally (8th) in total defense, though they rank in the bottom half of the Big Ten in pass efficiency defense (10th), pass defense (10th), rushing defense (7th), opponent first downs (7th), sacks (last, at 1.10 sacks per game), and opponent third down conversions (last, at 42.3%). As the ESPN Big Ten bloggers pointed out following yesterday's game:
Iowa is plus-11 in turnover margin this season and sits at 4-6. That's really hard to do.— Rittenberg/Bennett (@ESPN_BigTen) November 10, 2012
Iowa finishes its season with a road trip to face 7-3 Michigan, followed by a home game against division-leading Nebraska the day after Thanksgiving. Both teams feature mobile quarterbacks with both ACLs intact and stifling defenses, not that either of those is a prerequisite for defeating Iowa.
Basketball season started Friday.