A little snow couldn’t stop the Iowa Hawkeyes from plowing their way to 11-0. Iowa jumped to a 20-0 lead and that was pretty much all she wrote. While Purdue managed to match Iowa the rest of the way, the 20-point margin held up at the end and the game’s result never really felt in question.
The Misery Index
It turned out to be the wind, not the snow, that had a big effect on this game. It was strong and cold and made it hard on the quarterbacks to throw accurately down the field. The two offense combined for 508 yards with the wind at their backs and only 284 into it. That is a pretty big difference.
Purdue completely sold out against the run during the second and third quarters. They consistently had all 11 defenders within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage and often had 9 men in the box with both safeties walked down. It was generally effective as Iowa really only had one scoring drive in those quarters (which was scored at the beginning of the second quarter after gaining most of their yards with the wind). But the offense was able to cook up just enough. The touchdown pass to George Kittle was a brilliant play call. Jordan Canzeri made the overly aggressive alignment pay in the 4th quarter, blowing right past the second level for an easy long TD run.
Purdue did basically nothing in the first and fourth quarters. Iowa jumped out to a 20-0 lead when Purdue’s first three drives went 3-and-out, 3-and-out, fumble. Then in the fourth quarter Purdue was in complete desperation mode. They did manage to put together one scoring drive when they converted two fourth downs. But Austin Appleby completed less than 50% of his passes in the quarter and went 10/22 for 116 yards and never really posed a threat to Iowa.
Shore Up the Run Defense
I think Purdue watched the Iowa-Minnesota tape. They ran the same fake sweep zone-read play and had some success running up the middle with Markell Jones. Jones finished with 87 yards on 24 carries. Iowa did better against the QB when they kept, limiting them to 9 yards gained, but a net -2 yards with a sack and a couple of tackles for loss.
On the day, Purdue had 137 yards rushing, though 26 of those came on the really well-executed fake punt. So 111 yards -- that’s pretty good and right in line with the 107 yards per game average that Iowa is putting up (which is good for 7th in the nation).
Don’t Throw Picks
Even with the wind, Beathard went another week without throwing a pick. That’s four games in a row without an interception. He also had three passing touchdowns, tied for his most of the season (he also threw three against Iowa State) and had his best passer rating other than the North Texas game. That is impressive stuff considering the weather.
Before the season started, I don’t think many people expected Beathard to have a 13:3 touchdown to interception ratio. His gunslinger persona hasn’t really been justified. He’s been very in control and the days of "just chuck it deep" are gone. And Iowa’s turnover margin this year has been a big reason for the 11-0 start. Iowa is tied for 5th in the nation with a +11 turnover margin. That has translated into a 76 to 33 points off of turnovers advantage. That’s a TD to FG advantage every game. And that’s exactly how this game played out. Both teams had a fumble by their QBs trying to run up the middle. Iowa turned that into a touchdown, while Purdue had to settle for a field goal.
As each senior was introduced before the game, they ran out the middle of the field and were greeted by their family to warm ovations. And as each guy left midfield to join the rest of the team on the sideline, Jordan Canzeri ran up and acknowledged every one. It was just a little thing, but it was really cool to see. I think all that talk about better leadership and team chemistry is warranted. And I think a lot of it starts with Canzeri.
I think every senior except for Drew Ott saw the field on Saturday. That is awesome. Even Darian Cooper, who has been battling an injury all this year and last year, got in on the defense’s final series. Iowa's victory formation had Jordan Canzeri, Adam Cox, Macon Plewa, Jake Duzey, Eric Simmons, Austin Blythe, Jordan Walsh, and Henry Krieger-Coble. That is a lot of seniors.
And the seniors played really well. Canzeri had 95 yards on 13 carries, including that 42-yard TD at the end. Krieger-Coble and Tevaun Smith both had 4 receptions for over 70 yards. Jordan Lomax racked up 12 tackles, including a a massive hit on David Blough. Cole Fisher added 10 tackles and Nate Meier had 9 tackles.
Bring on the Huskers on Black Friday. Iowa is playing with house money at this point. The West has been won. 11 wins has exceeded every expectation. And Iowa will be in a good bowl game regardless of the final two games.
In a way, Iowa is basically in a playoff right now. If the Hawkeyes win their next four games, then they will be the national champions. Not too many teams can say that…maybe three or four. There are a few other teams hat could sneak in the playoff, but need some help. Iowa’s fate is it its own hands.