WEST LAFAYETTE, IND. –
Purdue is in. Iowa is who knows where.
The Boilermakers stamped themselves as Big Ten contenders Saturday.
The Hawkeyes are now left pondering where to park their bowl bus, San Antonio, El Paso, Nashville or, gulp, Detroit, the home of the Motor City Bowl.
The Hawkeyes are also left pondering a puckered-up offense, sputtering special teams and a defense that is suddenly stunned and thinned.
The Boilermakers taunted the Hawkeyes, 27-14, before 60,058 fans at Ross-Ade Stadium. They taunted Iowa not by sticking their fingers in their faces, more by doing whatever they wanted when they wanted.
Sure, the score isn’t bad, considering it was 27-0 halfway through the third quarter. And yes, the stats and yards and all that weren’t terribly tilted.
But make no mistake. This was Purdue’s game.
“They overpowered us, at times,” linebacker Chad Greenway said. “They put us in bad positions, at times.”
The No. 16 Boilers (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) need some help to catch first-place Michigan, but they’re in it. The No. 10 Hawkeyes (7-3, 3-3) are out of it, mathematically, technically and realistically.
“Right now, in my eyes, we’re playing for a better bowl,” defensive end Howard Hodges said. “That’s all we can do right now. Big Ten hopes are kind of in the drain.”
Your stat of the game is Purdue’s 154 rushing yards.
Yes, that Purdue, the basketball-on-grass, five-receiver flinging machine rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns on Iowa. Yes, that Iowa, the rush defense that hadn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher all season before Purdue sophomore Jerod Void’s 120 on Saturday.
“It is disappointing,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “They ran the ball well. That makes them a dangerous team, an even more dangerous team.”
Whatever they wanted would be Purdue’s 321 yards of wonderfully balanced offense, 164 rushing and 167 passing. Whenever they wanted would be Purdue’s incredible 11 of 17 third-down conversions.
When the Hawkeyes crawled within 27-14, the Boilers pumped out a 14-play, 7:51 drive, draining the clock from 9:50 to 2:05.
“We wanted to run the ball and did just that,” Purdue Coach Joe Tiller said.
Down 27-0 after Void’s 1-yard run with 7:30 left in the third quarter, the Hawkeyes finally found an offense.
Quarterback Nathan Chandler ran a draw for a 3-yard TD with 3:05 left in the third. With 9:56 left in the game, Chandler hit running back Jermelle Lewis for an 8-yard TD, pulling the Hawkeyes within 27-14.
Not enough to pull the bowl bus out of Detroit.
“This is a real big loss,” Lewis said.
The measure of the Hawkeyes’ failure Saturday wasn’t so
much yards. It was more the emptiness of missed opportunities.
After the Boilers scored on their opening drive – a 9-yard Void run – the Hawkeyes felt the first sting of what might have been.
First-and-10 at the 50, Chandler overthrew wide receiver Ramon Ochoa for what easily would have been a TD. Ochoa had no one within an area code and the ball flew 10 yards past him.
With nine minutes left in the second quarter, Chandler missed wideout Calvin Davis for what would have been a 52-yard TD bomb.
Chandler threw the ball maybe 6 inches too far, but Davis did get his fingers on it.
“We’ll watch the film tomorrow and get reamed for those
plays,” said Chandler, who completed 16 of 29 for 203 yards, a TD and an interception. “I was pretty upset with myself, but it’s like any other bad play you make. You have to get rid of it.
“You don’t forget it. I know what plays you’re talking about.”
The Boilers weren’t running away with it, not yet anyway. When they missed on Chandler-Davis, the Hawkeyes trailed only 10-0.
“We had a shot at that one,” Ferentz said. “Those two plays really came back to haunt us, needless to say.”
Maybe the biggest buzz kill was the TD called back.
Chandler threaded a 9-yard TD pass to wideout Mo Brown, which would have tied the game at 7-7. But, no, not Iowa’s day. The play was called back after the Hawkeyes were called for not having enough players on the line of scrimmage. Coincidentally, Brown was the culprit.
“The refs said I wasn’t on the line of scrimmage,” said Brown, who caught eight passes for 126 yards. “I thought
I was, but that was the call.”
As if the missed opportunities point needed anymore oomph, this drive ended with kicker Nate Kaeding pushing a 34-yard field goal wide right, his first miss in 12 attempts this season.
When you’re perfect kicker misses, you know your day is going wide right.
“It was that kind of day in a lot of ways,” Ferentz said.
“That’s one more thing.”
Throw in the killer penalties, 10 for 72 drive-halting yards, and junior David Bradley’s continued punting woes, six punts for a 37.8 average, and the close calls that went the Boilers’ way, and it was a day for a coach to throw his headphones.
And Iowa secondary coach Phil Parker nearly did after a disputed 17-yard completion massaged Purdue’s first scoring drive, capped by the first of Void’s two TDs.
Running back Fred Russell gained 35 yards on 18 carries. Lewis led the Hawkeyes with 56 yards on seven carries, but most of that came late with the Boilers guarding against the pass.
Purdue defensive end Shaun Phillips whipped tackle Sam Aiello for two sacks. At one point, Phillips told Russell not to run his way.
“And we stopped running to that side,” Russell said.
And Iowa’s bowl bus is looking for directions.