IOWA CITY — When scoring drives are announced on the press box loudspeaker at Kinnick Stadium, it goes “X plays, X yards and in such and such amount of time.”
These are the relevant numbers from the Hawkeyes’ 27-24 loss to Purdue on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium: three plays, 37 yards and 16 seconds.
After Iowa failed on a fourth-and-3 from Purdue’s 34, quarterback Robert Marve drove the Boilermakers to set up Paul Griggs’ 46-yard game-winner on the final play.
“We knew if we could get protection for our quarterback, that Robert Marve could be the difference maker he was today,” Purdue coach Danny Hope said. “The last drive we didn’t have any second guesses in our minds that if we could protect for Robert, we could kick a field goal.”
On first down, Marve dropped back to pass and found no one. He took off to his right for 17 yards to Iowa’s 49. Iowa’s D-line didn’t hold rushing lanes. Marve, who’s playing through a torn ACL, slipped between tackle and end Steve Bigach.
“I’ll take responsibility for the scramble,” Bigach said. “I’ll take that one. As a senior, as a guy who’s supposed to be a leader, I haven’t been doing my job.”
Then, Marve dropped back and had plenty of time to find wide receiver Antavian Edison for a 20-yard gain to Iowa’s 29. Iowa was in a zone coverage. Marve stuck the ball to Edison over outside linebacker Tyler Perry and in front of strong safety Nico Law.
Law was in his second career start. Perry was out there because junior linebacker Anthony Hitchens was injured or ill. Also, linebacker James Morris sat out much of the second half with what looked like a groin injury.
That’s what shaped Iowa’s personnel. The performance? That’s probably what shaped that, too.
“You noticed sometimes he [Marve] was getting to his second and third read on a lot of the plays,” senior cornerback Micah Hyde said. “When a quarterback is doing that, he’s hard to beat. He was finding open guys the whole game. He was letting his guys make plays for him and that’s what he did at the end of the game.”
Iowa’s defense has been in free fall since Penn State hung 38 points and 504 yards on it Oct. 20. Since then, Iowa’s defense has allowed 1,900 total yards, 475 yards a game and 29.25 points a game. The Hawkeyes also have only two sacks the last four games and 11 in 10 games. That’s last in the Big Ten, 110th in the country.
Tackling was such an obvious issue that it came up in most every defensive player’s and coach Kirk Ferentz’s postgames.
“Poor,” Ferentz said when asked to rate Iowa’s tackling. “You were at the game, right?”
And that was as defensive as Iowa has been the last four weeks.