Preview, Prediction: Hawkeyes Meet Purdue in Important B1G West Tilt

October 31, 2018

Written by Rob Howe

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Nate Stanley didn’t deal well with being pressured in a loss at Penn State last weekend. The Iowa quarterback has shown some unsteadiness in the past when the pockets collapses.

It makes sense then that Saturday’s opponent, Purdue, will be coming after the junior signal caller in West Lafayette. We’ll see if the Boilermakers can get home and rattle him.

“We’re going to have to get some pressure on him. We’re going to have to get some push,” Purdue coach Jeff Brohn said this week. “If we don’t rush five or more, we are going to have to tighten up the secondary and not let him throw an easy completion.

“Now every once in a while, if it happens, I get it, but it can’t happen very much, and we’ve got to tighten things down and make him hold it longer than he wants and make him feel uncomfortable. And that’s with any quarterback.”

The Wisconsin native struggled through an 18-for-49 passing day with no touchdowns and an two interceptions at Penn State. His offensive line also leaked more than it had in any other game this season.

Purdue (4-4 overall, 3-2) stuffed Stanley and the Iowa offense a year ago during a 24-15 victory at Kinnick Stadium. It sacked the quarterback six times in that contest.

Boilermaker quarterback David Blough also will be trying to rebound after throwing three interceptions and no touchdowns in a loss at Michigan State last week. That was more than double his season total in picks coming into that contest.

Blough’s favorite target is true freshman receiver Rondale Moore. He leads the Big Ten in receptions with 68 and his 802 yards are only five behind Minnesota’s Tyler Johnson, the league leader.

Moore is dynamic, turning short passes into big gains. The Hawkeyes will try to keep him from getting loose in space whether it’s on receptions, carries or returns.

“I get that he’s a good player but I feel like he’s just another football player,” Iowa safety Geno Stone said. “Saquon Barkley was another one of those players that you look at see he’s a really good player and you can’t wait to play against him. I can’t wait to see what he can do against us.”

Running back D.J. Knox gets overshadowed by Moore and Blough but he’s dangerous and helps balance the offense. He averages 89.9 yards per game, which ranks fifth in the conference. His 6.5 per carry average rates second among qualified league rushers to Illinois’ Reggie Corbin (8.0).

“You can’t just focus on (Moore),” Hawkeye safety Amani Hooker said. “They have great receivers all around, great tight ends, too. I think they have a really underrated team. Their record doesn’t show how good they really are. We have to make sure we’re prepared and all on the same page.”

Purdue lost a lot of players from its stingy ’17 defense and that showed early in the season. That unit has matured, however. It’s sixth in the league in scoring defense (22.8 PPG) and fourth against the rush (133.1 YPG). Nine different Boilermakers have recorded at least one sack this season.

“They run a couple of different fronts. They’re a little unorthodox. They’ll throw some (odd-man fronts) at us. We’ll probably get more of that than we’ve seen on film just because a lot of teams have been pressuring us. We have to play fast,” Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs said.

Linebacker Markus Bailey leads the way with 69 tackles to go along with 3.5 sacks and 6 tackles for loss. Fellow linebacker Cornel Jones ranks third in the Big Ten with 11.5 tackles for loss.

The Boilermakers have yielded yards through the air this season. In his first college start, Michigan State’s Rocky Lombardi threw for 318 and two scores without an interception against them last week.

Despite its struggles in State College, Iowa can hurt teams with the pass. Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson create mismatches as the top tight end duo in the country.

“We have got to be physical with the tight end, as well. We’ve got to put guys up on them. We’ve got to have guys sitting there waiting for him. We’ve got to collision him. We’ve got to get our hands on them; if we allow them to run up the field on their play-action and any of their routes, yeah, we’re going to have a hard time,” Brohm said.

On the flip side, Iowa will bring to town the best defense the Boilermakers have seen to date. It’s among the country’s best in scoring defense and rushing defense.

“Defensively they are very good, and they do an outstanding job in their scheme and their system. They have done it for a long time. People are in the right spot and they are physical,” Brohm said.

“We’re going to have our hands full. We’re going to have to play better and we’re going to have to execute better and we’re going to have to find ways to make more big plays, and it will be a great challenge for us.”

And play better than it did against the Spartans.

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“Iowa is a better football team than Michigan State. They are playing very well right now. They are in the hunt. They have played outstanding football on both sides of the ball,” Brohm said.

TV ANNOUNCERS: Jason Benetti, Kelly Stouffer and Olivia Dekker on ESPN2.

SERIES: Purdue holds a 47-38-3 advantage in the series that began with a 16-0 Iowa win in 1910. The Hawkeyes have won four of the last five meetings. Purdue won last year in Iowa City to snap Iowa’s four-game winning streak in the series. Iowa has won on its last four visits to Purdue.

BETTING LINES: Purdue opened as a 2-point favorite on Sunday, a number that rose to 3 as of Monday at the Wynn Casino in Las Vegas. The total was set at 51.0.

TRENDS

-Purdue is 5-2 Against The Spread in its last 7 conference games.

-Boilermakers are 6-2 ATS in their last 8 home games.

-Iowa is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 road games.

-Over is 5-1 in Hawkeyes last 6 games overall.

PURDUE PLAYERS TO WATCH

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David Blough, QB – Blough began the season in a QB time share with Elijah Sindelar before earning the full-time job. He’s been excellent in the role, completing 65.2 percent of his passes for 2,350 yards and 13 touchdowns against five interceptions. He also moves around pretty well, showing an ability to extend plays or pick up yards with his legs.

Rondale Moore, WR – Moore is the most exciting and dangerous player in the Big Ten. A true freshman, he was committed to Texas before surprising folks and flipping to Purdue. He’s dynamite in open space and the Boilermakers do a great job getting him in it.

D.J. Knox, RB – Knox’s emergence has kept defenses honest and from focusing all of their resources at stopping Moore and Blough. He combines the power to run it up inside with the quickness to get the edge. He averages 6.5 yards per carry.

KEYS TO VICTORY

Purdue: The Boilermakers rank last in the conference in pass defense, allowing almost 300 yards a game. They must be better than that against an Iowa offense with weapons in the receiving game.

Iowa: Control the ball on offense, limiting the time the explosive Purdue attack can possess it.

GAME NOTES

-Having defeated top 25-ranked foes Boston College and Ohio State this season, Purdue is looking to knock off three ranked opponents in the same year for the first time since besting No. 20 Wake Forest 16-10, No. 14 Wisconsin 26-23 and No. 10 Iowa 27-14 in 2003.

-When possessing the ball inside the opponent’s 25, Purdue is converting the drive into points 92 percent of the time (34 of 37 – 21 touchdowns, 13 field goals), a figure that ranks 18th nationally and fourth in the Big Ten. Conversely, when the opposing team has penetrated inside the Boilers’ 25-yard line, they are converting at a rate of merely 72 percent (21 of 29 – 12 touchdowns, nine field goals), a mark that ranks 11th nationally and tops the conference.

-Purdue’s defense limited Ohio State to 76 yards rushing on Oct. 20 The run-stoppage marked the fourth
time this season that Purdue’s D has held an opponent to double digits on the ground, and the ninth
time in 21 games to do so under second-year head coach Jeff Brohm’s staff.

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-The Boilermakers have been very successful when playing in front of the chains this season. Purdue is
converting 76 percent of its third downs (26 of 34) when facing three or less yards (including a nearly
perfect 16 for 17 on third-and-1). Overall, the Boilers are converting on third down 42 percent of the
time.

-Purdue junior linebacker Markus Bailey was named a semifi nalist for the Butkus Award. Bailey leads the Boilermakers with 69 total tackles, 45 solo, with six tackle for loss. His 3.5 sacks ties for second on the team. He had a career-high 15 total tackles and returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown against his hometown team, No. 2 Ohio State, on Oct. 20.

-Iowa has had a different running back rush for a career high in yards in each of the last three weeks. RB Mekhi Sargent set career bests in carries (16) and yards (91) Week 8 at Penn State. RB Ivory Kelly-Martin rushed for a career-high 98 yards Week 7 against Maryland, and RB Toren Young rushed for a career-best 96 yards Week 6 at Indiana.

-Iowa leads the country averaging 31.8 yards per kickoff return. WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette averages 33.7 yards on nine returns, best in the Big Ten and second in the country.

-The Hawkeyes rank second in the Big Ten in scoring defense (16.1), rushing defense (84.4), passing defense (180.5), and total defense (264.9). The Hawkeyes are the only team to rank in the top two in all four categories.

-The Hawkeyes rank third in the Big Ten with 25 sacks. DE Anthony Nelson leads the team and ranks second in the Big Ten with 6.5 sacks. DE A.J. Epenesa is tied for third in the Big Ten with 6.0 sacks.

-Iowa’s defense allows 2.8 yards per carry, tied for seventh in the country, and has allowed only five rushing touchdowns, tied for fourth in the country. Iowa has allowed 124 first downs, second fewest in the Big Ten and tied for sixth in the country.

NOTABLE ALUMNI

Purdue – Games Slayter

Iowa – Simon Estes

HOWE I SEE IT: I picked this one as a loss before the season and am inclined to stick with that prediction this week. That probably has to do with my respect for Brohm and his program coupled with my concern stemming from Iowa’s performance at Penn State.

Stanley needs to be much better than he was in State College for the Hawkeyes to win this week. It starts with him taking better care of the football and calming down.

He’s certainly capable as he showed in good road performances at Minnesota and Indiana. Like Penn State, however, the Boilermakers are a step up in competition.

Iowa got away with mistakes in some of their earlier games against lesser competition. Miscues on Saturday could sink it once again.

The Hawkeyes responded from errors that cost them in a loss to Wisconsin to win their next three. But, again, Minnesota, Indiana and Maryland were less challenging than Purdue will be.

I like the leadership on this Iowa team, though. I think it circles the wagons this week and puts together its best game of the season. It’s going to need it.

PREDICTION: IOWA 26, Purdue 24

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