Postgame: Purdue | Go Iowa Awesome

Postgame: Purdue |  Go Iowa Awesome

Cruel and fickle though they are, sometimes the football gods are on your side. While last week against Northwestern was a wonderful reprieve from this past miserable season of Hawkeye football, just about everyone (definitely me) was preparing for Jeff Prohm’s annual masterclass in attacking Phil Parker’s defense. The fact that the offense surely fell off the skill wagon against a real team meant that the possessions would stop rolling against Purdue. But we were all fooled.

Forecasters were predicting gusts heading into the game, but we all missed predicting the real storm: Iowa’s single biggest (only) ass-kicking of Purdue in the Jeff Brohm era. With Purdue’s little train giving up the ghost during the pregame festivities, it was a sure sign that the college football gods were smiling upon us. Ferentzball is often more boring than fun, but when Iowa builds a lead, watching an offense tear itself apart on Iowa’s wall defense is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.

Things started a little slower than last week. The two teams spent most of the first quarter playing grabbass to 0-0. With Purdue backed up on the four-yard line, Aiden O’Connoll uncorked a pass to Charlie Jones who raced past Cooper DeJean to haul in the pass for 41 yards. Although Purdue did not get another first down, they reversed field position, forcing Iowa to start a drive from their own nine-yard line. Enter: Sam LaPorta.

Now, there are a lot of players who deserve some props from this game, but for this game, it was Sam LaPorta who made the Hawkeye offense LaPortable. (Sorry.) On 2nd and 7 from their own 12 yard line, Yosemite Sam ran right up past the hapless guy trying to cover him. With time running out, Spencer “Pistol” Petras fired a line drive that cut through the wind and right into the arms of LaPorta for a 41-yard reception of Iowa’s own. After another first down thanks to a pair of Kaleb Johnson runs, on 3rd and 8, Salami Sam ran up the seam and spun around in front of cotton-soft coverage, caught the ball and lowered his shoulder for another first down. . The very next day, Slammin’ Sammy ran 11 yards, planted his foot and cut toward the sideline, took another hit from Petras and ran through Purdue defenders drifting aimlessly in zone coverage for Iowa’s first passing touchdown on the road in over a year. It was tres magnifique.

Facing a ferocious pass rush, O’Connell made it a point to get the ball out as quickly as possible. While that was probably a good idea in theory, in a swirling wind reality, his anxious desire to unload the ball before it was planted in the ground contributed to him sailing passes all game. On the second play of the next drive, he took the snap, took three steps back and hurriedly threw the football over the middle of the field to find transfer wide receiver Tyrone Tracy. The pass sailed to Kaevon Merriweather, who caressed it to the ground and got the ball right back to the suddenly explosive Iowa offense.

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It took Iowa all three plays to travel the 50 yards to the end zone, and one of those plays was an incomplete pass. Let’s talk about the improved game of the suddenly surging Spencer Petras. Aside from his presence/footwork/nerves being the best we’ve ever seen from him, the biggest strides have come from him executing the fundamental plays of the offense with a previously absent precision and timing. The first play of this drive was a play-action pass rollout to his left. He hit Luke Lachey in stride and Lachey went down the left sideline for 22 yards. After an incompletion, Petras lined up shotgun and surveyed the field. Purdue had a blitz on, eager to bring out the worst in Iowa’s quarterback. Petras took the snap and a step back before meeting Nico Ragaini, running the shallowest of crosses, perfect in stride. Already in a full sprint and not needing to slow down to catch the ball, Nico took his turn and ran down the sideline, driving off a blown tackle for another Iowa touchdown. It was a perfect read and a perfect throw on a play where if Petras doesn’t get the ball out immediately, he’s going to be wrecked by an unblocked blitz and the offense will go backwards.

Purdue’s offense finally started to boil a bit on the next drive. Does not matter. After working the ball to the Iowa 26-yard line after a botched kickoff, a couple of nice plays and a touchdown-saving hold by Riley Moss, O’Connell again threw the ball with a bunch of guys in his face and pushed it. high. The ball bounced off the Purdue player’s fingertips and made a bee line for Seth Benson’s feet. Bensone whipped out the shovel and dug up the ball before it hit the turf. The play was called, mostly because the refs just wanted to bask in the brilliance of Seth Benson’s ballin interception for a minute.

This is the part of the article where we talk about Kaleb Johnson. Golly gee whilikers, this guy is good at football. It’s like he already has a PhD in being a damn awesome quarterback. The first play after the interception was a zone run to the left. KJ approached the line of scrimmage and slowed, like a velociraptor setting a trap. With Purdue’s run contained sliding inside to make the play, Johnson threw a jumper toward the sideline and went from zero to cheetah in a dead sprint in a matter of microseconds. -farm profit. Hey, having a running back who can gain 41 yards on a run play that wasn’t blocked very well is something else.

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Lest we forget, Iowa’s red zone offense is still pretty awful. On this same drive, Iowa got the ball down to the Purdue one-yard line on first-and-goal. He then went backwards on a Kaleb Johnson run. Reverse again as Arland Bruce and Kaleb Johnson collided into each other in the backfield in a heartfelt Three Stooges tribute, capping off the awfulness with a Petras sack. If Iowa can’t be good in the red zone, at least they can be fun. A Drew Stevens field goal made it a three-score game, and it was all good vibes despite the boos, because 17 points in a half isn’t just good for Iowa, it’s pretty good for a football team in 2022 .

Purdue ate up most of the rest of the half working the ball to Iowa’s two-yard line. Iowa’s defense held firm, and a monster sack by Iowa’s Hercules (Lukas Van Ness) on third down dissuaded Jeff Brohm from attempting a fourth down, instead settling for a field goal. Iowa didn’t make a serious attempt to move the ball with time remaining in the half, content with a 17-3 lead.

As for the second half, there’s really only one play worth mentioning. The mid-round knockout punch that effectively sealed the game for Iowa not even two minutes into the round. On second and ten, Kaleb Johnson took a handoff right up the middle with plenty of room to run. The Purdue defense stood in a trance, mesmerized by the elegance and grace with which Kaleb Johnson runs the ball, as he ran ten yards down the field before bouncing off and down the sideline for 75 yards in the most beautiful play in football, the long touchdown run in . as the back goes untouched by an opponent.

After amassing a large stack of chips, Kirk pretty much fumbled on every offensive possession from here on out. Watching Iowa’s offense flip the dial from “explosive” to “let’s hang out on the mall and kill time” is usually atrocious and a recipe for disaster. On this raucous day in West Lafayette, it was pure badassery. We got to see the Iowa defense go full boa constrictor, squeezing the life out of the Purdue offense, completely unable to move the ball. The smug satisfaction of watching Purdue come to the slow realization that there was nothing they could do to score points and win the football game is the closest I’ll ever get to being inside Kirk’s head.

With the caveat that no one is going to write songs about the glory of either the Northwestern or Purdue defenses and with only a modest amount of reluctance, I will concede that this offense has improved considerably. To a frankly shocking degree. This is easily the best two-game stretch by the Iowa offense in two years. It’s not out of this world, but it’s more than enough for Iowa to be the best team in the soon-to-be-defunct Big Ten West.

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With two big boy defenses up in the next couple of weeks in Wisconsin and Minnesota, things will likely go back to looking nasty on the offensive end. But for the first time in a while there is hope that they can contribute something against an elite defence. And that’s the thing. It is not hope but hopelessness that can kill a football team.

Go Hawks!

Hawk Droppings

* I haven’t highlighted it before, but more than anything, this offensive resurgence has been brought about by the offensive line a lot better. They’ve significantly cut back on the “defender running unblocked into the backfield” plays and replaced them with occasional “this line looks really dominant” plays. It certainly helps bring out the best in Kaleb Johnson and Spencer Petras.

* Speaking of Kaleb Johnson, it seems like he was engineered in a lab to be a running back. Whatever trait you want from a running back: vision, smarts, speed, poise, physicality, explosiveness, he’s got it in spades. I’m giddy at the prospect of having a Shone Greene caliber running back for the next two years.

* Spencer Petras. It’s hard to overstate how massive his improvement has been. There isn’t a single facet of his game that hasn’t gotten much better over the past two weeks. If he holds it up against an elite defense, he can really make all the haters (me) shut their stupid faces.

* It’s hard not to play “What if?” play when you see this incredible defense. What if this offense didn’t need half a season to go from lousy to decent? What if the coach could have wringed a little more out of the offense against Illinois? Damn, this defense is great.

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