Defense, not offense, derails Hawkeyes against Boilermakers

Purdue's quick-passing offense carved up Iowa's defense with ease on Saturday.


Lily Smith

Iowa defensive back Julius Brents tackles Purdue wide receiver Isaac Zico in the end zone during the Iowa/Purdue game at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind. The Boilermakers defeated the Hawkeyes, 38-36, with a last second field goal.

Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm and his staff did something no team has been able to do so far this season: expose Iowa’s defense.

The Hawkeyes entered the Nov. 3 contest with a defense holding opponents to 16.1 points and 180.5 passing yards per game, and in Purdue’s 38-36 win over No. 19 Iowa, that immovable defense collapsed with an resounding thud.

Boilermaker quarterback David Blough carved up Iowa’s secondary, torching the Hawkeyes for 333 yards and 4 touchdowns. His hot hand early in the contest left Iowa staring at the wrong end of a 11-point lead, and the Hawkeyes had to find a way to scramble and adjust on the fly.

“We didn’t come out and play to the best of our ability today,” defensive lineman A.J. Epenesa said. “It showed on the field. We fought hard till the very end, but we didn’t start out fast enough. We didn’t play our game.”

Blough was only sacked once. Part of that was his ability to make plays when the protection broke down, but Brohm’s quick-pass offense left the Hawkeye defensive line with minimal time to get to Blough.

“They didn’t want our pass rush. I can say that confidently,” Epenesa said. “They couldn’t block us up front. I think we dominated the line of scrimmage all day long. There’s only so much you can do when they catch the ball and lob it up there.

“It’s frustrating — I could beat this guy, beat him like a drum, and we’re not even close. Still … that’s a part of their game plan.”

And while the defensive line wasn’t getting to Blough, the pair of young Hawkeye cornerbacks struggled to remain consistent in trying to cover Purdue’s collection of offensive weapons.

Rondale Moore earned most of the attention prior to the game, and rightfully so — even as a freshman, he’s blossomed into one of the league’s most explosive players, both receiving game and running.

And to Iowa’s credit, the defense contained him. Moore caught 6 passes for 31 yards — that’s it, no touchdowns, no chunk plays as he had in Purdue’s upset win over Ohio State two weeks ago.

“We knew he was an explosive playmaker, so we had to communicate where he was and what routes he was running,” defensive lineman Matt Nelson said. “That was a big emphasis this week, but other guys got free.”

With a heightened focus on Moore, Boilermaker receiver Terry Wright caught fire, hauling in 6 receptions for 146 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Freshman cornerbacks Riley Moss and Julius Brents struggled, but head coach Kirk Ferentz said he’s not switching anything, even after that.

“We think they’re the best guys to play for us,” he said. “There’s nothing I’ve seen from them, without seeing the film, that’s going to make me pull back.”

The gut-punching outcome spoiled what would have been one of Amani Hooker’s best games of the season; he locked down his receivers, made major stops in open field, and also intercepted a Blough pass that set Iowa up for its go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Iowa found out on Nov. 3 that it does, contrary to popular belief, have holes in its defense, despite stellar play from some of its best players.

The defense isn’t discouraged, however, as even though the Hawkeyes’ window at representing the West in the Big Ten Championship game is closing rapidly. There are three more games remaining in the regular season.

“We can either go 3-0 or 0-3 the last three games,” Hooker said. “Our mentality is keep pushing forward.”

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