Purdue wide receiver David Bell burns Iowa’s secondary for third year in a row

The junior has compiled 37 receptions for 558 yards and five touchdowns in three career meetings with the Hawkeyes.


Jerod Ringwald

Purdue wide receiver David Bell looks for running space after a completion during a football game between Iowa and Purdue at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. (Jerod Ringwald/The Daily Iowan)

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

The few Hawkeye fans remaining in the Kinnick Stadium stands by the end of Iowa’s first loss of the season couldn’t help but admire the opposing player who has tormented them for three years in a row.

Purdue wide receiver David Bell shook hands with Iowa supporters along the sideline on his way to the locker room after catching 11 passes for a venue-record 240 yards and a touchdown in the Boilermakers’ (4-2, 2-1) upset 24-7 win over the No. 2 Hawkeyes (6-1, 3-1) on Saturday.

“David Bell was outstanding,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We knew that coming in. He’s a tremendous football player and we have a lot of respect for him.”

Ferentz said this week that Bell is perhaps the best wide receiver he’s coached against at the college level. Bell’s production in three meetings against the Hawkeyes would back that praise up.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound receiver has recorded 37 receptions for 558 yards and five touchdowns in his three career games against Iowa. Last season, Bell caught a game-winning touchdown in Purdue’s season-opening victory over Iowa in West Lafayette.

“We were trying to learn from what’s hurt us in the past and try to correct those things,” Iowa safety Jack Koerner said. “Unfortunately, we just didn’t execute as well as we would have liked.”

Iowa played cover two, cover three, man-to-man — whatever it could to contain Bell. But none of it seemed to work — especially with a short-handed secondary.

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Starting cornerback Riley Moss — the national leader in interceptions (four) — did not play because of a knee injury he suffered last week against Penn State. Matt Hankins, Iowa’s other starting cornerback, left the game in the second quarter after he seemed to hurt his shoulder while diving to tackle Bell on a Purdue play that gained 60 yards.

The fifth-year senior cornerback returned to the game after being examined in the locker room, but it didn’t seem to matter. Bell just kept getting open.

“There were things we tried to do to try and limit him,” Koerner said. “Obviously they like getting him into one-on-one situations. We tried to never have him one-on-one. Unfortunately, he was able to get loose even if there were some guys shading him.”

Bell faked an in-breaking route on Hankins and worked his way open in the corner of the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

The score put the Boilermakers up 17 points and practically sealed the program’s first road win over a ranked team since 2003, and Iowa’s first double-digit loss in its last 36 games. Purdue’s win also snaps Iowa’s 12-game winning streak.

“They do a good job of spreading the field and understanding where in our zone they can hurt us,” Koerner said. “But at the end of the day it really comes down to our execution. There wasn’t a route out there that we weren’t capable of covering.”

Purdue’s offense gained 464 yards against Iowa.

Aidan O’Connell, one of three quarterbacks the Boilermakers played against the Hawkeyes, completed 30 of his 40 passing attempts for 375 yards and three total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing). The two highest passing totals the Hawkeyes have allowed over the past two seasons have both come against Purdue.

“He’s a great quarterback,” Benson said. “He got the ball where it needed to be.”

Oftentimes, the ball needed to be in Bell’s hands. And more often than not, O’Connell got it there.

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