Purdue 24, Iowa 20: Here's what we learned
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — David Bell tormented the Iowa football team again Saturday, and this time it was enough for Purdue to pull out a win.
A sophomore wide receiver with exceptional talent, Bell scored all three of the Boilermakers' touchdowns in a 24-20 win over the Hawkeyes in a delayed season-opener played before just a few hundred family members at Ross-Ade Stadium.
Bell caught 13 passes in all, the same total he amassed in a 26-20 Iowa win a year ago. The final one found Bell alone in the back of the end zone, after brushing past Iowa linebacker Barrington Wade and before cornerback Matt Hankins could arrive to pick him up, for an easy 6-yard touchdown with 2 minutes, 15 seconds remaining.
The Hawkeyes gained 16 yards on their final chance at victory before four consecutive incomplete passes from new starting quarterback Spencer Petras gave the ball back to Purdue.
Boilermakers quarterback Aidan O'Connell, a junior who arrived on campus as a walk-on, completed 31 of 50 passes for 282 yards, and he always seemed to zero in on Bell when a big play was needed. Bell had shredded Iowa for 197 yards a year ago, so the Hawkeyes were well aware of the need to try to contain him. They just couldn't get that done when it mattered the most.
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Barrington on the spot
Wade is a fifth-year senior linebacker for the Hawkeyes who has been waiting for his time to come. It did Saturday. Sophomore middle linebacker Jack Campbell missed the game with an illness, so Nick Niemann moved to the middle and Wade joined him in the starting lineup. Wade stayed on the field whether the Hawkeyes played a 4-3-4 or a 4-2-5 defense. Wade stopped Purdue's opening drive with a fine open-field tackle of tight end Payne Durham. He recorded the first sack of his career in the first half, and his first interception in the second half. It was a sign that defensive coordinator Phil Parker is most comfortable leaning on the two seniors in his linebacker corps. But neither Wade, nor most linebackers, are capable of guarding Bell one-on-one in the slot. That mistake in coverage ultimately proved costly.
Extreme faith in Goodson, and a new wrinkle
Iowa sophomore starting running back Tyler Goodson turned a short pass into a 40-yard gain early in the game, jumped up after being tackled and let out a jubilant roar. It looked like he was about to spark a touchdown drive. Instead, he fumbled near the Purdue 10-yard line, carrying the ball loosely and watching it escape his grasp after he collided with his own teammate, guard Cole Banwart.
Would Goodson find himself in Kirk Ferentz’s doghouse? Hardly.
On the next play, with Iowa backed up at its 3-yard line, Goodson lined up to take a direct snap from center, with Petras lined up far to his right. The Hawkeyes running the Wildcat formation with a young player who had just committed a turnover? Believe it. They did it once more later in the half as well. Goodson showed why. He quickly helped Iowa move out to its 39-yard line as the first quarter expired. In the first half alone, Goodson piled up 105 of Iowa’s 282 yards, 46 on the ground and 59 through the air. He added another 31 rushing yards in the second half, but did not catch another pass. He was the target on a third-down screen pass on Iowa's final possession, with plenty of blockers in front of him, but Petras was hurried by Purdue defenders and sailed his pass too high.
The penalty problem
It's rare to see an Iowa team make so many unforced errors. But that was the case Saturday, when the Hawkeyes cost themselves 100 yards by drawing 10 penalty flags. Most of those came when Iowa was on offense, stalling out drives before they could yield points. But a key facemask call on Hawkeye defensive tackle Jack Heflin gave Purdue 15 yards and a first down on its game-winning touchdown drive. It's certainly something Iowa will need to clean up as the season goes on.
A new punter — and returner
They both got plenty of action early as the offenses had trouble getting in gear. The punter, 23-year-old Tory Taylor of Australia, was no surprise. The freshman, new to the American brand of football, had a 45.8-yard average on four first-half punts, with two of them traveling more than 50 yards and another pinning the Boilermakers at their 6-yard line. So far, so good. We’ll have to wait and see how Taylor handles things when the weather turns colder.
For return duties, Iowa is turning to wide receiver Charlie Jones, a transfer from Buffalo who sat out last year. Coaches and teammates have raved about Jones for the past year, and he showed a glimpse of why on the lone punt he returned in the half, turning it into a 25-yard gain along Iowa’s sideline and setting up a short touchdown drive.
Iowa hosts Northwestern at 2:30 p.m. next Saturday.
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.